Wildcats whip Atchison, but stumble against Tongie’s pressure
A number of signs arose Tuesday to signal the De Soto girls basketball team was in the midst of a bad night:
The Wildcats' struggles to break Tonganoxie's press left players grimacing and frustrated and coach Dwight Spencer red-faced and hoarse.
Plenty of different players saw the court in the game's opening quarter as Spencer searched for the right combination.
The sparse crowd tucked in the Tonganoxie High gymnasium roared with delight early and often.
One sign, though, said more than the rest. Spencer, desperate to both stunt the Chieftains persistent runs and reinforce his message, used all of his timeouts only 30 seconds into the second quarter.
De Soto spent the entire game desperately searching for the right answer to a talented and experienced Chieftain squad. It didn't have much luck finding one, falling 54-19 for its fourth loss of the season and its first since the season-opening tournament in Hays.
"I was trying not to let them get on a run. Sometimes when we have someone open 10 feet away we decided well that's too easy, we have to look for someone else. That's what was happening," Spencer said. "We were going to get a five second call and we had just given up some points, so I decided we have to do this now and go over it again."
That the Cats were in for a long night was quickly apparent.
De Soto's Katie Williams scored her team's first two baskets and the game was tied, 4-4, but Tonganoxie's press kept De Soto off the board the rest of the first quarter and well into the second.
The Cats turned the ball over on the possession after Williams tied the game and Tongie took the lead for good. Chieftain senior Liz Baska hit a 3-point shot to make it a seven-point gap and senior Shannon Carlin scored with a layup on a fast break, then added another basket.
Senior Tracie Hileman scored in the lane, lofting the shot up while leaning away from the rim, and just for good measure Baska added two more points as the first-quarter buzzer sounded, leaving De Soto in a 19-4 hole.
"Their top six kids are four seniors and two juniors. If they can play their top five or six, they're a very good team," Spencer said. "Teams that have more experience and more depth might give them trouble this year. We need to be able to play with that top five."
The 2007 Chieftains are led by a core of five seniors, experienced players from last year's squad that beat De Soto twice and advanced to finish fourth in the Class 4A state tournament.
The group's influence dominated the game - the team's five seniors scored 75 percent of Tonganoxie's points. It contrasted mightily with De Soto's youth and inexperience, as well.
To answer the hardened veterans wearing red, De Soto started three sophomores and two juniors in the first year on the varsity squad.
The young Cats had their moments outside of the early 4-4 tie. Junior Amber Laudick scored the team's first basket in the third quarter and freshman point guard Shelbi Petty followed that up with a drive down the baseline and a quick dish to Williams for another score.
The team's defense came together in the fourth quarter and points from Tami Crow, Kelsey Fisher and another assist from Petty - this time to junior Barbara Hartz - helped the Cats to their best scoring period in the fourth.
Hartz and Williams each scored six points to lead De Soto.
"I didn't think anyone was awful. What happened was they went in spurts making us look really bad," Spencer said. "In spurts we played pretty well, but you have to be able to do that for 32 minutes.
"I thought Tami Crow did some good things. She said 'If no one else wants to step up and do it, I'll step up and do it.' She really took on a leadership role in what she did tonight, and that's a good thing."
Still, the night was a far cry from even the consistency the team had shown only days before.
De Soto picked up its best win of the young season Friday when it blasted a Class 4A Atchison squad in De Soto, 43-17.
Williams had 15 points and Amber Wilson scored 10 as eight different Cats got on the board.
Leading only 9-4 after the first quarter, De Soto put the game away before half thanks to a 18-5 second quarter.
"They weren't a bad team, but physically we were better and we were able to do the things we do every day in practice and they were not able to take us out of that," Spencer said. "We were able to move the ball offensively and get good shots and knock them down. We got the ball into Katie and she was able to get their big girl into foul trouble. Defensively we were causing turnovers and that is always wonderful because you get easy baskets."
De Soto wraps up its 2007 schedule Friday with a trip to Anderson County.