Eudora churning its way through invitational
Three games in five days marked the beginning of the 2003-2004 Eudora boys basketball season.
The Cards officially tipped-off the new season Dec. 5 in Eudora with a 50-39 victory over Pleasant Ridge.
Eudora then played host to eight teams and the Cardinal Invitational Basketball Tournament. The Cardinals dispatched of their first round opponent Monday in a 41-37 win over Bishop Ward. That victory earned Eudora a shot at the Scots of Highland Park the following day. Despite a valiant first-half effort the Cards fell 60-38.
"I thought we played really well for three-and-a-half quarters," head coach Scott Stein said. "The last half-quarter really upset me. We did some real dumb things. We were within 10 in the fourth quarter and then we went brain-dead."
Highland Park, a 5A powerhouse, represented an imposing physical mismatch for an admittedly undersized 4A Eudora team. But the Cardinals fought the Scots defiantly throughout the early stages of the game.
Highland Park scored the first four points of the game and seemed poised to run away with the contest in swift fashion. Instead the Cards battled back eventually tying the game at 10 on sophomore Mark Abel's three-pointer.
Abel's second three of the game came just a few moments later giving Eudora its first and last lead of the game 15-13.
The Scots would regain the lead by the end of the quarter 17-15.
Eudora showed a tremendous amount of heart in the second quarter proving the opening period was no fluke.
Senior Chris Gabriel (six foot three inches) led the valiant effort with his inspired play inside. Gabriel led all scorers with 17 points.
"I was more aggressive tonight," he said. "(Highland Park) is a lot more physical and a lot more athletic so I felt I needed to jump my game up a little bit. I think everyone else needed to also."
Eudora trailed by just six at halftime, 30-24. But fatigue and poor offensive execution ended the dream of an upset win.
The Cards walked away with the confidence that they can play with just about anybody.
"I think it helps us build character, and it lets us know what potential we can play up to," Gabriel said. "Hopefully we can take over the Frontier League this year."
Stein wasn't satisfied with the mere notion that the Cards can hold their own though.
"I'm not into moral victories," he said. "There are some things that I'm pleased with, but I'm never happy with a loss. I expected to execute and I expected to win this ballgame. I'm never going to concede to anybody."
That conviction could carry the Cards far this year.
A different player has risen to the occasion in each game -- Gabriel against Highland ParkHighland Park, senior point guard Tyler Cleveland on opening night and senior newcomer Josh Lauer versus Ward.
Lauer found his stroke against the Cyclones hitting a pair of threes en route to his team-high 13 points.
Eudora came out a bit flat shooting just two-for-12 in the opening period. Despite that fact the Cards led 8-7 after the quarter.
Their effort significantly improved in the second and the Cards took a 22-16 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Eudora slowly built that lead into a 36-25 advantage with a little over five minutes to play in the game. The Cards built the lead despite the eager efforts of Wards' full-court press. Those efforts would eventually be rewarded though.
Four consecutive turnovers fueled a 10-0 cyclone run, pulling Ward to within one at 36-35. The run took less than a minute-and-a-half.
A free throw from senior Josh Brouhard finally ended the run and the Cards held on for the 41-37 win.
Things weren't much easier for the Cards against Pleasant Ridge.
A frantic pace, turnovers and a general lack of cohesiveness crippled the Cardinals.
The Rams led 29-25 at halftime.
Somehow though, through the sideline leadership of Stein and the court leadership of Cleveland, Eudora posted a 25-10 second half. The Cards held Pleasant Ridge to just two points in the third quarter coming on a pair of free throws with five seconds to play in the period.
The win was the team's first in its new home.
"It was a much better atmosphere than the old gym," Cleveland said. "There were more people. It was louder. I love the new gym. It's awesome."
Eudora (2-1) resumes play 7 p.m. Friday against Piper in the game that will determine third place in the tournament.