It was a long time coming, but the Community R-6 varsity boys basketball team finally got to make its Capitol Area Conference debut on Friday at home against Slater, and even though things didn't start out as well as they could have, the final minutes couldn't have been much closer.
What it all came down to was the Wildcats Chandler Zdybel splitting a pair of free throws with 2.5 seconds left in regulation to give his team a three point lead. After a timeout the Trojans were then tasked with going the length of the floor to tie the game. While Eric Hombs did his best to run the play exactly how it was scripted, the opposition played just enough defense to force him to put up a long shot that hit the rim then bounced wide right, allowing Slater to come out on top 65-62 over CR-6.
"The difference was we were cold in the first half. I don't know what are shooting was, but it was awful," said coach Matt Thomas. "We didn't get the ball to the rim and we didn't get fouled. Second half that was one of our things. We had to get to the rim. Because we couldn't hit anything in the first half, the offensive effected our defense. We got frustrated we couldn't score and we quit playing defense. We were down at least 16 in the second quarter. I said we needed to cut it to eight by the half."
While the Wildcats were actually leading 35-25 at the half, prior to them finding a way to hold on for the win they began the fourth up 48-40 then expanded when Aden Campell started out the session by hitting a three. The Trojans were able to respond with a triple by Blaze Escamilla and a field goal by Cadin Escamilla, but when Slater's Jakobie Breshears answered with a hoop of his own that meant his team still had an eight-point advantage, 53-45.
"Blaze Escamilla is a good shooter and he's got to shoot a lot for us. He was one of the guys that was cold for us in the first half and I told him to keep shooting," said Thomas. "We're not going to stop shooting. It'll come. It'll happen, and it did. It eventually happened. He's got to be one of our main scorers. Blaze has a much bigger role this year."
Three possession later Evan Hartsock knocked down a double and a triple and Cadin Escamilla also charted a triple for CR-6, meaning by 3:58 the game was tied at 53-53. This is where things got tricky because while Hombs, Evan Hartsock and Cadin Escamilla came together to hit three field goals for the Trojans that added up to six points over the next three minutes, Dustyn Case, Keegan Zdybel and Chandler racked up just as many field goals in that same time period for seven points.
"Cadin was with us two years ago as a freshman. Then he transferred out and came back. Because of that he had to sit out last year because of (Missouri State High School Activity Association) rules," said Thomas. "He's been a great addition. It's been nice having him back, his scoring, his energy. Those have been big for us."
Breshears also hit 2-of-4 free throws prior during that time period and that's what made it a 62-59 lead for Slater with :35 remaining when Chandler Zdybel scored to put his team up by five. If Danny Kuda hadn't then nailed a triple with :22 seconds left to play that final scenario would have been much different.
"We came into this contest hoping to get to the free throw line, which we did an alright job of. We got to the line more than they did, and we wanted to out-rebound them. We got out-rebounded by seven tonight, but we only gave up seven offensive rebounds, according to our stats," Thomas said. "That wasn't terrible, but we've got to do a better job there. Against Van-Far we got killed on the glass and we got zero free throws, so we did a decent job in both of those areas, for the most part."
Community R-6, 2-3 overall, 0-1 CAC, is at Sturgeon in league play on Tuesday.