Cardinals’ season ends with overtime loss
Late 3-pointer lifts Anderson County
That is all that stood in the way of the Eudora Cardinals from moving on to the second round of the 4A sub-state tournament and continuing their season.
Anderson County's Cameron Cooper had other ideas.
With Eudora in the lead 52-50, the 6-foot 3-inch junior, who had been held scoreless all night, buried a 3-point shot, sending the Cardinals home for the year with a stinging 53-52 overtime loss.
"We defended it well," coach Scott Stein said. "That's just one of those shots that happens."
The game began with neither team wanting to take control of the contest. The Cardinals jumped out to a 3-0 lead on a Mark Abel 3-pointer. Eudora turned up the defense and held the Bulldogs scoreless until the 4:41 mark in the first quarter. Unfortunately the Cardinals didn't score in that span either.
The teams played to a 6-6 tie when Eudora played for the last shot of the first quarter. As time ran down Abel found junior Rodney Spillman under the basket to give the Cardinals an 8-6 lead.
The second quarter was more of the same as both teams had chances to take sizeable leads but couldn't. As time waned in the half, the Bulldogs muscled their way to a 16-15 lead. Abel added a second 3-pointer, finishing the half with six points, while Josh Sutton finished with eight points for the Bulldogs.
The third quarter saw the game take a different turn as each team earned six-point leads. The Bulldogs raced out to a 26-20 lead with a 10-5 run, led by senior Maurice Washington, who finished the game with 17 points.
The Cardinals had an answer. Junior Luke Abel began what turned into a 12-0 run with two consecutive 3-pointers as Eudora turned the tables and took a 32-26 lead.
The Cardinals outscored Anderson County 19-12 in the third quarter.
"We executed well in that stretch and went inside to create those shots," Stein said.
The Bulldogs answered with a 7-2 run in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.
"We had the lead there in the third quarter," said Stein. "But we stopped going inside and decided to play out on the perimeter and it let them back in the game."
The teams traded baskets as time wound down and the Cardinals found themselves with yet more opportunities to inch ahead. But a familiar problem began to creep in as the game approached its final minutes -- free throws.
The Cardinals missed several key free throws down the stretch, beginning with a miss by senior Joe Kaup after a huge bucket and foul broke a 38-38 tie.
"Making free throws comes with practice," Stein said. "And it's something that we've had problems with all year."
The Cardinals found themselves at the line again with a chance to go ahead by three with 1:11 to go, but Luke Abel missed the second of two shots.
Anderson County scored on the next possession, tying the game at 44-44. Eudora had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but a Spillman shot bounced out of the rim.
The Cardinals stumbled in the opening minute of the overtime as the Bulldogs, behind senior Andrew Feuerborn and Washington raced out to a 50-45 lead.
Once again however, the Cardinals had an answer. The Cardinals had fought to within two points at 50-48 when Luke Abel drained a 3-pointer with 20 seconds to go in the game to go ahead 51-50.
But once again it was the free throw shooting that caught up to the Cardinals. Abel went to the line after being fouled by the Bulldogs with 15 seconds left. He converted just one shot, giving the Bulldogs life and set up Cameron Cooper's crushing 3-point basket.
Despite the loss, the head coach still recognized his group's effort.
"I have no problems with the effort the team gave tonight," Stein said. "They gave everything tonight."
But there was still one glaring issue that bothered the coach from the game and the year.
"Missed free-throws," Stein said. "That's how we can sum up this season."
For the Cardinals (7-14), Mark Abel finished with 12 points, while Luke Abel added 15, all in the second half.