TOPEKA – Parker Leeds hit his team’s first and only 3-pointer with 2:07 left in overtime to go on top for good Friday night as the Emporia High boys basketball team outlasted Hayden 52-51 for its first win of the season.
“Big for him, big for our team; it was a momentum changer,” said Spartan head coach Beau Welch of Leeds’ shot. “ … We were able to get organized and actually run a set to get Parker that three and he drilled it in there. The momentum and everything in this gym just got sucked out of the crowd and we had the momentum for the rest of the game.”
The 3-pointer put Emporia (1-8) on top 49-48 after Hayden scored the first points of overtime on a pair of free throws by Joe Otting. The Spartans forced a turnover on the Wildcats’ (1-6) ensuing possession and milked the clock down to 46 seconds before Leeds was fouled and made a free throw to extend the lead to 50-48.
Hayden’s Jacob Padilla missed a 3-point shot on the other end and Emporia came down with the rebound. The Wildcats fouled Sheldon Stewart with 10.5 seconds to go, and he made both free throws to put the Spartans up 52-48.
Padilla hit a 3-pointer as time expired but it wasn’t enough and Emporia walked off the court victorious for the first time all year.
“I thought we responded well to a lot of things,” Welch said. “Adversity has been a big thing for us and handling adversity and responding. I thought there were a couple of points in the game that we did a good job.”
The Spartans fell behind 6-2 just over four minutes into the game before ripping off a 9-0 run to end the first quarter with an 11-6 lead. However, Hayden responded by starting the second period with a 13-1 run to go up 19-12.
It was a familiar feeling for the Emporia faithful, who had seen sloppy quarters here and there sink the Spartans’ chances in a handful of games throughout the season.
With his team down seven, Welch called a timeout with 4:10 remaining before halftime and drew up a play that allowed Leeds to get to the rim and score.
That proved to be a turning point for the remainder of the half.
“It was that moment where we had to really work through it,” Welch said. “We were able to get a bucket coming out of the timeout and we (scored) on the next possession and clawed our way back into it.”
Emporia ended the first half on a 12-5 run and the game was knotted up at 24-apiece as the teams headed to their locker rooms.
Things stayed neck-and-neck throughout the third until Hayden’s Jake Muller hit a 3-pointer with 1:37 left to take a 37-34 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Spartans went on another 9-0 to jump ahead 43-37 – their largest lead – with 5:22 left in the game. River Peters hit a free throw with 1:37 remaining to make Emporia’s lead 46-41.
Up to that point, the Spartans had hit 16 of 20 foul shots. However, they missed their final five attempts in regulation, which allowed the Wildcats to tie things up at 46-46 and force extra time.
“We should have won it in regulation, there’s no question, by making some down the stretch,” Welch said. “But to be honest, looking back now, what a great growing moment for our team. And we were able to knock them in late in the overtime. … We handled adversity twice tonight, and that’s a great sign for our guys.”
Leeds scored 16 for Emporia while Stewart had 11 (seven from the free-throw line) and Peters had 10 (eight from the free-throw line). The Spartans shot 48% (16 of 33) and went 66% (19 of 29) from the charity stripe.
Hayden got 19 points out of the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Otting, who presented a matchup challenge all night long. However, Welch said he thought sophomore Cooper Rech – who is slightly shorter and significantly slimmer – did a good job against Otting defensively.
“Cooper Rech really responded to a challenge,” Welch said. “Joe Otting’s a tough, tough matchup and (Rech) did everything he could. He allowed us to rebound the ball and then have some possessions.”
The Emporia defense held the Wildcats to 43% (18 of 43) shooting – including 38% (8 of 21) from 3-point range – while forcing 16 turnovers.
Hayden won the rebounding battle 23-15 and pulled down nine offensive boards.
VICTORY AT LAST
The win snapped a 10-game losing streak that stretched all the way back to Feb. 21, 2021, when the Spartans beat Hayden 51-36 in the same gym.
“Great to see smiles and excitement on our guys' faces in the locker room after the game,” Welch said.
The celebration didn’t last long though, as inclement weather rolled into the capital city soon after the final buzzer and Emporia had to hurry and load up on the bus to make the trek home.
Perhaps it was nature’s way of reminding the Spartans that, although the win was great, there was still work to be done.
Emporia will play at the Ralph Miller Classic in Chanute Thursday, Friday and Saturday next week. On Thursday, they will matchup with Bishop Miege at 5 p.m. and on Friday they will play Chanute at 7 p.m. Saturday matchups will be determined after the first two games are played.
EMPORIA 52, HAYDEN 51
Emporia (1-8) – 11; 13; 10; 12; 6; – 52
Hayden (1-6) – 6; 18; 13; 9; 5; – 51
Emporia – Leeds 16, Stewart 11, Peters 10, Ortega 7, Rech 6, Cooper 2.
Hayden – Otting 19, Duffy 14, Padilla 10, Rice 3, Muller 3, Ham 2.