Cardinals pull out Tongie Tourney win
Momentum can be as valuable an adversary as an ally. The Eudora Cardinals boys basketball program has already faced both sides of the spectrum as they approach midseason.
The Cards (6-4) began the season impressively, winning five of their first six. But then winter break came, and the team got something far worse than coal in its stockings: Eudora lost three straight on the road.
During the stretch the team averaged a dismal 39.7 points per game. Frustration and losses were on the rise in Eudora.
OK, so the Cards' 41-39 victory over Maur Hill in the Tonganoxie Invitational doesn't exactly qualify as an outburst, but it did qualify as a win. And that's something the team hadn't yet accomplished in 2004.
"It's just good to be back on the winning side for once," said senior point guard Tyler Cleveland. "We were coming off of three hard losses. We just wanted to come over here, have some fun, and get a win."
Cleveland admitted the frustration was growing over the three-game losing streak but offered that his teammate's poise positioned them for the win.
"We just have to keep playing," he said. "If we keep getting frustrated, then things will go down the drain. This week we just kind of relaxed and came out and played.
"We're just trying to get some confidence back as a team. Hopefully, we can build off this win and keep rolling."
Maur Hill's zone defense slowed down the Cardinal attack and limited the effectiveness of the team's leading scorer, senior post Chris Gabriel. Gabriel still managed to lead Eudora with 14 points. Cleveland followed with 11. Senior Josh Lauer added six, senior Jesse Montgomery tossed in four, and senior Aaron Westerhouse and sophomore Mark Abel hit a three apiece.
Eudora led by a single point at the break 21-20. The two offensively offensive teams exploded for a combined 30-point third quarter. At the end of three quarters, the Cards trailed 36-35. The offensive outbreak was quickly quarantined, as Eudora outscored Maur Hill 6-3 in the fourth.
The play of the game was Abel's three-pointer with just more than two minutes, 45 seconds remaining in the game. The shot erased a two-point deficit, placing the Cardinals ahead by a single tally.
Eudora head coach Scott Stein then elected to burn as much clock as possible, intent on preserving the win while holding the slimmest of advantages.
The flow of the Maur Hill game was a far cry from the high-pressure atmosphere at Spring Hill, which forced numerous Cardinal turnovers and dictated questionable shot selection.
The frustration of the smothering defensive play compounded the frustration of the team's two-game losing streak.
"(Frustration) played a big factor in the game," Lauer said. "We got too frustrated and stopped doing what we knew we were supposed to do and what we practiced all week. When we get frustrated we start playing dumb, and that showed."
Despite the Cardinals' struggles and frustrations, they trailed 24-18 at the half.
The teams played to a stalemate during the next quarter and a half. Spring Hill led 43-37 with about 5:30 remaining in the game. Butthat's when the pressure defense finally wore the Cardinals down. The Broncos executed a devastating 12-0 run, extending their lead to 55-37.
"(The run) is the major thing I'm disappointed with," Stein said. "We're right in the ballgame and then --boom! -- we're missing, and they're going down and getting it in the hole quick. That's why they play this style of defense."
Lauer had a big day at the free-throw line, going seven-for-eight en route to a game-high 16 points. Gabriel, who was mired in foul trouble all night, and Cleveland combined for 13 points.
Eudora's second-round opponent in Tonganoxie is Immaculata at 4:30 p.m. Friday. Immaculata sits at 8-1 on the season and is fifth in the state coaches' poll.
A victory will place Eudora in the tourney championship at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. A loss limits them to a shot at third-place at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.