Bobcats stand tall in first-round win
BLHS boys advance to Round 2 with 32-point thrashing of Thunder
The Basehor-Linwood boy's basketball team entered Monday night in new territory. As the number-two seed with a 16-4 record, the Bobcats were heavily favored hosts in their first-round sub-state matchup against St. James Academy.
The trademark BLHS offense wasn't clicking at the game's outset, but the Bobcats quickly picked up the pieces and dominated the Thunder 71-39.
"At the beginning of the game I thought we were nervous and tight. We didn't warm up well," coach Mike McBride said. "Making sure we believe that we can do this is the big thing. I was nervous after the first quarter."
The Bobcats were leading 8-0 with 2:30 left in the period. While the defensive intensity was a good sign, nerves appeared to play a role in a slightly sluggish offense. BLHS finished the first quarter up 11-6.
They expanded the lead to 34-16 by halftime.
"We settled down in second quarter, but we still didn't look crisp," McBride said.
Despite the comfortable lead, McBride sent a subtle halftime message.
"We talked about not being nervous anymore," McBride said. "There wasn't any yelling going on.
"I asked them: Who are you? Where do you want to go? Why are you nervous? Every game that we win from here on out, people are going to think you did a great job. You're not going to disappoint anyone."
The Bobcats came out and dominated the third quarter, outscoring SJA 27-9. At one point in the second half, the lead was stretched to 40 before McBride rested his starters.
Tanner Swafford played a big role in getting the offense going in the second quarter. He scored 12 of his game-high 20 points in that period.
"They tried to put pressure on him, and finally he had had enough," McBride said. "He showed why he is the player that he is. He went strong to the hole. They got under his skin."
Austin Knipp and Jacob Schierbaum each added 15 points. Knipp also hit three three-pointers.
The Thunder attempted to play tight perimeter defense and prevent Knipp from taking the game over with his shooting.
"They tried to play up on us; they weren't going to give us room," McBride said. "We ran some set plays we hadn't run in awhile. If we get (Knipp) loose, he is going to hit the shot. He got his confidence as the game went on."
Schierbaum's offense was a particularly encouraging sign. Generally a strong defender and rebounder, the junior center was able to assert himself offensively for a team that might need that production as post-season play continues.
"Jacob Schierbaum is getting better and better," McBride said. "He hit five or six shots where the St. James big man was contesting it. He did a nice job.
"What we talked about at the beginning of the year was being balanced. At the end of the year we are becoming more and more balanced. When you have balance, you can beat teams in a variety of ways. We are becoming a tough team to beat."
In order to exploit matchups, the Bobcats played most of the game in a full court man-to-man defensively.
"We got them out of their game by speeding up," McBride said.
The win runs the Bobcats season record to 17-4. They will play the No. 3-seeded Baldwin Bulldogs on Thursday evening in Tonganoxie.