Archive for Thursday, November 17, 2005

Opinion: Moral victory not enough

November 17, 2005

The Basehor-Linwood soccer players are through with moral victories.

The team turned a corner this year, and for the next couple of years just playing close against great teams won't be good enough.

With that in mind, the last great moral victory for a while will be the 4-3 quadruple overtime loss to Maranatha Academy in the first round of the postseason.

That game was a bitter pill to swallow, since it ended the season and meant yet another first-round playoff exit for the Bobcats. But only after seeing what Maranatha did the rest of the way can one really appreciate the heart Basehor-Linwood showed in that match. Most of the state's top teams didn't give the Eagles half the fight that the Bobcats did.

Maranatha dominated Sumner Academy 5-0 in the second round. The Eagles then defeated Kaw Valley League superpower Bonner Springs 2-0 in the quarterfinals. They lost a 2-1 squeaker against Rose Hill in the semis before thumping Wichita-Trinity Academy 4-1 in the consolation game.

Maranatha finished third in the state in class 1-4A, outscoring all opponents after BLHS 10-3. That's right, the Eagles' four other playoff opponents combined to score the same number of goals that the Bobcats did in one game against them.

So why did Basehor end up with such a tough draw in the first round after finishing with a respectable 7-9 record? Well, Maranatha's schedule was loaded with bigger schools, which hurt their record and playoff ranking, but made them battle-tested. The Eagles also struggled early in the year after losing some key pieces from their 2004 state championship team.

Still, by the time Maranatha got to the playoffs, the team had jelled and was clearly one of the top squads in the state once again. Alec Lemmon and Brandon Wallace combined to form one of the area's most explosive scoring tandems. And the Bobcats had to face them in the very first round.

Some teams would have cried foul at having to face a seventh-seeded team with first-seed talent. Some would have sulked their way to a blowout loss. But any chance of the Bobcats letting Maranatha run over them was dashed by Austin Knipp.

Knipp's first strike, just three minutes into the game, gave his teammates a burst of confidence and set the tone for one of the most exciting games in BLHS history. The junior would score all three Bobcat goals, again equaling the total scored by all of Maranatha's other playoff opponents combined.

Zach Lowe was truly tremendous in holding off the Eagles' attack for more than 100 minutes. But, in the end, Lemmon was not to be denied.

As a senior and a defending state champion, one can imagine his desperation at the thought of his career ending in the first round at the hands of the upstart Bobcats, who had never won a playoff game. He wouldn't let it happen, scoring the tying goal late in regulation and the golden goal in the fourth overtime as the sun began to dip below the horizon.

Lemmon turned what would have been a landmark upset for the Bobcats into just another moral victory. But oh, what a moral victory it was.

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