After only losing to Rossville at Rossville and to Sabetha at the Burlington tournament, the boys team had another stellar year before entering sub-state with an 18-2 record and finishing third at state.
The boys went into the first night of sub-state against Holton. The game was a sudden blowout with the Mustangs being up at the end of the first quarter, 22-7. The game pushed forward to another blowout quarter to a 43-21 lead at half. Coming out to start the second half, the boys went on a 8-4 run in the first three minutes to be up 51-26, then pushed through the quarter to finish it with a 58-34 lead. The fourth quarter was a battle, but the Mustangs won the game, 74-44.
The next night, the Mustangs faced off against the Hayden Wildcats of Topeka. The Mustangs led 22-15 at the end of the first quarter, but Hayden tried to gain the lead in the second quarter, bringing the score to 37-32 at half. In the third quarter, the Wildcats tied the game up, but the Mustangs fought back to regain the lead with a score of 55-49 going into the fourth quarter. The Wildcats continued to play back and forth with the Mustangs, but the Mustangs won the game, 76-59, earning them the sub-state title for the third consecutive year and sending them to state in Emporia, Kan.
“It felt great that we won sub-state,” senior Bailey Vetter said. “I was glad we got to go to state and that I got to be a part of the experience.”
On March 10, the Mustangs faced Smoky Valley in the first round of state. The Mustangs won the tip-off and ended the first quarter with a 24-16 lead. Through the next eight minutes, the Mustangs added to their lead to 38-27. In the third quarter, the Mustangs extended their lead, 57-35, before going into the fourth quarter. In the fourth, the Mustangs added to their lead even further by holding the Vikings to only eight points in the quarter, while scoring eight themselves to win 65-43.
“After the first game, we were pumped,” senior Isaiah Dobbins said. “We were excited we won and were ready to move on to the next round.”
On March 11, the Hugoton Eagles and the Rock Creek Mustangs stepped onto the court for the semifinals game, with the winner going to the championship game and the loser to the third place consolation game. The game started off with the Eagles winning the tip, but Vetter rebounded the first shot and pushed the ball up the court to senior Carson Becker to score the first two points of the game. The Eagles and Mustangs battled back and forth through the rest of the first quarter, but the Mustangs led, 14-7, after the buzzer went off. The Mustangs and the Eagles both scored only two points in the first five minutes of the second quarter to make a score of 19-6. The Mustangs then worked to push their lead to 21-15 with under two minutes left in the quarter. But, with four seconds left in the quarter, Becker injured his right ankle and was taken out of the game, with the Mustangs leading 22-17.
After losing Becker, the game was not looking as easy for the Mustangs. In the first three minutes of the third quarter, the Mustangs would score four points, while the Eagles would score eight, and at the end of the third quarter, the Eagles led 32-30. In the fourth quarter, with 5:12 left in the game, the game was tied, 36-36, but the Eagles started to gain control as the clock ticked down. With a score of 46-40 and 28 seconds left in the game, Vetter fouled out, and the Eagles ultimately soared to a 50-44 victory.
“It sucks that we lost,” Becker said. “It also sucked that I hurt my ankle, but I, and the rest of the team, tried to be ready for the next game.”
On March 12, the Mustangs stepped onto the court to face off against the Girard Trojans. The Mustangs easily jumped to a 10-point lead in the first quarter with the score of 21-11 and kept their lead at the half with a score of 41-27. The Trojans scored the first basket of the third quarter, but the Mustangs fired right back with senior Caleb Rogge draining a three-point shot and ended the quarter with a 64-51 lead. To start the fourth quarter, the Mustangs turned the ball over, and the Trojans scored to make it a 64-53 ball game. The Mustangs would keep the lead the rest of the game, though, to take victory over the Trojans, 85-74.
“It’s great that we won,” head coach Jim Johnston said. “We went out there and did the little things right and were just more disciplined than Girard was. It came down to who had more heart and more desire, and the results showed the difference.”
Article by Brandon Mallon, staff member
Photo by Olivia Lee, yearbook photo editor