Basehor-Linwood post players lead teams
If the Basehor-Linwood basketball teams are to make a run in this year's state basketball playoffs, it will most likely be a result of stellar interior play. With the female duo of Cassie Lombardino and Courtney Hooks, and the male trio of Tanner Swafford, Scott Ogilvie and Jacob Schierbaum, both teams are in good hands.
Swafford and Lombardino are established Bobcat stars.
The emergence of the other three players have given credence to their respective team's postseason dreams.
Schierbaum's improvement, in particular, has given the Bobcats a secondary scoring option to take pressure off Swafford. The 6'7'' senior averaged six points and seven rebounds per game last year. He has improved those numbers to 10.5 and 7.8 per game this year.
"I worked real hard over the offseason," Schierbaum said of his improvement. "The whole team did - playing tournaments over the summer and league games at the YMCA. "
Swafford has increased his numbers from 14 and seven per game to 16.8 and 7.2 per game. The team needed both to step up - after the graduations of perimeter scorers Austin Knipp and Matt Fanning, coach Mike McBride emphasized getting the ball inside more often.
"Obliviously teams have to guard our inside first," McBride said. "To win big games and go to state, the team that scores the most lay-ups usually wins. We have three guys who can do that consistently."
Swafford said Schierbaum has worked hard and Ogilvie is helped by his strength and jumping ability.
"We lost Austin and Matt last year, and they were some really good three point shooters," Swafford said. "We knew that we were going to be able to make some threes here and there, but we knew that we had to look inside a lot more if we wanted to win games."
Schierbaum has been spurred by a successful return from a fractured right kneecap that he suffered last year. He is playing without pain.
The trio has helped the team to become solid on the boards.
"We expect that we should out-rebound everyone," Schierbaum said. "Scott Ogilvie can jump out of the gym. He has worked tremendously on his legs over the summer. And me getting my legs back from knee surgery and Swafford coming back from a rolled ankle, just boxing out strong and everybody getting rebounds - it's fun to watch."
The girls team has again received stellar numbers from Lombardino. She is averaging 15.8 points per game and 10.3 rebounds.
Hooks has emerged into a solid option as well, averaging 6.8 and 7.4.
"I think it is nice to have two post players that can work together like we have been," Lombardino said. "It is good for teams not to focus on one specific person whether it is a post or a guard. Especially against Bonner Springs, we all stepped up. There were a lot of players with around the same amount of points."
Simpson said he believes the duo have helped each other elevate their games.
"The biggest key is, when teams focus so much on Cassie, it gives Courtney an opportunity to go play," Simpson said. "We kind of challenged her tonight at halftime to go play. I don't like to single anybody out, but I just looked at her and said, 'Feel comfortable with what you are doing and understand you belong here.' For a sophomore to put up numbers like 10 and 8 is great - and she is doing it consistently. Just having other posts that can come in and take some pressure off Cassie is huge. That will help Cassie so much."
Opposing teams have mostly played zone against the Bobcats to negate the size disadvantage against the 6'3'' Lombardino and 5'10'' Hooks. They may be a year late.
Last season's squad played a slower style and mostly dumped the ball into the post for Lombardino to make a play. Simpson has opened up this year's offense to play faster and become more balanced.
"It seems like we play better up-tempo because of our athletic ability. Everyone has the green light to shoot - it's nice to have that," Lombardino said. "We have more freedom. Coach Simpson tells us to just go out there and play basketball. If we can't get an open look, or if we get a different open look, we can go for it even if we didn't draw it up."
The zones have allowed more open looks for the Bobcats' perimeter players.
"It's huge when we rotate our perimeter players," Simpson said. "Our perimeter players are starting to have more movement. Early on in the season we really just watched what Cassie would do. We are getting to the point where we might kick the ball into Cassie and she will kick it back out. If our guards are moving, it is perfect. We can get wide open looks, which is exactly what we want the girls to do."