Jan 10, 2023

Red-hot Raiders travel to Abilene seeking sixth-straight win

Posted Jan 10, 2023 5:54 PM

Little Apple Post contributor

With a month's worth of action on the hardwood already in the books, two teams, each ranked in Class 4A before the season began, will clash in Abilene as the Cowboys prepare to host white-hot Wamego on Tuesday evening.

The Red Raiders will enter this contest at 6-1, having already collected two wins in the new year, after knocking off St. Mary’s 60-55, and Concordia 59-49 last week.

“I’ve been impressed with our ability to rebound so far, especially on the offensive glass,” Wamego head coach Troy Hemphill said. “I’ve also been pleased with how we’re taking care of the ball, averaging just eight turnovers per game.”

On the other side of the matchup, the Cowboys have stumbled a bit in the new year, dropping their first two January matchups to St. Mary’s Academy and Marysville to fall back to 4-4 coming into this one.

“We still don’t take very good care of the ball,” Abilene head coach Erik Graefe said.  “We also still need to rebound better, but I continue to be impressed with how hard our guys play every night.”

These two squads split their season series in the 2021-22 campaign, with Wamego winning the most recent battle 47-42 last February.

With both teams reloading and looking to make a deep playoff push again this year, games like this will be critical in setting the tone and establishing momentum as each works towards a potential peak in late February.

For the Raiders to remain undefeated in the new year and collect their seventh victory of the season, Wamego must find ways to overcome an Abilene team that loves to cause chaos and utilizes its speed to keep opponents off balance.

“They like to push the tempo, apply pressure in the backcourt and run up and down the floor,” Hemphill said. “They also have very balanced scoring. Cottone is a good guard and has proven he can have big games offensively, overall they are pretty long and athletic.”

On the flip side, to ensure they do not start 2023 at 0-3, it will be critical for the Cowboys to overcome the inside strength of a Red Raider team that has had its way with a majority of their opponents this season.

“They are strong with good size,” Graefe said. “They are always very well coached, Donahue is a competitor, Hecht can shoot it, and Shea is a monster. We will have to lower our turnovers, and not give our opponents extra chances on the glass.”

For the Raiders, this game will be more or less business as usual, as Wamego looks to continue what got them this far, and what they hope will take them even further in the future.

“We need to take care of the ball and take good shots,” Hemphill said. “We can't give them extra possessions by turning it over against the pressure of taking hard shots that lead to misses and run-outs on the other end.”

Tip-off between the Raiders and Cowboys is set for 7 pm at Abilene High school following the girl’s game at 6:30.

For continuing coverage of all four programs all season long, stay tuned to the Salina Post, and follow us on Twitter @spostsports.