Cowboys Run the Table After Disappointing SIT Start

The Cowboys placed fifth at the SIT after a disappointing opening loss to Salina South.

Despite an 0-1 start to the tournament, the Cowboys managed to finish the Salina Invitational Tournament strong with a fifth place medal.

Travis Beetch, 22, fails to score an underneath basket against Salina South as Tim Barbieri (15, back) watches. (Photo: Ron Preston, Abilene Reflector-Chronicle)

The Cowboys, ranked with the first seed despite a 5-2 record, faced off against a Salina South team in their own home court ranked eighth despite playing their first half of the season without a few star players in a larger and more competitive division. The ‘Boys were simply outmatched, losing 65-51 in what came down to a battle in the paint. They hung with the Cougars for the first three and a half quarters before letting South pull away in the final minutes. Despite a lackluster performance by most of the Cowboy starting five, junior Travis Beetch came alive with multiple contested threes and layups in the fourth quarter to make the game entertaining. He finished with 20 points.

Coach Taylor exited the game with a challenge for the ‘Boys: how would they finish? “The rest of this tournament will show what kind of team we are,” he told them in the locker room.

Their next context was a little better. Buhler came ready for a fight, hanging toe for toe with the Cowboys and sticking within three points for each of the quarters, but simply couldn’t hang on in the final minutes. Fouling the Cowboys in the final minutes of the game proved to be the undoing of the Crusaders, as the Cowboys hit 9 of 12 of their free throws to end the game. Beetch once again led all scorers, but this time senior big men Preston Boyd (14 points) and Tim Barbieri (8 points) came through underneath the basket. The Cowboys won 47-40.

Ron Preston, Abilene Reflector-Chronicle
Colton McVan (33) sinks a three during the fourth quarter of the finale game against Liberal as Kaleb Becker (34) watches.

The final game brought the Cowboys back to familiar territory in Liberal–Abilene faced them last year in the tournament finale for fifth place–with a similar result. Last year’s second half surge was echoed with one of Abilene’s own this year as the ‘Boys took home fifth with a final score of 60-50. Senior Damian Hartman started the scoring affair with a three-point bucket, enabling the front-court assault of Tim Barbieri (13 points) and Preston Boyd (12 points). The real player of the game however comes to mind with senior James Mayden, who played ferocious defense and was able to get a couple takeaways in the first half before getting off a few fast breaks in the second half. He finished the game with 17 points. Senior Colton McVan also provided a spark in the waning minutes of the fourth with a three pointer that lit up the bench.

The Cowboys’ home matchup against Concordia was moved to Monday, January 28th due to inclement weather. Their next matchup will be way out west against the Hays Indians, a high-tempo team that always gives Taylor’s Team fits. Last year’s matchup saw a Cowboy victory. This year’s team hopes to echo that result.