Smith: Revenge, redemption realized
How does one team lose to another team in its home gymnasium by 22 points one day, and beat that same opponent on the road three days later?
That’s exactly what the Tonganoxie High boys basketball squad did against De Soto this past week. Following an embarrassing 52-30 loss against the Wildcats in the Tonganoxie Invitational championship game, the Chieftains were Dr. Jekyll instead of Mr. Hyde at De Soto on Jan. 27, winning 54-50.
(Aside: Who sounds more likely to attack the rim, Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? Nod goes to Dr. J, even though Hyde was a slasher.)
Junior THS forward Keaton Schaffer is most effective when he’s slashing, which is what he did in the victory. Following a dreadful night in round one when the team scattered together just 30 points, Tonganoxie coach Shawn Phillips said the Chieftains entered the rematch looking to attack a zone that previously gave them fits by getting the ball to Schaffer in the high post.
“Since he does such a good job of finishing around the basket,” Phillips said, “we felt that having him there would give us an offensive lift.”
The adjustment made the forward much more effective in the victory, where Schaffer scored 21 after a 2-for-8, five-point night in the loss.
Just as important, eight Chieftains scored in the win. Only four tallied points in the loss — and 21 of their 30 came from senior center Austin Smith. When the THS pivot got in foul trouble during the rematch, the whole team helped pick up the slack.
The biggest spark came just as Tonganoxie needed it most. Down 15 in the first quarter, when it looked like round two would end up a replay of the first bout, junior forward Brandon Yoder played the role of defibrillator, giving THS life. Usually a high-energy interior player off the bench, Yoder hit his first three-pointer of the year and followed that on defense by getting a steal and a layup.
Said Schaffer of Yoder’s consecutive plays: “I think that put it in our heads that we can easily come back.”
Suddenly, Tonganoxie was energized. The offense was once again crisp and the players remembered they came on the road trip for redemption.
“We were really pumped,” Schaffer said. “We knew that (loss) wasn’t our best game; they knew that wasn’t our best game.”
After losing big, Yoder said the road win featured just the kind of performance the team needed.
“They (De Soto) definitely know now that we did give it our best effort,” he said.
And it turns out the Wildcats might partially have themselves to thank for that. Following the invitational loss, the Chieftains overheard some comments from a De Soto player laughing and proclaiming that the rematch would be an easy win. That didn’t sit well with THS.
“It got to all of us,” Yoder said. “We just decided that wasn’t going to happen.”
Now it is clear that Tonganoxie is capable of redemption and revenge — the Chieftains got rematches with De Soto and Turner, two teams that beat them the first time, and reversed the outcome the second time around. Obviously, however, they need to avoid letdowns if they want to contend for a Kaw Valley League title or make a run in the postseason, when there are no do-overs.
If the De Soto loss serves as the turning point in the season, THS needs to remember how it played in that defeat as opposed to the rematch. Schaffer said Tonganoxie could use the disconcerting outcome as a motivator the rest of the way so the players don’t go down as also-rans again.
“We just have to remember that De Soto game,” he said. “We were just happy to be there and we got kicked.”