Chieftains drive through obstacles
Eudora Every season has its bumps and pitfalls, but for the Tonganoxie High girls basketball team, the first week of the 2008-09 campaign turned into an obstacle course.
The Chieftains entered last week’s Cardinal Invitational at Eudora with one player out of the lineup, but by the time THS (2-1) finished third at the tourney, the injury toll was up to four. In Thursday’s 45-38 victory against Piper, just seven players dressed and only six played for Tonganoxie, which was without Lindsey Fatherley, Molly O’Hagan, Jessi Stinson and Madi Yates.
“We’ve hit a rash of injuries,” THS coach Randy Kraft said, noting that the team was counting on those players for minutes and production.
Working with a much smaller roster, which featured just one true post player, senior Roni Grizzle, the Chieftains weren’t able to get in a rhythm in a 55-38 semifinal loss to Eudora, but played much better in Thursday’s third-place game with Piper.
“We picked our times when we could put a lot of pressure on, picked our times when we could run,” Kraft said of adjusting to a six-player rotation. “It’s not like we were trying to rest, but with limited players, we’re not going to be able to run like we’d like to and apply pressure like we’d like.”
Still, THS found a way to defeat Piper thanks to a 10-point fourth quarter from Grizzle, who scored the Chieftains’ first seven points in the final quarter and finished the contest with 19. Kraft applauded the senior’s effort.
“She let the game come to her, and when it was, she really attacked the basket well,” the coach said. “Other times when she saw it wasn’t there, she found players for us, and I like to see that progress in her.”
The 5-foot-9 senior forward doesn’t have a size advantage inside, but she has shown the ability to take her opponent off the dribble and attack the paint.
“I have to go out there and get it,” Grizzle said, “and I either throw up some crap shot and get a foul or I just make it — so it’s good either way.”
Junior Andie Jeannin emerged this past week as the team’s top shooter. Jeannin drained a pair of jumpers in the opening minutes on Thursday before hitting all four of her foul shots in the final 1:09 of the Piper game to seal the victory.
Said Kraft: “I was so glad to see her get fouled there late in the game.”
Through three games, Jeannin is averaging just more than 10 points, has hit four threes and has gone 12-for-15 at the free-throw line. Kraft said he hopes that production continues.
“We’re not the beast inside,” he said. “Roni does a good job, but she’s an army of one in there. We’ve got to help her out by really hitting those outside shots.”
The Chieftains also received steady play — inside and out — from senior point guard Chrissie Jeannin at Eudora. Because of injuries on the front line, Jeannin (5-foot-9) ran the offense on one end of the floor and took on a different role defensively, playing in the post and battling larger players for rebounds. Against Eudora, she tallied nine points, eight rebounds and five assists.
But, Kraft said, having such a small lineup is troublesome when the Chieftains compete for rebounds.
“Let’s just face it, sometimes we end up with our 5-2 girl (junior guard Lauren Hall) on some of their 5-8, 5-9, 5-10 kids,” Kraft said. “You’re going to lose that battle on the boards.”
Andie Jeannin said THS was a small team before the injuries to forwards Fatherley and O’Hagan and the Chieftains would have to work around it, as they have so far, by starting 5-foot-6 guard Abby Eisman inside.
“We’re just a really weird team, but we make it work,” Jeannin said.
Weird or not, with a victory Thursday, Kraft said Tonganoxie made strides to discover just what kind of team it will be this year.
“We’re not the same kind of team we were in the past,” he said, “and we’ve got to find our way.”
THS will travel to Santa Fe Trail on Friday for a 6 p.m. contest. For more on that game, including stats and photos, visit www.tonganoxiemirror.com Friday night.