First-round victory leads to 4th-place finish
It was a game neither team deserved to lose: a heavyweight bout where two fighters exchanged haymakers until the bell sounded. Unfortunately for Basehor-Linwood, the decision was not in its favor Thursday night, as the Bobcats lost a thriller, 60-57 to St. Joe Benton.
The defeat cost the Bobcats a berth in the championship of the Bobcat Invitational.
"I thought we played well," coach Mike McBride said. "We turned the ball over too much; they made us play at a different speed. They were better than any team we saw at Emporia.
"If we don't turn the ball over at a few key times, we win the game. They made us play just a little bit faster than we are used to playing."
It was the Cardinals who were careless with the ball at the outset. The Bobcats pressured the ball hard initially, and SJB committed seven first quarter turnovers.
The Cardinals slowed it down offensively in the second quarter and began to take better care of the ball. They went into halftime with a 31-28 advantage in front of a raucous home Basehor-Linwood crowd.
It was a back-and-forth third quarter until one play changed the course of the game.
The score was 40-38 as backup point guard Anthony Pierce slashed to the basket from the wing. A defender jumped into position to cut off his angle to the basket. Bodies collided as Pierce lofted the ball up. It rattled in as the Bobcats backup point guard crashed to the ground.
A whistle sounded, surely signifying an additional free throw which could put the Bobcats up for the first time since early in the first half. Pierce pumped his fist from the ground, as the gym went into hysteria.
To the horror of the Bobcat faithful, the referee was pointing in the other direction. He had called hooking on Pierce, an offensive foul that nullified the basket.
Pierce sprung from the floor with his palms toward the ceiling, in shock. Incredulous, his mouth was agape, his eyes bulging. McBride spewed protestations so loud he could be heard from the stands, over the roar of the enraged faithful.
With arms flailing, McBride wanted just one question answered: how could an offensive player be called for hooking when he never made it past the defender and had ended up in a bundle at the defender's feet? The inquiry fell on deaf ears.
The score remained 40-38 and the Cardinal's took possession. The visibly deflated Bobcats quickly surrendered a 12-2 run, and were now looking at a 52-40 St. Joe Benton lead.
"That was a game changer right there," forward Tanner Swafford said. "That looked like a block to me with an and-one. That was going to put us up by a point with our crowd going crazy. That was going to help our team emotionally to keep going and win the game. You could tell by the fans' (reaction) that it wasn't a good call."
McBride was still stunned at the conclusion of the game.
"A call like that changes the whole game," McBride said. "Personally I don't understand how you hook somebody when they are standing right in front of you. That didn't even make sense -- the call didn't make sense.
"(Pierce) makes the basket, everybody thinks we are going to make a three-point play and take the lead, and he calls that. So yeah, it's going to deflate you, anytime that happens. You have to find a way to fight back and get it back. We did that. I am more proud of the kids for that than anything. Any team is going to go on a little emotional slide, especially at the high school level. But they got it back, and we found a way to almost win the game."
And they did.
In a frenetic three-plus minutes in the fourth quarter, the Bobcats, down 12, went on a 15-2 run to tie the game at 55 with three minutes remaining.
"I thought we were going to win," McBride said of his mind set during the stretch. "We make that run, but we made a couple of turnovers that killed us. When you play a good team, every possession counts. That is what I wrote on the board: 'Every possession counts.'"
Cardinals junior sensation John Coy converted a three-point play with 2:30 left to give his team a 58-55 lead. The Cardinals still led by three with 15 seconds left when Swafford put back an Austin Knipp miss to pull within one, 60-59.
Cardinals forward Kyle Cline was fouled on the in-bounds play. He made both free throws and put the score at 62-59 with 6.9 seconds left.
The Bobcats got a clean look to send the game into overtime, but Matt Fanning's three-point attempt went banging off the front of the rim. St. Joe Benton had escaped.
Swafford finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Knipp added 19 points and six rebounds. Knipp heated up when it counted, hitting three three-pointers in a 1:30 stretch during the fourth-quarter run when the Bobcats pulled even.
McBride kept his team focused on the future during his post game talk.
"I just told them to keep their heads up," McBride said. "We are trying to find our way to the state tournament. A lot of the other tournaments around here, whoever they are playing, I guarantee they don't have a whole lot of St. Joe Benton's out there."
"We are disappointed," Swafford said. "We had a 7-0 streak going. Unfortunately, they just pulled away. They got some calls that we were looking for that we didn't get. But it's like our coach said, we shouldn't have our heads down."
For a recap of the Bobcats' third-place game, see story on Page 4B.