Twelve-point loss greets Bobcats after break
After a hard-fought 55-43 defeat at Pembroke Hill, Basehor-Linwood boys basketball coach Mike McBride said there was only one thing standing between his team and victory: belief.
"I really felt like some of our kids still just did not believe we're as good as what we are," McBride said. "I mean, we are fighting through that right now."
The Bobcats were fighting through a lot of different things at Pembroke on Tuesday. They were playing with heavy hearts after attending the funeral of J.B. Stinnett earlier in the day. Stinnett was a youth basketball coach, a mentor to many of the players, and perhaps Basehor-Linwood's biggest fan. Although not enough shots fell for the Bobcats to win Tuesday, the effort the players gave would have made Stinnett proud.
"It really inspired me to play hard," BLHS senior Garrett Chumley said of the funeral. "I owe a lot of my game, and what I can do, to him. My post moves, my left-handed game, everything was because of him. I know about 75 percent of the kids in the program can say that, too."
Chumley and his teammates were visibly fired up but faced a tough assignment against Pembroke's young but extremely talented starting five. Spencer Ladner, a 6-foot-7 sophomore and Will Preston, a sweet-shooting junior forward, led a confident and flashy Raiders squad.
Early in the game Ladner banged for a put-back basket and a three-point play to give his team a dangerous 17-6 first quarter lead. But the Bobcats wouldn't finish the quarter quietly. Freshman point guard Chandler Schaake dished to Tanner Swafford for a layup and then answered a basket by Preston with a smooth baseline jumper of his own.
Schaake earned a start in just his fifth varsity game and made the most of it, scoring 9 points, pulling down 5 rebounds and distributing a team-high 6 assists. His jumper pulled the Bobcats back within single digits, at 19-10, by the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter the Raiders went to a 2-3 zone defense which slowed the game considerably, as the Bobcats passed it around the perimeter and looked for openings. Basehor-Linwood was doing enough defensively to stay in the game, but the slow pace was not what McBride wanted to see.
"That's not really what our game plan was at all," McBride said. "We came out and we tried to do some things to get them up and down the floor a little bit."
A faster tempo might have worked in the Bobcats' favor, as they seemed to be the deeper team, but as it was, Ladner and Pembroke's other stars didn't need much rest. The Pembroke sophomore finished the low-scoring quarter by laying in a lob pass that gave his team a 29-17 halftime lead.
Basehor-Linwood briefly cut the lead to single digits early in the third behind leading scorer Austin Knipp. Knipp took a back door pass from Schaake and laid it in and then hit a jumper to cut the lead to nine, but it was one of the few scoring flurries for him in the game. Saddled with foul trouble most of the way, he had trouble getting in a rhythm and finished with 8 points, five below his season average. He did add 3 assists and a steal.
With his team down 41-30 going into the final quarter, McBride told his players to approach the game minute by minute and believe that they could get back in it. There were no fancy plays drawn up or fiery speeches given. But after that break, for the first time all night, BLHS dominated play.
Chumley hit a jumper off a pass from Schaake, Schaake hit a three off a pass from James Bishop, and Jacob Schierbaum took down an offensive board and laid it back in. As the shots started to fall, the Bobcats got a second wind and turned up the defensive pressure, forcing two turnovers in a row. Then, after Chumley took a pass from Knipp and drained another jumper, BLHS was suddenly down just one possession at 41-39.
The 9-0 run was made possible largely because of the defensive job the 6-foot-6 Schierbaum did on Ladner. In a heated battle of sophomore big men, Schierbaum held his own, limiting Ladner to 17 points in the game and zero in the fourth quarter. Schierbaum's numbers weren't his best -- 6 points and a team-high 7 rebounds -- but against Ladner it was a game to remember.
"We haven't really faced a big man of his caliber and he (Schierbaum) really stood his ground," Chumley said. "What he'll take out of it, probably, is just to see that no matter what the opponent, he can still play hard and do well."
Unfortunately for the Bobcats, Schierbaum's inspired play wasn't enough to give them the victory Tuesday. With just over three minutes left, Pembroke hit a three from the corner off an inbounds play to go up 46-39.
After fighting and clawing back into the game, the shot was a dagger in the heart of BLHS' comeback hopes.
But after the game there was no sense of hopelessness, at least not from Chumley, who led the team with 10 points. The senior talked only about he and his classmates, Bishop and Steven Bower, finishing strong, and leaving the team with a belief that victory is possible every time the Bobcats take the floor.