By ISAAC DEER
SILVER LAKE – The Silver Lake boys' basketball squad cut into a substantial deficit against Clay Center late in the fourth quarter on Thursday evening, but couldn't complete its rally and secure the victory.
Despite a low-scoring second quarter, Silver Lake kept itself an eyelash away from winning in the 57-49 loss to non-conference opponent Clay Center.
Silver Lake faced multiple double-digit deficits throughout the game, and several times throughout the game the Eagles brought the game back within either four or five points.
Clay Center sophomore Cole Pladson was a nightmare for Silver Lake in the first half. Pladson had a game-high 25 points with 20 of those coming in the first half.
"We didn't do a good job, especially against (Cole Pladson)," Silver Lake coach Johnny Roberts said. "He got downhill and attacked… did a great job and killed us. Their penetration and quickness overmatched us at times tonight.
"We tried to shut (Pladson) down in the second half, put Dayne (Johnson) on (Pladson), and it helped, but it might've been a little too late. I probably made that adjustment too late tonight, and I should've made that adjustment quicker. It's not fair to our guys, and I should've done a better job as the coach."
Silver Lake kept Clay Center scoreless for 2:46 in the first quarter. Silver Lake used that defensive momentum to key a 6-0 drive to begin the game. Clay Center took less than two minutes to bite back with a run of its own.
Pladson had all seven points in a 7-0 Tiger run. That run forced Roberts to take a timeout as Clay Center gained a 7-6 lead with 3:36 remaining in the first quarter.
In the final 3:36, 6-foot-4 Fort Hays State football signee Braxton McDaniel gave the Silver Lake offense a spark. McDaniel provided seven points off of the bench and hit a free throw to give Silver Lake a one-point lead before the first quarter clock expired.
"Braxton has been huge for us off the bench," Roberts said. "He's really stepped into his role. He knows his role and does a good job. He did a better job today of knowing when the defense was going to come and collapse. He did a great job of attacking and squaring up while knowing where everyone was."
Pladson continued to be a thorn in Silver Lake's side in the second quarter. Pladson made five field goals in a row leading a 12-2 Clay Center run with 2:46 to go in the second quarter, with Clay Center leading 26-17.
At this point, Pladson had 20 of the Tigers' 26 points forcing Roberts to burn his second timeout of the half.
After the timeout, 6-3 Washburn football commit Troy Heiman and the rest of the defense forced Pladson to shove the ball out more, which wasn't bad for Silver Lake.
"Troy has stepped in and has been our leader, our guy," Roberts said. "When we need a basket, we go to Troy. Whenever we need something good to happen, Troy is the guy we count on."
Clay Center drilled five 3-point shots, while Silver Lake didn't have any. The Eagles were efficient in the interior, but Clay Center's 3-point efficiency hurt Silver Lake.
Clay Center would take a 31-23 lead at the halftime break as Heiman and McDaniel combined for 17 out of the 23 Eagle points.
Immediately, the Tigers drained any momentum Silver Lake may have gained from the locker room. Clay Center went on a 7-3 run going three of three from the field, while Silver Lake was one of four..
Roberts burned Silver Lake's fourth timeout with only one timeout remaining with 4:56 to go in the third quarter and Clay Center holding a 38-26 lead. However, Roberts was okay with having just one timeout left.
"Early in the game, I had to use them because we weren't doing what I wanted us to do," Roberts said. "As a staff, they didn't do what we wanted them to do. We had to keep calling timeouts to reinforce those things. We took a page out of Bill Self's book and called those timeouts early even if you don't have them late."
Silver Lake showed some life and didn't fold to Clay Center's red-hot offense. The Eagles managed to gain an 11-6 run to close out the third quarter, to decrease the deficit to 44-37 going into the fourth quarter.
Silver Lake and Clay Center had a back-and-forth affair throughout the final quarter. However, it was only 44.6 seconds left in the game that Silver Lake got the deficit down to within six points thanks to the offensive performance of sophomore Jared Johnson.
Johnson had no points in the first three quarters but kept Silver Lake close with his nine-point fourth quarter.
With nearly no time remaining, Silver Lake had to foul Clay Center and hope the Tigers would miss some free opportunities at the charity stripe.
Silver Lake forced a Clay Center steal at halfcourt and pushed the ball down to the paint. But with Silver Lake staring at a 55-49 deficit, they couldn't cash in on two different opportunities underneath the rim, and the Tigers would leave Silver Lake with the win.
CLAY CENTER BOYS 57, SILVER LAKE 49
Clay Center 14 17 13 13 – 57
Silver Lake 15 8 14 12 – 49
Clay Center (4-10) – Wright 0 1-2 1, Hoffman 3 0-0 7, Weller 4 2-4 12, Pladson 10 1-2 25, Craig 1 2-2 4, Henry 1 0-0 2, Brownell 2 0-0 6. Total – 21 6-10 57
Silver Lake (4-11) – S. Johnson 2 1-2 5, Whitehead 1 0-0 2, Lopez 2 0-2 4, D. Johnson 2 0-0 5, Heiman 5 2-3 13, McDaniel 5 1-2 11, J. Johnson 2 4-4 9. Total – 19 8-13 49.
3-point goals – Clay Center 9 ( Pladson 4, Weller 2, Brownell 2, Hoffman), Silver Lake 3 (D. Johnson, Heiman, J. Johnson). Total fouls – Silver Lake 11, Clay Center 13. Fouled out – none. Technical fouls – none.