Third time’s no charm for Tongie tourney title
After two titles, boys take second in invitational
The Eudora High School boys basketball team dreamed of winning its third straight Tonganoxie Tournament title.
But the squad was forced into a difficult situation a few hours before Saturday night's 64-40 loss to Atchison.
Junior point guard Tyler Cleveland and senior forward Kaleb Niedens, who combined for 40 of the Cardinals' 68 points in a 68-44 win over Tonganoxie Thursday, caught the flu Friday night.
The Cardinals (8-4) (1-2) were also missing senior forward David Grote, a starter who injured his knee Jan. 17 against Spring Hill.
Sixth-man junior forward Chris Gabriel, junior forward Josh Brouhard, two points and three rebounds, and junior Aaron Westerhouse, a junior varsity starter, started the game in place of Niedens, Cleveland, and Grote.
"I felt like we had a good tournament," Eudora head coach Scott Stein said. "I'm happy with where we are."
As Cardinals reserves stepped into starting roles, junior varsity players like sophomores Joe Kaup, two points, Cole Massey, four points, and Jeremie Bryant took supporting roles Saturday night. some experience. Atchison had probably the most athletic press we've seen."
And Eudora saw a lot of it.
Gabriel, who was named to the all-tournament team, finished with a team-high 11 points, seven rebounds, two blocks, two steals, and two assists.
Senior center Andrew Bell, six points and three rebounds, worked with Gabriel, giving the Cardinals a strong rebounding presence in the first quarter.
"When we gave them the ball they did pretty well on the inside," Stein said. "Andrew was much more aggressive. I'm happy with their performance."
With the game tied at seven, Gabriel found junior Jesse Montgomery, seven points, for a wide-open lay-up.
Moments later Montgomery added a short jumper, giving Eudora its first lead of the game, 9-7.
"I think Jesse had a good tournament," Stein said. "He's getting a little offense and he does what he's supposed to do."
The game was tied at nine when the Redmen scored four points in the last eight seconds of the first quarter, 13-9.
Atchison controlled the second quarter with its aggressive press, rebounding domination, and the fact that Eudora missed several opportunities near the basket.
"We had to limit their press and limit their second chance points," Stein said. "They had quite a few second chance points."
The Redmen outscored the Cardinals 17-1 until senior guard Tyler Jackson, eight points, drained a three pointer for Eudora's first field goal of the quarter.
Stein said Jackson handled the ball efficiently in Cleveland's absence.
"I thought Tyler Jackson did a good job of running things when you consider that's not his job," Stein said.
The Cardinals emerged from the lockerroom with the desire to play tougher defense, rebound better, and be more patient on offense. It all paid off, as the Cards cut the lead to 40-27 with three minutes in the third quarter.
Eudora didn't take many trips to the free throw line but it connected on six of nine free throws, including three of four from Jackson.
Then Atchison's full court press took over and allowed the Redmen to take a commanding lead. The Cardinals couldn't find their rhythm in the fourth quarter against the experienced Atchison team.
"We played OK," Stein said. "I thought we could have executed a little better offensively."
Cleveland and Niedens were named to the all-tournament team for their efforts against Tonganoxie and Pleasant Ridge in the first two rounds of the tournament.
Joining Cleveland, Niedens, and Gabriel on the all-tourney team were Jeff Boldridge, Shane Tyler, and Justin Lowry of Atchison, Hosea Morgan of Lansing, Kyle Kelsay of Oskaloosa, Jacob Walker of Tonganoxie, and Matthew Johansen of Olathe Christian. Boldridge was named tournament MVP.
Although he couldn't play in any of the tournament games, Grote made 24-of-30 in the free throw contest but lost to Adam Richter of Pleasant Ridge.
Niedens paced Eudora with 29 points in Thursday's 68-44 semifinal victory over Tonganoxie. Cleveland added 11 while Gabriel scored 10. Brouhard, seven points, Montgomery, six points, and Bell, five points, also contributed offensively.
"We just executed well and had a good offensive night," Stein said of the Tonganoxie victory. "It helps immensely when the ball is going in the hole."
Although the Cards have won four of their last five games, Stein knows they'll need to be near perfect to contend for the Frontier League championship. The Cards defeated Wellsville in the league opener but lost to Prairie View, by seven, and Anderson County, by one in overtime.
Eudora faces Louisburg at home in a Frontier League game Friday. The Cardinals topped Louisburg in a 59-55 non-league victory Jan. 14 at Louisburg.
"I'm quite sure they're spoiling for a rematch," Stein said. "They've been winning some games."
Cleveland and Niedens are expected to play against Louisburg and Grote is questionable for Friday's game.
Eudora senior David Grote, a starting forward for the Cardinals, twisted his knee Jan. 17 against Spring Hill and will not play Friday against Louisburg.
Grote, who dislocated his kneecap and tore some cartilage, will visit his doctor Monday. He is questionable for next Tuesday's game against Silver Lake.
Eudora assistant coach Dirk Kinney said the Cards fifth starter will depend on how EHS matches up against its opponent.