Turnaround continues for THS boys team
In its first five basketball games last season, the Tonganoxie High boys basketball team was outscored, 332-250 and held an 0-5 record before winter break.
This season, through five games, the Chieftains have outscored their opponents 315-269 and are 5-0 heading into 2007.
Included in this year's win total is a championship run through the Trojan Tipoff Tournament and two victories against De Soto, including last week's 76-64 win against the Wildcats in De Soto. That was the Chieftains' final game of 2006.
Tonganoxie will resume play Jan. 5 against Bonner Springs in the THS gymnasium. The game will mark the Chieftains' home opener.
Tonganoxie 76, De Soto 64
It's one thing to beat a team. It's another to prove it.
The Tonganoxie boys basketball team proved it last week as it beat De Soto for the second time this season, this time prevailing 76-64 in De Soto.
Again handling De Soto's high-tempo style early and again showing calm concentration on the free-throw line when it counted the most, the boys got up early and never let the Wildcats close enough to make it interesting late.
"Any time you can finish it out that way, you're happy with the first stretch (of the season)," Tonganoxie coach David Walker said. "We'd like to keep playing, but the break will give us some time to sit back and reflect on some things as well."
Gabe Belobrajdic led Tonganoxie, using a quick start to lead all scorers with 20 points. The Chieftains also got double-figure scoring from Jeff Hughes, who had 13, and Keith Wentz-Hall, who scored 11.
But it was what the team didn't tally rather than what it did that made the difference again.
De Soto played its entire 12-man varsity roster by the end of the first half and tried to use a fast pace to first wear the Chieftains down, and second, force them into panicked passes and poor decisions.
It was THS that forced many of the turnovers, however. The Chieftains turned those gifts into an 8-0 lead early, and an 18-9 advantage by the end of the first quarter.
"They can get you flustered," Walker said. "We had to constantly remind our kids to slow down and run what they want to run and they did a good job against that pressure."
Wentz-Hall scored five points early in the second quarter to help spark another big THS run, and the score quickly got out of hand. He made a shot to make it a 27-9 game.
De Soto didn't go away however, and the Wildcats' willingness to run until their shoes wore out meant it wouldn't take them long to get back in the game if ever they found a window.
Tonganoxie took a 56-41 lead into half and never looked back. Another hot night at the free-throw line did the trick. THS finished 20-for-34 from the line and used fouls to its advantage throughout the game.
DHS was led by Erik Hill's 16 points, but played much of the second half without the season's leading scorer, Andre Linzy.
Linzy picked up a technical foul in the first half for grabbing the rim while trying to block a shot, and he had his fourth personal foul less than a minute into the third quarter.
He finally fouled out with 6:53 remaining in the fourth quarter.
THS, meanwhile, kept hammering away from the free-throw line. Jordan Herron scored all seven of his points in the fourth quarter and all of them came at the free-throw line.
"The free throws have been something that's helped us and we've been fortunate to get to the line a number of times," Walker said.