The Washington Wildcats boys basketball team posted a strong start to the 2018-2019 season, defeating Topeka’s Highland Park Scots 68-49 Friday evening at home.
The Wildcats sprang to an early lead, taking a 10-point advantage midway through the first quarter. The Wildcats found plenty of success driving the lane for layups.
Another big key to their success was strong perimeter defense that limited the Scots’ inside opportunities and provided fast-break chances.
The Wildcats held a 33-22 lead at halftime. The Scots pulled within 8 on a 3-pointer just after the break, but never seriously threatened the Washington advantage. A 28-point offensive showing in the third quarter by the Wildcats put the game out of reach.
Alton Easley led the scoring for Washington with 26 points. Nathan Johnson Jr. added 22. Both were strong inside scorers, and only one of Washington’s 23 made field goals was from 3-point range. Jahi Peppers led the Scots with 18 points.
Washington holds a 1-0 record in the young season, and will play the next game at Leavenworth on Dec. 6.
Two second-half defensive lapses by Sporting KC allowed the Portland Timbers to overcome an early Sporting Kansas City goal and win the Western Conference finals Thursday evening at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas. The final score was 3-2 in Portland’s favor.
Forward Daniel Salloi opened the scoring in the 20th minute. Diego Rubio earned the assist, crossing the ball from the right side to the far post where Salloi collected it. Salloi’s goal capped a flurry of early activity that saw Kansas City put four shots on goal in the first 15 minutes.
Salloi put the ball in the net again in the 24th minute, but it was disallowed for obstruction of the goalkeeper. Another Salloi shot in first-half stoppage time went just over the crossbar.
Portland erased Sporting Kansas City’s advantage in the 52nd minute. Forward Sebastian Blanco launched a shot from 30 yards that found the upper corner of the goal. Portland scored again in the 61st minute on a rebound header by Diego Valeri.
The 2-1 Portland lead meant Sporting KC needed twp goals to advance in the playoff. Sporting KC picked up one of those goals in the 81st minute when Graham Zusi crossed the ball to Gerso Fernandes near the penalty spot, but Sporting KC was not able to score again. Portland’s third goal came in stoppage time as Sporting Kansas City took increasingly risky offensive positions in an attempt to win the game, which allowed midfielder Diego Valeri to score on a counterattack.
Portland will advance to the MLS Cup final against Atlanta United FC. The match will be played in Atlanta on Dec. 8.
Sporting Kansas City will start its 2019 season in February. In addition to the usual MLS and U.S. Open Cup competitions, Sporting KC will participate in the CONCACAF Champions’ League, a competition among top club teams from across North America. Sporting KC qualified for the Champions’ League based on its 2017 Open Cup championship.
Sporting KC finished off Real Salt Lake on Sunday afternoon in the second leg of the Western Conference semifinal match, outscoring Salt Lake 4-2. Sporting won the match 5-3 on aggregate goals, but endured an excruciating second half to earn the victory.
Kansas City started the second half with a 2-0 lead and plenty of momentum from a strong first half, but twice gave up goals that brought RSL within one. Because of the two-leg aggregate format, a 2-2 or 3-3 draw would have advanced Salt Lake over Kansas City to the conference finals against Portland.
With a potential equalizer in sight, Salt Lake threw its offense forward, and prevented Kansas City from keeping possession and running out the game clock. Throughout the last half hour, and most intensely from the 80th minute on, Salt Lake strained the Kansas City defense, coming away with several near-misses, but no game-tying score.
In the seventh minute of stoppage time, KC forward Daniel Salloi broke loose for the game’s last goal, and the referee’s final whistle sounded, drowned out by the roar of the celebrating crowd.
Diego Rubio picked up the game’s first goal in the 14th minute, assisted by Johnny Russell and Felipe Gutierrez. Salloi followed on five minutes later, with Gutierrez again on the assist. Kansas City kept the pressure on through the remainder of the half, and as head coach Peter Vermes put it, “We could have easily went three or four goals still without them even scoring one.”
Salt Lake’s Sebastian Saucedo scored in the 60th minute to make the score 2-1. Kansas City re-established its margin on a penalty kick by Ilie Sanchez, earned when Diego Rubio was brought down on a run near the Salt Lake goal.
Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando tried to disrupt Sanchez by telling him to “make sure you go in one side or the other.” Sanchez placed the ball squarely in the middle of the goal for the score.
After the game, Sanchez talked about the kick as redemption for a miss earlier in the season. He said, “I came from Dallas when I missed that PK. It was right in front our fans that traveled that night, and it was in that corner, and I was so sorry for them. I’m just happy that I could do it tonight and everybody was able to enjoy it.”
The MLS playoffs will take a two-week hiatus to allow for players in international competition, including SKC forward Johnny Russell for Scotland. Sporting KC will face off with the Portland Timbers in the Western Conference final. The first leg will take place in Portland at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 25. The second leg will be at Children’s Mercy Park at 8:30 p.m. Nov. 29.