Panthers block state path for Cats

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

Register/Richard Luken
Yates Center High’s Jordan Hughes (23) rips down a rebound in front of Pittsburg St. Mary’s-Colgan High’s Jordan Smith (51) and Stuart Jeck (12) Saturday. In the background is Yates Center’s Ben Matile. Hughes scored eight points for the Wildcats in their 54-40 loss.

ARMA — It seemed like the basket had a lid on it for Yates Center High’s boys.
The Wildcats, facing a lightning quick Pittsburg St. Mary’s-Colgan High defense, never found its shooting touch, from the field or the free throw line.
The resulting 54-40 loss Saturday in the Class 2A substate tournament finals ends Yates Center’s season at 16-6.
Colgan’s defenders made life miserable for Yates Center from the start, jumping out to a quick 10-8 lead. The Wildcats didn’t register a field goal until there was 5:10 left — in the second quarter.
Even worse, Yates Center’s Michael Bettega, the team’s leading scorer, was whistled for three fouls in the game’s first four minutes.
Wildcat head coach Jeff Jones kept his senior guard in the game anyway.
“We needed him to handle their press, and I thought he did a great job of playing smart,” Jones said.
The frigid start forced Yates Center to adjust its offensive approach on the fly, as Bettega and Brent Matile began driving to the basket in an attempt to draw fouls or find open teammates.
The strategy, coupled with some strong defense by Yates Center as well, did the trick.
Joe Tressler put back offensive rebounds for scores on consecutive possessions to cap an 11-2 Wildcat run to close Colgan’s lead to 14-13 with 3:36 left in the second quarter.
Colgan closed the half with a 7-2 run to lead 21-15.
“They defended the perimeter very well, and they had a ton of speed,” Jones said. “We just couldn’t get any open shots.”
Yates Center failed to challenge the lead in the second half, although Colgan didn’t have things in control until midway through the fourth quarter.
Matile scored six straight points for the Wildcats in the third quarter, each time keeping Yates Center within five. Bettega’s driving layup with 2 minutes left in the third did the same, cutting Colgan’s lead to 28-23.
Colgan’s Charlie Sloan drained a three-pointer with 1:50 left in the third and started a 21-7 run to put the game out of reach.
Much of the damage came after Yates Center resorted to pressuring Colgan’s guards, leaving a multitude of backdoor scoring opportunities for the Panthers.
Colgan led by as many as 19, 49-30, with 2:35 left in the game.
Matile scored Yates Center’s final seven points, part of his game-high 19. Bettega wound up with seven before succumbing to fouls with 1:16 left in the contest.
“Our defense was very good, to hold them to what we did going into the fourth quarter,” Jones said. “But that’s not necessarily our game, trying to pressure like that.”
The Wildcats failed to score from three-point range, one of the team’s primary weapons. Jones noted Yates Center also went only 14 of 23 from the line, well below the team’s season average.
“Our free throw shooting usually is key; it makes us tough to beat when we have a lead,” Jones said. “But we just didn’t hit enough shots to get back into the game after our slow start.”
Jordan Hughes added eight points for the Wildcats.
Jeck paced Colgan with 15 points. Jesse Watt added 13.
Colgan-St. Mary’s: (12-9-12-21—54) (FG/3-pt): Chas Smith 1-4-2-6, Sloan 0/2-0-3-6, Thompson 0-0-1-0, Hudson 0-1-0-1, Jeck 6-3-2-15, Kays 1-0-2-2, Z. Smith 0-0-1-0, Farmer 1-5-3-7, Watt 5-3-3-13, Chr. Smith 1-0-2-2, J. Smith 1-0-1-2. TOTALS: 16/2-16-20-34.
Yates Center: (4-11-10-15—40): Matile 6-7-4-19, Lenard 0-2-3-2, Bettega 1-5-5-7, Hughes 4-0-2-8, Smith 0-0-1-0, Tressler 2-0-4-4. TOTALS: 13-14-19-40.