Bobcats are kings of Kansas
Basehor-Linwood wins state championship with victory over Girard
Salina The Basehor-Linwood boys entered the Class 4A basketball state tournament as the new kids on the block, having never competed at state personally and making the program’s first appearance since 1995.
The Bobcats left the Bicentennial Center on Saturday night with a state championship trophy — the school’s first in a Kansas State High School Activities Association sanctioned sporting event — and became one of the biggest surprise stories of the year in Kansas basketball.
The Bobcats didn’t just rise to the top of a tournament field that included defending champion Topeka Hayden and NCAA Division I signee Jeff Reid; they did it in style.
Basehor-Linwood cruised past Wichita Trinity in the quarterfinals, 61-53, and then slaughtered Ottawa in the semifinals, 65-50. After those stellar performances, the Bobcats took on 2008 state runner-up Girard in the finals and were in control from wire to wire in a 53-48 victory.
“It’s like the ultimate cliché, going out on top,” senior Chandler Schaake said. “It feels amazing.”
Amazing might be a good way to describe the Bobcats’ performance in the championship game. Facing a senior-laden Girard squad that had lost just once all season and had state finals experience, it was Basehor that looked like the more experienced club for much of the game.
The sixth-seed Bobcats controlled the game from start to finish, trailing only once — for 18 seconds in the first quarter — along the way to the victory.
Basehor-Linwood scored the first four points of the game as senior Anthony Pierce made a layup and junior Clint Schierbaum scored off an assist from Schaake. Between baskets, Pierce took a charge at the other end of the floor.
After a 3-point play by Girard senior Tanner Poppe, Pierce knocked down back-to-back jumpers.
Girard rallied to take a 9-8 lead with two minutes left in the quarter. Just seconds later, Schaake swished a 3-pointer off of an assist from senior Justin Gripka for an 11-9 lead. The Bobcats extended their advantage to 15-9 by the end of the quarter.
“We did a good job coming in focused, understanding the game plan,” BLHS coach Mike McBride said.
Schaake swished a pair of treys and scored eight of Basehor’s first 10 points of the second quarter as they built their largest lead of the game at 25-14 with 3:19 left in the first half. Girard didn’t go quietly, however. Unlike the semifinal victory against Ottawa in which Basehor steadily pulled away throughout the first half, Girard closed the first half on a 6-2 run and trailed 27-21 at intermission.
Basehor turned the ball over three times in a row to start the third quarter and didn’t score for four and a half minutes. Fortunately for the Bobcats, they were tough enough defensively to limit Girard’s offensive output during that time. The Trojans missed seven out of eight shots during that span and inched within 27-23 before a layup by freshman Ryan Murphy reignited the Bobcats’ offense. They led 31-27 entering the fourth quarter.
Girard senior Darian Kelly scored on a layup with 7:01 left to pull the Trojans within 31-29, but BLHS countered with a 9-2 run that was capped by a 3-point play by Pierce.
The 40-31 lead didn’t last long, however. Girard spent the final four minutes chipping away and sending the Bobcats to the foul line. They made 18 of 26 free throws in the final quarter, but a trey by Poppe with 38.3 seconds left brought the Trojans within 50-48.
Pierce was fouled and went to the free throw line. He sank the first shot but missed the second. Another long attempt by Poppe for the tie came up short. After another Pierce free throw, the Bobcats breathed a sigh of relief.
“When we were up by four and they didn’t have any timeouts left, that’s when I knew we had it won,” McBride said. “I just told the kids if they made that last three to run away from it, and they couldn’t stop the clock.”
Senior Tanner Bowers added a final free throw to close out the scoring just seconds before the victory celebration began.
The state championship capped a season where BLHS went 22-4. The Bobcats saved their three best games of the season for last.
“(McBride) said keep playing our game and do what we do; that’s what we did,” Pierce said of the Bobcats’ performance.
Schaake and Pierce led BLHS with 13 points apiece, Murphy had 10, Bowers scored 6, O’Donnell had 6, Schierbaum scored 4 and Mark Vaca added 1. Poppe led Girard with 21 points and Kelly added 12.
Girard ends its season with a 24-2 record.