Tourney loss doesn’t leave Wildcats down
Scoring options, defense make first showings a success
It didn't take long for the De Soto girls basketball team to realize the dream was dead -- the Cats weren't going to score 80 points a game, as they did in a season-opening rout.
But, despite splitting the final two games of the Osawatomie Tip-off Tournament -- De Soto lost to Metro Academy 44-35, then beat Wellsville 46-36 to claim third -- the Wildcats emerged from the action in Osawatomie all smiles.
The Cats saw veteran leaders rise again, saw new faces offer offensive promise and discovered a suffocating defense that could just make 80 points enough for two games.
"We probably have the most scoring since I've been here," Spencer said. "We've been able to put kids on the floor that are capable of scoring, and they're still playing good defense and handling the ball well."
The scoring part was obvious from the start as the Cats returned their two scorers from a year ago, but it was the defense that shined through in the final two games at Osawatomie, Spencer said -- a Dec. 7 loss to Metro Academy included.
De Soto fell 44-35 in a game that slipped away late, and even though Taber Spani was able to wreak havoc -- she had 28 points -- Spencer said the Cats did a decent job containing the uber-talented sophomore, and did an excellent job stopping the rest of a talented roster from chipping in.
The Cats held a 29-28 lead to start the fourth quarter, but Spani scored eight points early in the final period and made five-of-six free throws down the stretch to keep De Soto at a distance.
Disappointed in the team's inability to score, Spencer said he couldn't fault the effort or the hustle on defense.
"To hold a team like that in the 40s is pretty good," he said. "Other than shooting the ball, I didn't think we played bad in the Metro game. If there wasn't one person that really stood out from the weekend, our defense definitely did."
De Soto would cure its scoring woes somewhat against Wellsville, but again it was the defense that left a mark. Few offensive stats stood out against Metro -- Jackie Goleman led the team with nine points and Kaylee Spencer and Tami Crow both had six.
It was Wellsville that was lacking for double-digit threats Saturday, however. The Eagles had one player score 11, but only five others scored, and all were held to eight or below.
Kira Gonzalez rebounded from a five-point effort against Metro with a game-high 19 against Wellsville.
She hit a pair of 3-pointers as the Cats opened up a one-point halftime lead to earn the victory, but it was far too close for comfort, Spencer said, and he couldn't help but worry about having to face the determined Eagles again this season.
De Soto hosts Wellsville Feb. 13.
"It would have been nice to have won by a little more, but (Wellsville) played very well," Dwight Spencer said. "That was a hard-fought game, and they came at us aggressively."
Gonzalez's big night helped slow the Eagles -- she added nine steals to her big point total -- but De Soto found some success throughout the tournament by spreading the ball around.
That's as comfortable a realization as the defensive one is, the coach said. Questions existed before the season as to who'd pick up the slack behind Goleman and Gonzalez, and De Soto may be on the verge of an answer -- no one.
No one in particular, that is.
When Metro opened the game with a perfect 3-pointer from Spani, Gonzalez quickly came down to the other end and swung the ball to Kaylee Spencer, who canned the first of her two 3-pointers.
Crow, a freshman, later added a key pair of her own long bombs. She hit two huge 3-pointers early in the second quarter to help De Soto pull even at 16.
The production has come from everywhere, Dwight Spencer said, and as the team heads into a critical two-game stretch that will carry it to winter break, he couldn't be happier about those developments.
"That's nice to have," he said. "It's just a matter of finding minutes for all these kids."