BLHS boys blast Holton, advance to semis
The Basehor-Linwood boys basketball team entered its home tournament, The Bobcat Basketball Invitational, in an unfamiliar role: favorite.
Unsure how his squad would take to it, BLHS coach Mike McBride urged his players not to overlook any opponent.
They listened. The Bobcats dismantled Holton, 63-33, on Tuesday night in the first round.
"We played well," McBride said. "That's what you want to do in the first round of a tournament. We didn't take them for granted, we took care of business. We didn't look forward, which, after being 6-15 last year, we need to do, because we can't take anything for granted."
Tanner Swafford played a key role in the demise of the Wildcats. He scored 19 points on 9-for-13 shooting from the field. He also grabbed eight rebounds and had three steals.
"Offensively, he is very tough to stop," said McBride, pointing out that Swafford is shooting better than 60 percent on the season. "You put a small guy on him, he is going to post up. If you put a big guy on him he is going to take you out and shoot the three. He is very difficult to guard."
The only phase of the game where the Bobcats didn't have complete control was the time immediately following the tip-off. Holton won the tip, and hit a quick jump shot. They unveiled a full court press and caused a quick turnover, which led to another jump shot. The Wildcats had a 4-0 lead and barely any time had evaporated from the clock.
BLHS responded with a 15-2 run over the next six-plus minutes. The Bobcats led 15-8 at the end of the first quarter.
They pushed the lead to 33-15 by halftime. If Holton had any illusions that a comeback might be possible, they was quickly put to rest, as the Bobcats opened the second half on a 9-2 run.
Going for the jugular when sporting such an impressive lead is not an easy task, thinks McBride.
"It is very difficult, especially when you are coming from where we came from, with however many losing seasons," McBride said. "It is very difficult to coach. It's difficult to get them to understand the whole picture; which is going to state. And you can't take breaks when you go to state.
"So they just have to understand, hey, 'Imagine it's Piper, imagine it's Baldwin, imagine it is someone out there that you will be playing a good, hard game against at districts."
Center John VanderVelde agrees.
"Before it's been really hard to keep our focus," VanderVelde said. "Because normally we think, hey, 'We got a lead by 20, we are going to coast for the rest of the time and we should have it.' But we never do. Tonight, coach just kept saying, 'You're up by 20, get up by 30. Up by 30, get up by 40.'"
The coach was happy with the outcome; even more so because he has preached the importance of controlling the team's success.
"Right now we are talking about handling prosperity," McBride said. "What we mean by that, we showed we can handle adversity. We want to win. We showed that against Bishop Ward when we came back by eight with 2:50 left. We haven't done a good job this year at all of taking it to teams when we have them on the ropes. Tonight we did that."
In the game Austin Knipp scored 16 points, Matt Fanning had nine points and five rebounds, and Chandler Schaake and Jacob Schierbaum played well in complementary roles. Schaake was instrumental in breaking the press, while Schierbaum grabbed some strong rebounds and played tough interior defense.
One senior put the evening in a recent historical perspective.
"We are pretty excited because we haven't beat a team by 30 in a while," VanderVelde said. "We haven't gotten past the first round in our tournament more than once since the tournament has been going on. It is just really exciting since we did that and beat a team by 30 (on the same night)."
Up next for Basehor-Linwood is St. Joe Benton, who reached the second round by virtue of their victory over Park Hill.
The teams will hook up in the semifinals on Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m.
The Cardinals could provide matchup problems for the Bobcats. According to McBride, 6-foot-7 junior, John Coy, is "probably as good as any player that we will play."
"He can put the ball on the floor, he can rebound, he has great skills, great touch, he will shoot 25-foot three pointers. He is the real deal," McBride added.
McBride expects Benton to deploy a press defense and mix it with a man-to-man.
Entering the contest, he is taking a gambler's 'nothing-to-lose' attitude.
"Going in, what do we have to lose?" he asked. "We have nothing to lose. We have never been here before."