Tonganoxie boys erase halftime deficit, take third place
The Tonganoxie High boys were in a jam at halftime Saturday in the third-place game of its own basketball tournament.
Immaculata led the hosting Chieftains by 10 at the half, 31-21.
After an intermission pep talk by THS coach David Walker, though, the Chieftains performed at a different level.
"We've dug ourselves out of bigger holes; just calm down and do it," Chieftain senior Jordan Herron said, recalling Walker's halftime discussion.
The Chieftains got out their shovels and went to work.
In the third quarter, Tonganoxie pecked away at the Immaculata lead. Several close-range buckets, including a three by Zeb Kissinger and another by Austin Smith, helped the Chieftains pull within four of the Raiders, 39-35, heading into the fourth quarter.
In the final period, Tonganoxie began burying the Raiders. THS erupted for 19 points, outscoring Immaculata by 11 in the final quarter on its way to a 54-47 win.
Tonganoxie led early, 5-0, thanks to a Herron three-pointer and a Kissinger basket pulled Tonganoxie ahead, 5-0, but Immaculata took its first lead later in the first and led much of the game -- until midway through the fourth.
THS reclaimed the lead, 44-43, in the fourth. Immaculata went back in front with a basket and a 45-44 advantage.
A Herron jumper, however, put Tonganoxie up, 46-45, moments later. THS didn't look back after that. Herron's shot ignited an 8-0 Tonganoxie run before the Raiders made one last basket before the game's end.
Kissinger and Gabe Belobrajdic both had double-doubles for Tonganoxie. Kissinger scored a game-high 21 points and 12 rebounds. Belobrajdic scored 14 and hauled in a game-high 16 rebounds.
Tonganoxie overcame a first half in which the Chieftains made just 25 percent of their shots (6-for-24). The Raiders didn't shoot much better at almost 31 percent (8-for-26), but Immaculata had more opportunities at the free-throw line, going 14-for-21, compared to Tonganoxie's 8-for-12.
"We couldn't hit the ocean if we were sitting in the middle of the ocean in a boat," Walker said, referring to the team's first-half shooting struggles. "The guys learned that when you can't hit the ocean you have to play defense and find other ways."
In the second half, Tonganoxie hit the water often, making 12 of 24 shots from the field and 9 of 16 from the free-throw line.
Immaculata, meanwhile, went just 7-for-23 in the second half from the field. And, the Raiders went to the line just five times in the second half, making two free throws.
Other noticeable statistics in Tonganoxie's favor included team rebounds, 51-29, and second-chance points, 21-4.
Something else or, more importantly, someone else, also was working in Tonganoxie's corner.
Senior Zeb Kissinger, who was an all-tournament selection, scored 21 for the Chieftains against the Raiders. In three tournament games, he scored a combined 53.
"I don't think I felt any differently," Kissinger said about his scoring ability. "I just think our offense is clicking more. And around the outside, the guards are seeing the openings in the zones."
In the tournament quarterfinals, Jeff West used a 2-3 zone defensively in an attempt to disrupt Tonganoxie's inside game, as did Immaculata.
"We're just doing a better job of recognizing the openings more in the game."
After finishing third in the tournament, THS improved to 8-3 with the rally against Immaculata, a squad the Chieftains hadn't defeated since the 2000-01 season, Walker's final year as an assistant before coming Tonganoxie's head coach beginning with the 2001-02 season.
"I think by coming from behind like we did, it kind of showed the team as a whole," Kissinger said. "We want to win. We have more of a desire or passion, whatever you want to call it. We're wanting to win more, and I think that's good."
Hughes and Miles also were named to the all-tournament team.
Tonganoxie played Basehor-Linwood on Tuesday in Tonganoxie and will play the Bobcats against Friday in Basehor.
The teams originally were scheduled to square off at THS in December, but inclement weather postponed the game. And, Tuesday was the only viable date for both schools.
"It's going to be different in that we've never played a team like that twice in a week," Kissinger said. "Then again, it might have its advantages. By Friday we'll know exactly what everybody's going to be like."
Eudora 67, Tonganoxie 58
Tonganoxie and Eudora opened with a fast-paced first quarter, as Eudora led 23-20 after one quarter in the semifinals Friday.
Eudora created some separation and built a 37-29 lead at halftime. THS played even with Eudora in the second half, but couldn't overcome the eight-point deficit in a 67-58 loss.
The Chieftains had three players in double-figures -- Kissinger with 18, Miles with 13 and Hughes with 11.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, had four double-figure scorers in Kelson Boyer (18), Mike Ortega (16), Todd Roberts (10) and Matt Abel (10).
Tonganoxie 56, Jeff West 53 (OT)
When Tonganoxie and Jeff West meet, it usually translates into a barnburner.
In the quarterfinals of the Tonganoxie Invitational on Jan. 16, the two teams battled through another great contest.
Tonganoxie led, 25-20, at halftime, but Jeff West outscored THS, 11-9 in the third and 17-14 in the fourth, forcing overtime with the game tied at 48.
Tonganoxie actually had to rally late in the fourth, and then pulled ahead in overtime.
Jeff West's Tom Shirley, who scored 30 against THS, tried to send the game into a second overtime, but his three-point shot from the corner was off the mark and the Chieftains prevailed. Hughes scored 18, Kissinger 14 and Miles 10 for Tonganoxie.