‘Cats walk in first round
Basehor-Linwood girls basketball team wins first-round game against De Soto
From the start of Monday's opening-round substate game between Basehor-Linwood and De Soto high schools, both teams clearly stated their strategies.
Basehor-Linwood started in a full-court press and pushed the ball up the court on offense with breakneck speed.
De Soto, in contrast, packed all five defenders into the key and attempted to clog the middle. On offense, the Wildcats tried to slow the pace.
The differences were stark, but it was the Bobcats' size and speed, along with hot perimeter shooting, which allowed them to win the game 66-36.
"I told the girls that you have to throw records out and understand that the season starts over," BLHS coach Noah Simpson said. "It's 0-0-you lose, you go home. I told them to try to stay focused for all 32 minutes. I told them I would apologize tomorrow if the score got out of hand, but that we were playing for Thursday and beyond that."
The Bobcats led 14-2 midway through the first quarter. At halftime, the team led 40-12.
"It was a great first half," Simpson said. "40-12, to jump out on anyone like that, is a great first half. So I am extremely proud of them for that."
Simpson said he wasn't surprised by the zone defense employed by De Soto to take away the middle. Wildcat coach Dwight Spencer said it was his team's best option.
"Basehor-Linwood is really good," Spencer said. "They are so strong because they have size inside that you have to help on and if you don't they will score every time. When you do that, they kick out, and if you don't get out on their 3-point shooters right away, they are going to nail them. It's frustrating. We thought that there was a better chance of them not hitting their three-pointers than of them not hitting their layups. We wanted to make them beat us from the three, and they did."
While sometimes given free reign from the perimeter, the BLHS guards knocked down many open shots. Point guard Brooke Sanders finished with 20 points. Michelle Chrisman had 12 points. Fellow wings Ashley Jeannin and Bren Koontz scored five and seven, respectively. By contrast, the usually highly productive interior duo of 6-foot-3-inch Cassie Lombardino and 5-foot-10-inch Courtney Hooks combined for only 14 points, with Lombardino collecting 12 of those.
"The team is realizing that even with having someone of Cassie's height and ability, it takes the entire team to win," Simpson said. "We illustrated to them that K-State's Michael Beasley scored 44 the other night and lost. We can't be a one or two dimensional team and win."
Sanders said she and the other perimeter played looked to score more than usual against De Soto's zone defense.
"I think they make us shoot with the zone, and if we aren't shooting well then it works. But if we are shooting well, then they might as well not do it," Sanders said.
Basehor-Linwood's pressure defense took DeSoto out of their comfort zone and created turnovers. Shelbi Petty led the Wildcats with 11 points and Katie Williams added nine.
The Bobcats' pressure defense is relatively new. The team didn't start using the full-court press until the Sumner Academy game.
"These are a lot of things, in all reality, that we could have done all year but didn't," Simpson said. "We knew if we pressured teams like this for 20 games that by the time we got to substate we would have been so tired we wouldn't have been able to finish the season."
Sanders, who said she is about 90 percent recovered from an ankle sprain sustained a couple weeks ago, said her team has to focus on playing a complete basketball game.
After leading 40-12 at halftime, BLHS only outscored DHS 26-24 in the second half.
"We need to be focused and work as hard as we can," she said. "We know we can do it. We know it should be us that goes to Salina,"
Spencer was asked after the game how far he thought BLHS could go in substate.
"It's tough to say," Spencer said. "Will they make it? You need a little bit of luck. It's a good district, it's a good substate. On any given night, I think those teams can play with them. If they are playing a five-game series, I think Basehor probably wins three out of five and is a definitely favored to go to state. With a one-and-done deal, anything can happen. I wish them well, but they will have to come out ready every night."
All of which underscores the importance of not taking any game for granted.
"Right now, it's win or go home," Simpson said. "We asked them before the game, what do you want to do? Their response was win. So that's what we are going to focus on."
Basehor-Linwood was finally publicly presented with the championship plaque from the Central Heights Tournament. The ceremony took place before tip-off. The original tournament was interrupted by inclement weather. After the Lady Bobcats won the championship, they were not given the hardware to present publicly until now.