Girls escape Lions’ den with victory
In recent years, the Tonganoxie High girls basketball team has grown accustomed to leading some teams by as many as 19 points.
The Chieftains, however, usually make sure those games remain out of reach.
On Friday, Tonganoxie nearly saw a big lead turn into an upset loss.
Playing against Lansing on the road at Johnsmeyer Gymnasium, Tonganoxie led 25-13 at halftime and 35-16 with 3:05 left in the third.
But an 18-4 Lansing run cut Tonganoxie's lead to five. THS eventually held on for a 44-42 victory.
"We didn't play our best," THS coach Randy Kraft said. "That was probably obvious. We actually started out playing pretty well. I think defensively we still played well.
"They hit seven three's and five of them were with a hand in your face."
Kraft said his team was flat on offense.
"Offensively we just played like we were out of sync and, talking to the girls, I really felt part of it was finals week. You can make a million excuses, but they just weren't as focused as they should have been.
"I think it was a valuable lesson and taught us to be up and focused every game, and luckily it didn't cost us a loss."
Tonganoxie, ranked No. 1 in Class 4A by the Topeka Capital-Journal and No. 2 by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association, has spent the early part of the season manhandling its opponents. At the same time, Lansing was on the receiving end of lopsided losses in three of its first four games as it searched to find sources of offense.
However, Lansing (1-4 overall, 0-2 Kaw Valley League) dictated the pace during the first quarter by slowing the tempo and displaying good ball control. The slow pace prevented Tonganoxie from getting into a rhythm offensively. The high-powered Chieftain offense managed only a 6-4 lead after the first six minutes. A short jumper by Rachel Bogard and a put-back by Tracie Hileman boosted the lead to 10-4 after the first period.
The Chieftains (4-0 overall and 1-0 in the KVL) extended their lead to nine points early in the second quarter, but a five-point burst from Nietzke kept the Lions close. A lay-up by sophomore Brittney Lang whittled the deficit to 17-11 with four minutes left in the quarter, but the Chieftains ended the half on an 8-2 run and took a 25-13 lead at intermission.
Both teams had eight turnovers in the first half. The difference was shot efficiency. Lansing made just six of 18 field goals while Tonganoxie scored on 12 of 26 attempts. LHS made one of seven three-point attempts in the half.
Tonganoxie forced a faster pace in the third quarter and its offense quickly found a rhythm. It used a 6-0 run to push its lead to 31-13 three minutes into the second half before LHS freshman Amy Briggs halted the run with a three-pointer. The Chieftains then scored back-to-back buckets on jumpers by Christy Weller and Ali Pistora. That gave them a 19-point lead with 3:05 left in the game.
At that point it looked like another blowout was in store. Not only were the Lions' shots not falling, but they also didn't attempt a single free throw during the first three quarters. Eleven of their 29 field goal attempts to that point were from beyond the arc.
Down by 19, Lansing began looking inside. Sophomore Alexis Ellis scored from close range and started LHS on its long climb back.
Nietzke nailed a 17-footer with 48 seconds left in the third quarter and Briggs splashed home a three-pointer just before the buzzer. The 7-0 run brought the Lions within 35-23
entering the fourth quarter.
A Pistora put-back with 7:25 left in the game snapped Tonganoxie's four-minute scoring drought, but it was the Chieftains' lone field goal of the final quarter. Meanwhile, Lansing's newly found hot hand continued to sizzle. Amanda Darrow knocked down a 10-footer that cut the deficit back to 12 points. A free throw by Liz Baska bumped Tonganoxie's lead up to 38-25, but Nietzke and Lang responded by swishing back-to-back three-pointers. The 19-point lead was down to 38-31 with 2:52 left.
A free throw by Shannon Carlin gave THS an eight-point lead, but Briggs was fouled while shooting a three-pointer on the ensuing possession. The freshman swished all three free throws and trimmed the deficit to five points. The teams traded free throws for the next minute and it seemed the Chieftains would hang on for the win.
Then Nietzke struck again.
She continued to fire attempts, and her third trey of the game -- with 15 seconds on the clock -- made it 43-38. Pistora was fouled on the ensuing possession and sank one of two free throws. Then Nietzke fired again. Her fourth trifecta brought the Lions within 44-41 with five seconds remaining.
Briggs stole the inbounds pass and missed a guarded shot from close range as the clock trickled down, but Lang grabbed the rebound and was fouled while putting up a shot. She went to the line with no time left on the clock. Although unable to win the game at the line, she sank one of two free throws and whittled Tonganoxie's final margin of victory to two points.
Tonganoxie escaped and improved to 4-0 on the season and 1-0 in the Kaw Valley League.
"Everyone's going to bring their best game at us," Kraft said. "Lansing definitely did. They played well."
The Chieftains played Tuesday on the road against De Soto. For more on that game, log on to The Mirror's Web site, www.tonganoxiemirror.com and check out the Dec. 27 edition of The Mirror.
The team will resume play in the new year Jan. 5 against Bonner Springs.
Basehor-Linwood game rescheduled
The Dec. 1 game against Basehor-Linwood that was postponed because of inclement weather will be played Jan. 23. The game falls three days after the conclusion of the Tonganoxie Invitational. The Jan. 23 game will be played at Tonganoxie, with the team's meeting against Jan. 26 in Basehor.
The schools looked for different dates, including some Saturdays, but Jan. 23 was the best date for both schools.
It will definitely be a rivalry week," Kraft said. "At least in preparing, you don't have to prepare for somebody else Friday.
It wasn't the best solution but it seemed to be the only solution we could come up with.
Tonganoxie 44, Lansing 42
Score by quarters
Tonganoxie 10 15 10 9 -- 44
Lansing 4 9 10 19 -- 42
Lansing -- Katie Nietzke 6-17 0-0 16, Brittney Lang 4-10 1-2 10, Amy Briggs 2-6 3-3 9, Amanda Darrow 1-1 1-2 3, Elizabeth Cristiano 1-2 0-0 2, Alexis Ellis 1-1 0-0 2, Morgan Chiles 0-2 0-0 0, Christine Cordes 0-1 0-0 0, Kara Ritchey 0-0 0-2 0, Mary Lyon 0-0 0-0 0, Abbey Lozenski 0-0 0-0 0.
Tonganoxie -- Ali Pistora 5-11 1-2 12, Liz Baska 3-8 3-5 9, Shannon Carlin 3-8 3-6 9, Rachel Bogard 3-6 0-0 0, Christy Weller 2-4 0-0 4, Tracie Hileman 1-2 0-0 2, Rebecca Bogard 1-4 0-0 2.
-- Chris Wristen contributed to this story.