Tonganoxie boys find third-quarter mojo
Paola After a pair of losses — both of which featured regrettable third quarters — to open the season at the Paola Invitational this past week, the last thing the Tonganoxie High boys basketball team wanted was a repeat performance in the seventh-place game against Wellsville.
Nursing a four-point lead at the break Friday, the Chieftains finally located some third-quarter mojo and picked up their first victory of the season, 52-37.
After being outscored in its previous third quarters — 24-11 against eventual invitational champ Harmon in a season-opening, 15-point loss and 14-5 versus Turner in an eight-point defeat — THS (1-2) flipped the script against Wellsville, beating the Eagles, 21-7, in the game-changing third quarter.
Coach Shawn Phillips talked about the importance of the third quarter at halftime, reminding the players about how it had previously been a stumbling block. The first-year coach said the Chieftains made a point to take good, high-percentage shots inside to get going, and took care of the basketball a lot better in the third quarter (when they had three turnovers), which made them more effective because they could get transition buckets — the highest-percentage shots available.
The second half started with junior forward Keaton Schaffer (21 points, five rebounds, four assists) attacking the paint. He drew a foul and converted two free throws on the first THS possession and scored a layup the next time down the floor.
A Jamie Everett jumper from the right elbow gave Tonganoxie a 26-19 lead, which expanded to an 11-point advantage once Schaffer and Jeremy Carlisle scored transition layups off passes from one another on the next few trips up the floor.
After getting one of his three third-quarter blocked shots, Brandon Yoder ran the floor, received a no-look pass from Carlisle (seven assists) and converted a finger roll to make the score 32-21. Senior pivot Austin Smith, who finished the game with 13 points and eight rebounds, scored in the paint, drew a foul and hit his free throw, giving THS a 14-point lead.
Schaffer, named to the Paola all-tournament team, said the players knew they couldn’t afford another stale third quarter and credited one of the team’s seniors for making the difference.
“Two words: Jamie Everett. He always gets us pumped up,” Schaffer said, explaining that the hard-working, high-energy forward had him ready to go before the second half. “He’s always in your ear, always telling you to keep going.”
Smith said both Everett and Schaffer led by example against Wellsville by hustling and diving on the floor for loose balls.
“That’s what we need,” Smith said. “When you’ve got people who are pumped up when they’re playing as hard as they can, it’s just that butterfly effect or whatever — it rubs off on people; it’s contagious.”
Phillips said Schaffer, who is averaging 18 points, gave THS momentum in the last few minutes of the first half when he went on a personal 8-1 run against the Eagles to end the second quarter.
“Keaton was big,” Phillips said. “We needed somebody to step up and hit some shots and he got the ball to the rim several times, hit a three.”
After sitting most of the second quarter with two fouls, sophomore point guard Carlisle made an impact in the third quarter, when he had four of his assists. Phillips said the lead guard does a good job of using his quickness to create opportunities in transition.
“If we can get him the ball in space, he’s really hard to defend because he finds people as we run down the floor,” the coach said.
While the Chieftains were happy to get in the win column, Phillips said there are still some areas of concern. For one, he said the players need to learn about when and how to run the floor because they “don’t have to force anything” if a layup opportunity doesn’t present itself.
THS forced the issue at times Friday, which usually resulted in turnovers — a problem both Smith and Schaffer lamented.
But Schaffer said the team at least righted some of its wrongs in the victory.
“We came out and played Wellsville to our best ability and we showed that we can play,” he said.
Tonganoxie will travel to Santa Fe Trail on Friday night. For a story and photos from the Chieftains’ Kaw Valley League opener, visit www.tonganoxiemirror.com on Friday.