Fast Cats can’t hold on
De Soto boys basketball coach Jim Bonar said his team could go 10 and 12 athletes deep, and he quickly proved his was right, playing 10 kids in the first quarter and giving all 12 varsity players significant minutes in Tuesday's season opener.
He also said he expected his team to struggle out of the gate, and unfortunately for the Wildcats, he was right there, as well.
Andre Linzy led the Cats with 21 points and Erik Hill had 18 as De Soto played a mind-bogglingly up-tempo style. The Wildcats ran and ran and ran against Tonganoxie, but they couldn't run the Chieftains into the ground. The Cats fell in the opening round of the Osawatomie Trojan Tipoff Tournament, 71-66.
It was Bonar's second season-opening loss in as many years, but afterward the Cats weren't nearly as worried about the final score as they were excited about having finally stretched their legs on the court.
"We've been doing this in practice, running it against our own guys, so it's just nice to get to run it against someone else," senior Brady Seaman said. "For how well we did tonight, it's good because we had a lot of fouls, we were all jittery, all pumped and nervous. There were just so many different feelings, and we know that it's just going to improve."
And the tempo -- it was hard to keep up. De Soto swapped out players seemingly constantly, maintained a full court press throughout the game and had few possessions that could have burnt down even half of a shot clock had the Osawatomie Middle School gymnasium had one.
When Tonganoxie actually found itself in a half-court offensive set, the Cats swarmed to the ball. When De Soto found itself in a half-court offensive set -- ah heck, that rarely happened, and when it did the Cats either cut to the hoop as quickly as possible or popped a shot from 3-point range.
"We're going to make a team turn it over. We're going to speed it up, get fresh legs and run at them all the time," Bonar said. "It can be a little demoralizing when they see fresh bodies continually coming in and they're grabbing their pants and they're tired."
It all seemed to work early. De Soto grabbed a lead early in the first quarter, but Tonganoxie held close and led after one, 10-9, and again, 29-28 with just seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Seaman made a 3-pointer as time expired, however, part of a 12-point performance.
The aggressive approach also seemed to be paying off late in the third. Erik Hill canned a pair of 3-pointers inside the last two minutes of the third quarter to give De Soto a 49-47 lead.
The Chieftains surged back to take another lead, but Seaman again sank a trey of his own, and Andre Linzy scored the next seven points for the Cats. He scored on a pair of short shots to get De Soto close, then hit a 3-pointer to give De Soto a fourth-quarter lead, 59-58.
Tonganoxie rallied again, however, taking back the lead in the final five minutes of the game, and holding on with an onslaught of free throws down the stretch.
Brendon Hudson made a top-of-the-key 3-pointer with 16 seconds remaining to pull De Soto within two, 68-66, but the Cats didn't get off another good shot.
"Our kids aren't down at all. They enjoyed playing that way," Bonar said. "We're going to get better. That was our first chance to play that way with that new style. None of them have done that before.
"I just have two seniors on the court and they didn't play last year. I have new sophomores that didn't play JV, so they know it's a learning process."
De Soto plays Metro Academy next in the consolation bracket of the tournament, a game set to tip off at 3 p.m. Friday at Osawatomie High School.
The Cats got a good look at Metro, which lost to Central Heights Tuesday before De Soto took the court. Bonar said his boys noticed a few things -- who to keep an eye on, who to guard close and who to stay a step back from. There was one thing that made them salivate, though: Metro suited up just eight players.
"Eight guys -- that'll be tough to run against us," Bonar said. "We got to scout a little bit so we know who we're going to pressure. We want to get them down early, and it's going to be fun to watch."