Opinion: Sophomore steps up
More times than not this season, the Basehor-Linwood High School boys basketball team has been led by the 1-2 punch of senior Austin Knipp and junior Tanner Swafford.
Tuesday night, in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Piper High School, the duo delivered once again. Knipp finished with 19 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Swafford tallied 10 points and 9 rebounds.
But on this night, with the Kaw Valley League championship hanging in the balance, the Bobcats needed more.
Enter sophomore guard Chandler Schaake.
Schaake delivered the kind of performance that wowed the crowd. He was strong with the basketball, smart with his decisions and spectacular when he had to be. In a nutshell, it was the finest game of Schaake's young career.
"By far," BLHS coach Mike McBride said. "He just keeps us so calm. Everybody wants to look at points and rebounds but he does so many thins that people don't even realize he does."
Tuesday night, everyone realized it -- particularly those on the opposing bench.
"There's no question that he was the key tonight," Piper coach David Hall said. "He's the person who starts the whole thing for them -- as a sophomore. He's a terrific player."
Tuesday night, he was more than that. Schaake was sensational throughout the game, but he was at his best in the second quarter. He began the quarter with two fouls. A couple of months ago, that would have been enough for McBride to keep the point guard on the bench. But, on Tuesday, McBride chose to put the ball in Schaake's hands. He was rewarded with a career-best performance.
"Obviously, he's grown up," McBride said of Schaake. "Earlier in the season, he would've kept fouling, but tonight he did what he had to do to stay on the floor. He played like a junior tonight, which is what I ask my sophomores to do at the end of the year."
During Schaake's memorable second quarter, he delivered four assists, knocked down a jumper and took a key charge on a drive by Piper's Nate Daniels.
In the second half, Schaake shifted gears and became a scorer as well as a distributor. His three-pointer from the top of the key with 5:09 to play ended an 8-0 Piper run and was the lighter fluid that fueled Basehor-Linwood's 11-2 run. For the game, he finished with 12 points, 6 assists, 2 rebounds and 2 steals.
When asked what impressed him more, his points or his assist total, Schaake's response offered a look into the mindset of this fierce competitor.
"The win," he said. "Sorry, I know that wasn't one of the choices."
For the Bobcats, however, it was the only choice. All season, despite their impressive run through the Kaw Valley League, the Bobcats have been overlooked, taken lightly or simply laughed at because of their sluggish past.
The BLHS players are the ones who can laugh now, but they've chosen not to.
"Coach was talking about that after the game," Schaake said. "If we see (Piper) again [at sub-state], it'll be a tougher game. We gotta get there first, though."
If Schaake plays the way he did Tuesday night, and the rest of the Bobcats continue to do what delivered the school its first league title in 11 years, the Bobcats will not only get there, they'll go beyond.