Bobcats find a way to win vs. scrappy Lions
On the very first possession of Friday night's Basehor-Linwood-Lansing boys basketball game, Austin Knipp picked Lions forward Clayton Hall's pocket.
Knipp then took the ball the length of the court for a breakaway layup.
It turned out to be the easiest bucket of the night for the Bobcats, who left their offense behind, but played a hard-nosed game and toughed out a 44-41 road victory.
"We found a way to win, I don't know how," BLHS coach Mike McBride said. "They outplayed us tonight. We did play hard externally. We just weren't very focused."
Lansing had come into the game streaking. After beginning the season 0-5, they had won five of eight. While playing stingy defense with a variety of looks, the Lions dominated on the boards in their bid for an upset. They out-rebounded the Bobcats 27-16.
The game was unlike many BLHS has played this year. Instead of a wide-open shooting clinic, the Bobcats were forced to play the tempo that their opposition favored for one of the few times this year. Despite a game that featured fewer possessions, BLHS caused 16 turnovers.
"Our defense overall is always going to be good," McBride said. "We kept them away from the basket for awhile, but they had a ton of offensive rebounds in the first half. Lansing is very athletic, and I am going to give them credit, but at the same time, we weren't in it."
Despite a win that some would coin 'ugly,' the Bobcats were pleased to find a new way to win.
"We didn't play very well tonight, at halftime we got chewed out," center Jacob Schierbaum said. "But after that, we played good. We could have done better, should have done better.
"It will help us in sub-state, because those games you can't always shoot them out, you have to play tough defense, because they are always going to be bigger and stronger."
BLHS took a 22-18 lead into halftime. Adapting quickly to a slower pace, the Bobcats didn't commit a first quarter turnover. Lansing tied the game momentarily in the third, and going into the final period trailed by only one, 29-28.
The score was 31-30 BLHS early in the fourth quarter when the game changed. Lansing had most of the momentum, after having roared back from a first half deficit. On a three-point attempt with 6:53 left, a Lansing player appeared to be hacked as he released his shot, sending him sprawling to the hardwood.
No foul was called. Lions coach Rod Briggs went ballistic, saying some choice words to the referee that garnered a technical foul. Instead of taking the lead, the Lions had sent BLHS to the free-throw line with the lead and the promise of the next possession.
"I think what it was, our player got hammered on one end, so I probably said something, and we came down and probably fouled the kid on the other end and then he got the technical," McBride said. "I was already on the coach for when they hammered us on the other end. That was two consecutive plays.
"It's like anything else, if you are the second one caught, you are going to get the technical. I don't know what he said, but that was big. We had a bad break this year, and I guess that was theirs. Everyone has one or two. That's basketball."
Lansing continued to hang in, but was never able to take the lead in the fourth. They were down by one with 15 seconds left to play, 42-41. Junior Kevin Johnson drove the lane and was called for traveling. BLHS then hit two free throws to seal the game with only a second on the clock.
Austin Knipp had an amazing stretch at the free throw line to seal the contest. Over the course of the last four-plus minutes, Knipp went 9-for-10 from the stripe. The clutch shooting was not a surprise to teammates or coaching staff. Knipp is shooting 86 percent from the free throw line this season.
"He is not a guy you want to foul. If there is one thing Austin Knipp has impressed me with over my first three years, it is that he doesn't worry about stats, and he plays to win," McBride said. "He has the ability to step up, because he wants to win. That is what I told the kids in the locker room, 'You better thank Austin for hitting free throws tonight, because that is why we won.'"
As a team, Lansing finished 3-for-8 from the free throw line.
Knipp finished with 19 points. Tanner Swafford grabbed eight rebounds and scored seven points. Schierbaum played an integral role on defense, blocking four shots.
"The guards did a real good job of forcing them to the opposite hand that they didn't want to go to, and I just took advantage of it," Schierbaum said.
For the Bobcats, finishing the season strong is of the utmost importance.
"(The win) gives you a little more confidence as far as the kids, because they look at the record and see 8-0 (in conference play)," said McBride, four days before the Bobcats moved to 9-0 with a 59-44 victory over Imac on Tuesday night.
"We still have (five) games left, and we need to take them one game at a time. Three weeks is a long time, and an emotional roller coaster during the basketball season."
Just how important is momentum in the last three weeks before post season tournaments?
"It is extremely important," McBride said. "You need to get some momentum going into sub-state, because your kids have to believe. It is so far away from sub-state, and yet you have a big league game coming up, it is very important that we play well at the end of the year.
"We haven't shot the ball well for four or five games; we haven't had good energy in practice for awhile. So, something has to change. They are either going to change this week, or I am going to change it for them. So hopefully they get ready to get after it."