Boys’ season sunsets with Sumner’s victory
It wasn't how the Eudora Cardinals boys basketball team had envisioned their season ending -- a 60-36 thumping at the hands of Kansas City-Sumner (19-2) in Friday's semi-final of the 4A sub-state tournament in Lansing.
After all, the Cards (11-11) were playing perhaps their best ball of the season, running off three straight wins including two last-second buzzer-beaters.
But a 30 percent shooting effort trumped Eudora's momentum.
"We just couldn't shoot," head coach Scott Stein said. "It's the same old story: We did not shoot.
"I mean, I could shoot two-handed and make a better percentage than we do sometimes."
The Cards three-game winning streak welcomed a much better offensive execution. Players such as seniors Josh Lauer and Aaron Westerhouse raised their level of play and gave the Cards a greater perimeter presence.
And leading-scorer senior Chris Gabriel was developing into the go-to guy Stein had hoped he could be.
It appeared to be the same new-and-improved Cardinals team that began the Sumner game.
Eudora came out confident and feisty. Westerhouse hit an early three, giving the Cards an early 7-4 lead. The Sabres responded with a little 7-2 run.
Lauer answered, connecting on a clutch trey with just more than two minutes to play in the quarter, placing Eudora back on top 12-11.
Sumner had an answer of its own with a 5-0 run.
The Cards held for the final shot of the quarter, trailing 16-12. Lauer got a good look, but his three-point field goal fell in a split-second after the horn sounded.
Eudora seemed to have weathered the early storm fairly well. The team was a tick of the clock away from a one-point game. But something happened between the first and second quarters.
The Cardinals were shut out in the second quarter 12-0, an astounding statistic in a sub-state semi-final resulting in a 27-12 halftime deficit.
"You can't go 0-fer against the second-ranked team in the state," Stein said.
Sumner settled into a zone that stifled Eudora's attack. The Cards' aggressiveness dissolved by the dwindling pace.
Eudora managed just seven field goal attempts in the quarter. Only one within the three-point arc.
The Cardinals were just 3-of-16 behind the arc in the game.
"They put on a 3-2 zone, and that pretty much shut us posts down," Gabriel said. "And then when we had open looks they just didn't fall."
The lone bright spot for the Cards was Gabriel. The senior standout managed 21 of Eudora's 36 points. No other Cardinal player had more than one successful field goal attempt.
"He had a great night," Stein said. "He had some great moves there at the end. He's an offensive threat."
Gabriel finished 9-of-14 from the field and 3-for-5 from the free-throw line.
"I felt like I was on tonight," he said. "It's just too bad that it wasn't enough to help the team win."
On a night of such offensive offense, how could Gabriel have been held without a single field goal attempt in the second quarter?
"(Sumner's) an athletic team, and they were packing it in there," Stein said. "We didn't take terrible shots. Most of them were fairly wide open. They just didn't go in."
"If we go 4-for-7 we might have 12 points and everybody says, 'Dang, you can really shoot it. You're good.' Well, hindsight is fantastic. I'd win a heck of a lot more ballgames if I could decide what was going to happen after it happens."
Sumner wasn't exactly an offensive juggernaut itself. Eudora in fact played fairly good defense. It is simply that 36 points isn't going to beat many teams -- at least it wouldn't have won a single game on the Cardinals schedule this season.
"Our shots weren't falling and their's were," senior center Jesse Montgomery said. "You've got to make all of your shots when it's tourney time."One team came out shooting good and they're moving on."
Eudora did come out in the second half with much better intensity. The Cards' pride was on the line.
They played the Sabres to within a point in the third quarter 14-13. And they hung with Sumner midway through the fourth before fatigue and reality settled in.
"I believe we left it all out there in the second half," Gabriel said. "The first half we kind of slacked. In the second half I thought we came out and played hard and stuck with them."
Sumner defeated Piper (15-7) in Saturday's championship game 56-39, punching the Sabres' ticket to state.