Lady Bobcats bounce back with strong defensive showing
After another heartbreaking defeat, this time a one-point loss against Immaculata last week, the Basehor-Linwood High School girls basketball team was eager to get back onto the court.
That showed early Friday night against Mill Valley, as the Lady Bobcats held the Jaguars to 0-for-12 shooting in the first quarter on their way to a 37-29 victory.
"(The quick start) was very important, especially on the heels of Tuesday night's game," BLHS coach Tami Holthus said. "I think the girls were pretty focused and ready to get back in action."
The Lady 'Cats had already staked an 8-1 lead when the first quarter came to a close.
"It was really important to set the tone of the game," center Cassie Lombardino said. "It was a must win."
The score was 12-2 when the Jaguars finally connected on their first field goal in the second quarter. By halftime, BLHS had pushed its lead to 24-9.
The Jaguars emerged from intermission renewed, outscoring the Lady 'Cats 10-2 in the third quarter.
"They came out with more intensity than us, and we had to adjust to that," Lombardino said. "We had trouble, but we got better in the fourth quarter."
The final frame remained close until the end. With 1:01 left, MVHS trapped the ball out of the inbounds play. BLHS tried frantically to advance the ball past midcourt as Holthus yelled for a timeout. The whistle was blown and the referees deliberated. They ruled a 10-second violation had occurred.
"They said it was simultaneous whistles," Holthus said. "Sometimes when you are on the road, you have to play through those things. When we have to bear down and get a little tougher, and we are on the road, and things aren't going our way, we have to learn to play on. The kids have really done a good job of that, and the parents are doing a good job of that in the stands."
Forward Bren Koontz fouled out on the ensuing possession, but the Jaguars couldn't convert from the free throw line and BLHS maintained a 30-29 lead.
From there, Mill Valley didn't score another point. BLHS junior Brooke Sanders hit 4-for-4 free throws in the last 40 seconds to seal the victory. They were her first points of the game.
"That is the role of the point guard, and that has to be the mentality of the point guard," Holthus said. "Sometimes your main job has to be more looking to get shots for your teammates, and sometimes it doesn't work that way.
"Tonight it seemed to be that way a little bit; but always at the end of the game when you are trying to close the deal, when the ball is in your hands, you have to be ready to step up and hit those free throws, and she did a great job of that."
Lombardino finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, and eight blocked shots. She came up with buckets at opportune times throughout the game to stem several Mill Valley rallies.
"I felt that I needed to step up and help set the tone of the game; just play as hard as I could and hopefully everyone else would follow," Lombardino said.
The center's mentality was the same on defense.
"I didn't want to let my girl get an easy bucket, so I just got up in her face and tried to contest the shot," Lombardino said. "I tried to not let them catch it, but when they did... not an easy bucket."
Koontz finished with 10 points. In addition to Sanders' late game shooting touch at the free throw line, she added three steals.
While pleased with victory, Holthus acknowledged offensive problems early in the second half.
"They pressured the wings a little more and upped their defensive intensity," Holthus said. "We seemed to get a little out of rhythm offensively with that. We have to do a little better job of staying poised, and using our dribble in the proper way. We just have to get better possessions."
The coach, however, was proud of her team's defense.
"Holding that team to 29 points is a pretty good defensive effort for the entire game," Holthus said. "I was particularly impressed with our kids at the end of the game when we needed to get stops, and they did a great job of just covering their shooters, and playing hard without fouling. I was very pleased with that."
Holthus had an interesting way of making sure her defenders stayed in the grills of their opposition.
"Our coach told us to get up on them, to 'know the flavor of the gum they were chewing by the end of the night.' Just get up in their face and make them speed up," Lombardino said. "Hopefully that would make them turn it over more, and it did."
BLHS forced 15 turnovers.
The Bobcats next action will come Saturday at home against Sumner Academy.