BLHS girls one shot shy in upset bid of No. 1 Tonganoxie
The schedule could not have been any crueler.
After a December cancellation because of bad weather, the Basehor-Linwood High School girls basketball team was forced into a week that could give any coach nightmares: two games within a 72-hour span against the No. 1 ranked team in Class 4A.
The results of the two games could similarly haunt the sleep of the Lady Bobcats.
Basehor-Linwood fought undefeated Tonganoxie all the way to the buzzer Friday night. But a three-pointer by Brooke Sanders bounced harmlessly off the back rim as the time expired, sending the Lady Bobcats to defeat, 26-24.
The heartbreaking loss came in short proximity to last Tuesday's wrenching defeat, when the Lady Bobcats led by eight points at halftime against the Lady Chieftains, only to self destruct in the fourth quarter and lose 42-32.
"It hurts, really bad," forward Bren Koontz said. "To come so close to beating the top-ranked team, and then just falling short by two points, it gets to you.
"To get that close, and lose like that, it gives you a confidence-booster knowing that you can play with the first ranked team and have a chance to win, but at the same time, it doesn't feel good."
Both offenses were stagnant early. The first points in the game weren't scored until 5:07 remained in the first quarter. Basehor-Linwood didn't even attempt its first field goal until the 4:30 mark of the first. They had turned the ball over on every possession until that point.
THS held a 4-0 lead when BLHS got on the board with 1:58 left in the opening quarter.
"The defense on both teams was very tight," Koontz said.
BLHS coach Tami Holthus agreed and said that it was not in the pre-game plans to slow the game down.
"We were just going to play and take what they gave us," Holthus said. "They pride themselves on their man defense, and they were packing the lane, almost like a zone look. We finally worked our way through that and figured out how to attack it a little better."
After bypassing many open shots during a first half when the Lady Bobcats accumulated just eight total points, the coach came into the locker room with a message. The team had spent too much time trying to get the ball into the post.
"We really like to look for Cassie down low," Koontz said. "She can finish shots. Coach even told us at halftime that we need to shoot more, and that we were relying on taking it on in to the basket."
The BLHS offense opened up in the second half. The Lady Bobcats continued to clamp down on defense and trailed by five after the third quarter, 21-16.
The score was 24-20 Tonganoxie with 23.9 seconds remaining in the game. At that point, Sanders hit a jumper to pull her team within two points. At the other end, the Lady Chieftains converted on one of two free throws after a quick foul to push the lead to three. Sanders then took the ball the length of the court and hit a runner with 12 seconds left to slice the lead to one, 25-24.
THS forward Ali Pistora, the team's leading scorer with 11, was fouled with 9.6 seconds left. She missed the first and converted the second. Tonganoxie was up by two.
The last possession culminated in an open three-point look for Sanders.
"Brooke hit those two shots; that really helped," Koontz said. "That last three, I was really glad that Brooke took it. We have a lot of confidence in her shot."
Holthus was impressed with the play of her junior point guard.
"She played her tail off, and I could not be more proud of her," Holthus said. "She battled through fatigue, she battled through pressure, and she got an awesome look at a three, and she will make that three more often than she will miss. I am so proud of the job she did tonight."
Sanders played all 32 minutes in the game.
"I think it was great for her to play every minute," Koontz said. "She is our best ball handler."
Koontz, on the other hand, spent a portion of the second half on the bench.
"I was getting in foul trouble; I was doing stupid things," Koontz said. "Sometimes you have to sit someone out to get them to cool down."
The Lady Chieftains were spurred by an impressive evening at the free throw line. They were 8-for-10 from the stripe, including hitting their first eight. BLHS was 5-for-10.
"They shoot free throws very well," Holthus said. "They beat us from the free throw line this week. We need to get better from the free throw line."
Holthus was happy with her team's progress through a brutal mid-season schedule.
"We have just gone through a stretch in our season where we have faced some of the best competition of anyone in 4A," Holthus said. "We have battled through injury with Michelle Chrisman, we have battled through some losses, and we are getting better. That has been our goal from day one, to get better everyday. We are getting there."