Girls drop Paola, win title
Check your calendars, folks, it's not March yet.
But Thursday's showdown between No. 2 Tonganoxie and No. 3 Paola had the makings of a state Class 4A tournament game normally played in the spring in Salina.
The Chieftains and Panthers duked it out Thursday in a girls basketball game that ended just before 10:30 p.m. The teams battled through 10 lead changes and six ties before Tonganoxie surged ahead on a 10-3 run at the end of the contest and secured a 69-62 win.
"I think they got a little more tired than we did," THS coach Randy Kraft said. "And we were both exhausted at the end of the game.
"Paola played a great game."
Kraft also pointed to his bench as a key. He said he thought THS had slightly more depth than the Panthers, which helped down the stretch.
Paola held its biggest lead at 25-17 in the first half. Early on, PHS struggled with its three-point shooting, but the Panthers settled in midway through the second quarter. Paola finished the day with six three-point shots, including three from Mallory Minden and two from Brittney Miller. Miller, who will play volleyball and basketball next season at Emporia State, scored 28 against the Chieftains.
Kraft said his team didn't rotate defensively in the first half to guard around the perimeter, but that improved in the second half, the coach said.
Paola scored an apparent seventh three-pointer in the last two minutes of the game. The shot would have tied the game at 62, but Paola senior Andrea Sutter was called for traveling, which negated the basket and gave THS the ball with a three-point lead. PHS cut the lead to 63-61 moments later with a second Panther free throw on the way.
The shot rimmed off and Miller rebounded, but an errant throw into the paint sailed right into Rachel Bogard's arms. And with 48.1 seconds left, Miller, the Panthers' top scorer, fouled out.
Ali Pistora, Tonganoxie's leading scorer with 21, played considerably more minutes against Paola than she did against Piper and Ward earlier in the tournament. Pistora has been battling illness.
"A little woozy but I'm all right," Pistora said after the win. "I can still see straight."
Tonganoxie had just one three-pointer to Paola's six Thursday, but it was a monumental shot. It helped THS to a 38-37 advantage in the third quarter, the Chieftains' first lead since early in the second quarter.
Pistora said preparing for Paola was interesting in that the two teams are similar in their styles.
"I think we were playing against ourselves," Pistora said.
As the first half progressed, Paola seemed to find its groove, while THS forced shots and became more rattled.
But in the second half, as Kraft said, the Chieftains' patience increased on the offensive side, and they did a better job of ball reversal after the half.
Along with Pistora, Tonganoxie had two other players in double figures -- Elizabeth Baska with 17 and Shannon Carlin with 14. Baska also drained nine of 10 free throws.
Tonganoxie won the Eudora Invitational after winning last year's Ike Cearfoss Memorial Tournament last season at Central Heights and competing the last few years in that tournament. THS, now 3-0 on the year, will travel Friday to Lansing to take on the Lions. The squad will finish out the 2006 portion of the schedule Tuesday at De Soto.
TONGANOXIE 69, PAOLA 62
Score by quarters
Tonganoxie 13 12 22 22 -- 69
Paola 10 18 20 14 -- 62
Tonganoxie (3-0) -- Hileman 3 0-3 6, Weller 0 3-4 3, Pistora 8(1) 4-4 21, Baska 4 9-10 17, Carlin 7 0-2 14, Re. Bogard 2 2-4 6, Ra. Bogard 1 0-0 2. Totals 22(1) 18-37 69.
Paola (2-1) -- Morris 1 0-4 2, Minden 3(3) 0-0 9, Karr 4(1) 4-7 13, Honf 2 1-2 5, Miller 9(2) 8-10 28, Gross 2 1-3 5. Totals 21(6) 14-26 62.