THS boys squander late chances, lose to Eudora
Kirk Rodell was the glue holding Tonganoxie together late against Eudora on March 2 in a Class 4A substate game.
Rodell saved a loose ball headed out-of-bounds as he collided with teammate Luke McCarty, who was sitting on the bench. Moments later, the junior hustled back to the court and took a dish from a teammate and scored two.
Oh, and then there were back-to-back three-pointers. The second pulled the Chieftains to within one of the Cardinals, which put Tonganoxie in position to win the quarterfinal barnburner.
But trailing 48-47, Rodell, who finished the game with 22 points, wouldn't get another chance to extend his hot streak.
Despite three possessions in the final minute, No. 5 Tonganoxie couldn't convert on the opportunities and eventually fell, 52-47, in Eudora to the No. 4 Cardinals.
During that critical minute, senior Justin Walker turned the ball over by dribbling off his foot and then Shane Howard put up a three from the top of the key trailing by just two with a little more than 10 seconds left.
Eudora senior Josh Bouhard rebounded the ball and was fouled with 9.4 seconds left. He missed both free throws, and Tonganoxie had a final chance.
Billy Baska brought the ball down and looked for an open teammate, but was stripped of the ball. Baska looked for a foul, but none was called.
The senior then was called for an intentional foul after pushing Eudora sophomore Mark Abel. The reserve hit both of his free throws, part of five in the closing minutes, and helped secure the Cardinals' victory.
Abel also produced crucial points late in the game when the Chieftains went to a half-court trap defense. The shift left Abel wide open for a three, which never touched the cylinder. That trey put Eudora up 38-31.
If that no-call would have been whistled as a foul, Baska wouldn't have been called for an intentional. Instead the senior might have had a shot at tying the game with two free throws. But that was door No. 2 and officials went for door No. 1.
"That's one of those could've, should've, kind ofs or maybes," THS coach David Walker said. "The fact is that you want the kids deciding the game and that's what happened.
"We didn't do enough of the things early in the game we needed to do."
Free throws would be at the top of that list.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Chieftains hit just five charity shots. THS made six in the fourth quarter, but completed the game 11-for-21 from the line.
Rodell led all scorers in the substate game, but Justin Walker also scored in double figures for THS with 15, many of which came near the basket. Usually during the physical game Walker was in position to grab a loose ball and put back a shot right under the goal.
"I was just in the right place at the right time," Walker said.
As for the game itself, the senior saw plenty of opportunities come and go. Instead of playing at least one more night, he and five other seniors ended their prep careers in the Eudora gymnasium.
"We had chances in the game where we missed free throws and lay-ups that would have made the difference," Walker said.
After falling behind 16-9 at the end of the first quarter, Tonganoxie stayed with the Cardinals in the middle quarters. EHS held a 17-16 advantage in those periods. And at the end of each quarter, Eudora made a shot to barely beat the buzzer.
In the fourth, the Chieftains stormed back with 22 points -- five fewer than their output in the first three -- but the rally wasn't to be.
THS concluded the season at 9-12, but that record easily could have swayed to the left column.
Six games this season were decided by five points or fewer and two games went into overtime, both of which THS won. In those six games, Tonganoxie went 3-3.
Along with Walker, Howard and Baska, Luke McCarty, Derek Sparks, Ben Brest and Dustan Sprowls also finished their high school careers last week.
Eudora advanced to face Sumner Academy on Friday in Lansing. Sumner was ranked No. 2 in the state heading into the game and proved their status, dropping EHS, 60-36 before. The Sabres (21-2) then defeated Piper for the substate title.
Tonganoxie 9 8 8 22 -- 47
Eudora 16 8 9 19 -- 52
Tonganoxie (9-12) -- Baska 2, Howard 3, Sparks 4, Rodell 22, Huseman 1, Walker 15.
Eudora (11-10) -- Westerhouse 9, Cleveland 6, Abel 8, Lauer 3, Brouhard 7, Bryant 4, Gabriel 13, Montgomery 2.