Boys claim third in tournament
The Eudora Cardinals boys basketball team rebounded from a tough loss to Highland Park with an improbable performance against Piper. The Cards upset the potent Pirates 52-39 Dec. 11, securing third place in the Cardinal's Invitational Boys Basketball Tournament.
Eudora followed the Piper pounding with a Tuesday 61-38 Wellsville whacking.
The Wellsville Eagles had the unenviable task of tackling a dangerously confident Eudora team that was coming off one of its biggest wins in recent memory. The result was a sloppy albeit lopsided affair.
Eudora jumped out to a quick 12-2 lead. The Cards set the game on cruise control after posting a 36-12 halftime lead.
The team finished the game transparently uninspired. Wellsville actually outscored the home team 26-25 in the second half.
Missing 14-of-27 free throw attempts was part of the problem.
"It was a pretty ugly second half," Eudora head coach Scott Stein said. "I'm glad I didn't pay to watch it. We didn't execute very well offensively, and our free throw shooting was absolutely horrid."
Nevertheless, the Cards won the game by 23, improving to 4-1 on the young season. Six-foot-three-inch senior Chris Gabriel led the team with 18 points and 15 rebounds.
Eudora entered the season with a desperate need for an identity. And the past two games suggest that Eudora is finding that identity. Roles are being defined and successfully executed.
The Piper contest is the purest indication of the Card's early evolution.
The Pirates boast one of the area's finest players in 6-9 junior center Leo Criswell. In fact, Sporting News rated Criswell the best player in the state.
But the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
At least that was the mentality that 6-3 senior Jesse Montgomery and his Cardinal teammates had.
Montgomery and company transformed the cliche phrase into reality. Not only did the Cards win the ballgame but they also dominated it from start to finish.
Montgomery held the hot recruiting prospect scoreless in the first half.
"(Montgomery) played a heck of a game," Stein said. "You just don't like being guarded by him. Unintentionally, he fights, claws, kicks and gouges. He works hard, and I really like him."
Criswell managed 13 points in the second half when the game was already well out of reach.
Gabriel nearly had that much by halftime. Eudora's soul threat on the post tallied 10 points in the first quarter en route to his game-high 17.
"(Gabriel) is really a good offensive player, and tonight he did a great job," Stein said. "He's not very fleet-footed but he knows how to play offense, and he's just a really good shooter."
Stein was concerned that Montgomery and Gabriel might fall into foul trouble while attempting to guard Criswell. But it was the Division I prospect that found foul trouble, picking up a pair early in the first quarter. His absence fueled Gabriel's early success and put the Cards ahead 17-9 after the first quarter.
Eudora started the second quarter with an 8-0 run, extending its lead to 25-9. The Pirates seemed stunned, and the Cardinals seemed confident and completely in control.
Piper closed to within 12 at the half 29-17.
The Cards knew they would have to play a complete game, something they had yet to do this year. And they did.
Eudora began the third quarter much like it had the second. They busted the game wide open with a 9-0 run to start the second half. The Cardinals took an incredible 38-17 lead.
Piper cut the 21-point deficit down to 13 early in the fourth quarter. But that was as close as the visitors got.
"I think we just wanted it more," Cardinal point guard Tyler Cleveland said. "It was an opportunity for us to play a good team and see where we stand."
Where that team now stands is on a growing pile of expectations.
Eudora's last game of 2003 is Thursday at Prairie View in LaCygne. The Cardinals won't play again until Jan. 6.
"The big thing is that it's a league ballgame and a league ballgame on the road," Stein said. "I'm not worried about momentum. I don't care how ugly it is. I just want a league victory and to be 2-0 in league at Christmas."