Cats grab third at Tonganoxie
Atchison's Anthony Downing cut from beyond the three-point arch and down toward the baseline, staying a step ahead of his De Soto defender. He took an inbounds pass, looped around near the sideline and began to race toward the Redmen's basket, 80 feet away at the opposite end of the Tonganoxie High School gymnasium.
He cut toward the middle of the floor as he crossed the half-court line, swung momentarily toward the far sideline, then slashed back toward the middle, one Wildcat still trailing behind him and two others forcing his erratic path.
Downing finally closed in on the basket and De Soto's Travis Crow, the final Wildcat standing in his path. Crow threw out an arm, right in the face of the Tonganoxie Invitational's most valuable player.
The 6-foot senior guard swerved one final time, bending first away from Crow's outstretched arm, then around it.
He extended his right arm out, the ball floating on his fingers now nearly under the backboard, then flicked it up from waist level. The shot kissed off the glass and slid through the hoop, the final buzzer on De Soto's 61-59 loss to Atchison sounding before the ball hit the floor.
It was a drive and shot sure to make Atchison's end-of-the-year highlight tape - heck, it was a six-second blitz so astonishing it might even make De Soto's.
It was also the only thing that's been able to stop the still red-hot Wildcats.
De Soto, which rebounded with a 72-65 stomping of Rossville Saturday in the tournament's third-place game, showed how much better it has played recently, the Atchison game serving as the benchmark.
The Wildcats lost at home to the Redmen in December, 52-45. The Cats rallied in that game and came within five points late, but Atchison dominated most of the way through, only a couple rushed three-point shots adding any intrigue at all.
It was a different story Friday as Atchison and De Soto battled in the tournament semi-finals to within one shot.
As it turns out, that still wasn't enough to satisfy the newly competitive Wildcats.
"As surprising as it is for a De Soto basketball team after the split (with Mill Valley) to finish in third place, we all think we should have been playing for first," Cat coach Jim Bonar said. "There was no sweetness in finishing third. That's not what we wanted to do."
Happy to be there or not, the team was thorough in its rebound against Rossville.
Linzy led all scorers with 28. Tommy Elmer had 14, starting off the game with back-to-back three-point shots. Crow added 10.
The Cats were quick to grab a 10-0 lead thanks to Elmer, but actually trailed early in the third quarter, 35-32.
A Linzy three-point shot put them up again, however. He then converted two offensive rebounds into baskets and scored after a Rossville turnover. Crow scored and drew a foul and Linzy hit another three-pointer to blow the game open, 50-39.
"In the first half we didn't play real great, but we were better in the second," Crow said. "We were pushing the ball more and pressing, so they kept turning it over.
"We stopped them pretty good and trapped them well."
Friday's game against Atchison was much more dramatic.
The Cats trailed by one at halftime after a late three-pointer by Erik Hill and a basket from Crow, then sat tied at 36 with one minute, one second remaining in a slow the third quarter.
The Redmen closed the period out with style, however, an eight-point, 61-second flurry aided by three De Soto turnovers.
Despite Atchison stretching the lead as far as 12 early in the fourth, the Cats managed to crawl back into the game.
Townsend scored on an assist from Linzy, who moments later grabbed an Atchison rebound and went baseline to baseline for a layup.
De Soto finally closed to within four points with 23 seconds remaining, Linzy at the line shooting free throws.
He sank the first one, then grabbed the rebound of his errant second attempt, the ball soaring high and far off the rim, out beyond the three-point arc. He fired and missed on a quick three-point attempt. Brendon Hudson grabbed his rebound then missed on his own long shot.
The Cats got that rebound too, however, and worked the ball around the top of the key to Linzy. He ditched his defender with a quick spin, took the pass and sank a trey from three feet behind the line to tie the game.
It would have been the play of the game were it not for Downing's ensuing coast-to-coast game winner.
"We were pretty disappointed with the loss, but after winning (against Rossville for third place) we are happy," Crow said.
The team welcomes Baldwin Friday. De Soto lost in overtime at Baldwin City a year ago and should be in for another big test.
The Bulldogs come in 9-1 and fresh off winning their home tournament Saturday. Baldwin beat Augusta in the championship game of the Baldwin Invitational.
"We have our hopes up," Crow said. "We almost beat them last year. Back then, we didn't even know if we could win a game, but this year we have so much more confidence.
"We know we can come out and compete with everybody."