Fast start has girls set for key tourney match up
The first chance for the Eudora High School girls basketball team to extract revenge will come Friday night in Paola.
After earning victories over Piper on Monday and Paola Tuesday, the girls team will face Tonganoxie Friday.
A year ago, Tongie knocked the Cardinals out of postseason contention when it won the sub-state championship game 46-34. This year, though, they're two new teams and the outcome should be a preview of future clashes.
"They're excited about it, excited to play a good team," Eudora coach Ryan Luke. "It'll be a challenge for them."
From last year's two teams, four players total are lost to graduation. Tongie lost three seniors while Eudora lost one, Allison Braden.
"Baska (Elizabeth Baska, 5-foot-10 senior) and Carlin (Shannon Carlin, 5-10 senior) are their two top scorers, go-to scorers besides their point guard last year," Luke said. "So they have their second and third leading scorers from last year's team back."
As for last year's match-up at sub-state, Luke said he got the feeling that his girls felt that Tongie really was the better team coming in and that they didn't know they could win that game.
That has all changed.
"With our experience and our confidence, they're excited to play them because they really do believe that we can beat them."
Leading up to this game and giving the Cardinals the chance at revenge was inspired play by a handful of girls.
Tuesday night it was senior Emily Ballock, among others. Ballock started the game by giving the team a quick lead through steals and layups an Eudora would never look back, increasing its lead through a fast-paced zone press that made the Paola Panthers turn the ball over and gave the Cardinals easy baskets.
"I don't think we'll play much (half-court man or zone defense) this year because we have good enough athletes to guard people," Luke said. "And I think we're pretty smart."
Ballock, who has verbally committed to Wichita State as a track athlete, wasted little time proving him right, and Eudora raced to a 17-4 lead in the first quarter.
In the second, Ballock continued to force turnovers, adding two steals and seven points to her night, while senior Nikki Snider grabbed six rebounds and scored six. Junior Bailey Scott added a three late in the quarter and Eudora took a 24-point lead into the half.
The lead would inflate to 26 with six minutes, 43 seconds to go in the third, the largest lead of the night.
The Cardinals were outscored 10-5 in the last quarter, but that was largely because Luke called off the press.
Ballock ended the game with 23 point while Snider had 10 and junior Haley Epperson added nine.
The previous night it was Epperson who was the scorer, although not the only one as five girls were in double figures in scoring. She finished with 19, coming on strong in the second half and helping to hold off rallies by Piper.
"I thought Piper was really good," Luke said. "They're a good team."
Scott ignited the Cardinals in the first half. In the second quarter, after dishing a nice lob to Epperson to tie the game at 15, she got a steal and layup to put them up by four. Finally, she hit a three on the very next possession after Ballock hit one to put the Cardinals up 25-15.
"She's our really good, pure, three-point shooter," Luke said. "But we have a lot of good shooters."
It appeared so. The Cardinals had five girls score in double digits. Epperson was followed in scoring by Snider with 14, Scott with 12, Ballock with 11 and junior Kendal Abel with 10.
"That's the best part about this team," Luke said. "On any given night, anybody can step up and score. It takes a lot of pressure off a lot of people."
Scoring was plentiful on Monday as Eudora coasted to a 75-59 victory.
Next is Friday's clash of the two teams with a history.
"I'm looking forward to it," Luke said.
The Cardinals could get at least one more crack at Tonganoxie. The team heads to the Tonganoxie Invitational in mid-January. The teams could also meet up again in the sub-state tournament.
That's all on the back burner for now, however.
"We want to win the Paola tournament," Snider said.