The high and the low
De Soto rises to confront rival Eudora, but falls in ugly loss against Spring Hill
The De Soto High School gymnasium was almost empty as the boys basketball team closed out 2006 -- a token collection of De Soto students, staff members and parents staying to see the end of a lopsided loss to Tonganoxie.
It hardly seemed like the same place -- or the same team, for that matter -- Friday as the Wildcats defended their home floor against Kansas Highway 10 rival Eudora.
De Soto, 2-5, lost in its second game of the new year Tuesday, falling at Spring Hill 71-42, but the Cats said despite that loss and the four days between games, the swell from the double-overtime 65-62 win against Eudora still held their emotions.
"That was a great win," junior guard Andre Linzy said. "We were working together. (Against Spring Hill) we were playing a lot more one-on-one, but Friday we played as a team."
Linzy led De Soto in both games, but never has he been better than he was Friday night, performing to the tune of 29 points in a rocking and rolling DHS gym.
The stands were full, the band was blaring -- even girls team members, fresh off a frustrating loss, lined the bleachers right behind the team bench, adding even more to the high-pitched atmosphere.
Travis Crow made the front end of two free throws in the final minute of regulation and Erik Hill grabbed the rebound from Crow's second free throw, putting the ball back up to give De Soto a four-point lead with only seconds remaining.
Eudora's Brian White hit a 3-pointer to close to within one, however, and Kelson Boyer made one-of-two free throws to tie the game at 51 heading into the first extra period.
Linzy gave De Soto another comfortable lead at the end of the first overtime, hitting two free throws inside the last minute for a three-point lead, but Eudora again rallied. The Cardinals' Matthew Abel made one free throw and Boyer went back up to score after grabbing an offensive rebound to tie the game at 60.
De Soto finally secured a big enough lead in the final overtime. Crow made four free throws and Linzy added one. Eudora could only respond with two Abel free throws and a flurry of missed shots in the game's final seconds, giving De Soto its three-point win and its most impressive victory of the season.
"It was hugely important for us," De Soto coach Jim Bonar said. "Eudora's a well-coached team and they always play so hard.
"Things happened right and we did just enough to win that ballgame."
Linzy led the Cats again against Spring Hill scoring 21, but De Soto struggled throughout to control the ball and get offensive rebounds.
Hill scored off an inbounds play under his own basket to pull De Soto within two early, 7-5, but that was as close as the Cats would ever be.
Spring Hill scored seven of the next eight points and built a 19-8 lead before Brendon Hudson canned a 3-pointer to temporarily slow the bloodletting.
The Broncos led by 11 at the end of the first quarter. De Soto then scored only one basket -- a Linzy jumper from the middle of the lane -- in the entire second quarter. The Cats did hit three free throws, but they seemed hopelessly behind, down 41-17, at half.
"We started flat and they hit some shots that we haven't seen them hit," Bonar said. "We didn't have the spark in us and everything that could have gone right for them went right. Everything that could have gone wrong for us went wrong."
De Soto rallied in the third, cutting into the 24-point gap. Linzy had nine in the third quarter, then added two more with a short turnaround in the lane to lead off the fourth.
Crow found Hill with a pass moments later and the Cats were within 14 of Spring Hill with nearly six minutes remaining.
Many reoccurring themes reared their head in the final stretch, however, and the briefly close game turned back into a rout, the Broncos ending it on a 17-2 run.
At the end of the Spring Hill game and to this point in the season, it's been turnovers and rebounds that have done De Soto in.
The Cats beat Eudora, but were destroyed on the offensive boards in the process. Eudora had five straight attempts with around a minute remaining in the final overtime, and missed on all five. They then had two shots at hitting a 3-pointer on the final possession before time finally ran out.
"We need to either stretch our guys out and grow them taller or get them in the weight room," Bonar said. "We're just outsized. Physical games don't lend themselves to help us. We're reaching trying to find different defenses to try and get the ball more often."
De Soto then had five straight turnovers at one point in the Spring Hill game.
Not happy with the way his kids were handling the prescribed up-tempo style, Bonar chose not to substitute or press nearly as much in the last two games as he did in the first five.
Bonar remained optimistic after the Spring Hill game. Though he said he was frustrated with having to at least temporarily slow his team down, he saw what he wanted to in the team's commitment through the entire game, and what he wanted to in terms of on-the-court smarts, passing and leadership in De Soto's unlikely rally from 24 down.
That's what his team will have to show more of, especially in the next week, he said. Bonar said he hopes the Cats can emerge at the top of a muddled pack of middle-of-the-road Frontier League teams.
"We are trying to win in our league right now," Bonar said. "We're not trying to stay close -- we're trying to win. We need to find out how to beat some of these teams. We have to be competitive."
They'll have plenty of opportunity to prove they belong, traveling Friday for a key game against Osawatomie, then returning to Spring Hill next week for an eight-team tournament.