Oh that winning feeling.
The Leavenworth High girls' basketball team came into Friday's action against Olathe North in need of a victory after a tough row of difficult games against Sunflower League opponents.
Consider it mission accomplished after the host Pioneers held on for a 45-42 win over North as they overcame some of the little tidbits that have reared their ugly heads in LVHS defeats.
LVHS (5-4, 2-3) was led by Cierra Robinson (15 points), McKenzie Brown (13 points), Alisha Jones (nine points) and Alyche Brown (eight points).
“It was a good game for us to grow up a little bit and get experience in a tight game to overcome some things as the game went along,” LVHS head coach Derek Bissett said. “I thought we played better in the second half. We hit free throws when we needed to and made some defensive stops when we needed to. We blew some opportunities that kept them in the game - at halftime I figured we had five missed layups and only took one free throw so we weren’t aggressive enough (they finished 7-for-13). We made five of the seven in the fourth quarter when we needed to.
“We have to get better defensively. Our goal is to keep teams in the 30s. We work on free throws and layups every singe day in practice. We want to make layups and we want to stop layups. I can’t tell you how many layups we take in practice. It’s a mental thing: You have to take it up like you mean it.”
A little offensive spark late before the half helped LVHS go up five and the hosts would settle for a 26-23 halftime lead.
The old bugaboos of missed chippies and free throws kept LVHS from finding any offensive momentum and it trailed late in the third quarter before Alyche Brown's three at the buzzer tied the game at 32 heading into the final eight minutes of regulation.
LVHS held the same edge for a while and then saw their edge shrink to one, but despite a bevy of misses at the charity stripe and at the tin, they maintained the lead thanks to a defense that forced a number of North turnovers when their guests weren't creating miscues themselves.
Two Alyche Brown free throws and three more by Robinson gave the Pioneers a 44-39 lead with only a nine seconds left and that would be enough.
“This is amazing and I feel we are on a better track and this win means we can be capable of getting more in the future,” Alyche Brown said. “We just had to finish. Once we got up, we couldn’t get down. Once we tied it at 32-32, we just kept pushing forward for us to win.
“We rushed our layups - I rushed my layups - and I feel like we are looking for contact. Free throws is about the pressure, because it’s a close game.”
Pioneer boys work overtime for win
Finally, the Leavenworth boys’ basketball team finished what it started.
A blistering rally by the Pioneers in the game’s final quarter would be rewarded as the Pioneers held on for a 64-61 overtime win over the North boys.
LVHS (3-6, 2-3) was led by Zach Thiel (16 points), Tah-Ji Pinch (11 points) and Reece Williams (eight points, eight rebounds).
“Why do we get down by that? That was the big question,” LVHS head coach Larry Hogan said. “We play extremely well in spurts, but we aren’t maintaining that intensity level. We get good looks, but we miss them. We talked about during one of our runs (that they have to keep playing at a high level). When you get a team down, you kick them. Hopefully we are starting to get that mentality.”
LVHS trailed by a few buckets early in the second quarter only to see North explode out to a 13-point lead.
Then the Pioneers would launch one of their two big rallies and pull within 28-25 at halftime on a Julian Williams jumper.
“Halftime kind of broke our momentum,” Hogan said. “They won the Hays Tournament and beat St. Thomas Aquinas. (North) is a very good basketball team.”
North would explode out of the halftime break to go up 16, before LVHS started its true rally with six points to cut the deficit to 47-37 with the fourth quarter looming.
Then LVHS went on a 15-2. run to go up 50-49 with three minute left on a Kevin Payne layup.
Williams hit a baby hook to give the Pioneers another lead, 52-51, with just under 2:30 to go.
North went back up 55-52, but Thiel rang up a 3-ball to tie it at 55 with 32 seconds left and the Eagles flubbed a chance to win in regulation, setting up the extra four minutes of play.
Baskets by Thiel, Pinch and Payne staked the Pioneers to a 61-57 lead and then they held a scant 62-61 edge with 27.4 seconds and the ball.
Two free throws by Mike Sauer made it 64-61 eight seconds later and then a mad dash in the final seconds for North led to one badly missed 3-point attempt and a scramble for a loose ball wrapped up the Pioneer win.
“This is very important after losing a really good game recently by two (Tuesday against Olathe Northwest) and we had to redeem ourselves,” Pinch said. “We played like a team and we have faith in each other. Sometimes we aren’t there mentally, get hesitant and get too satisfied. We got to be up with no time left on the clock to be satisfied.”
BASEHOR-LINWOOD Boys 44, Turner 42 - Kobe Sifford hit what would be the game-winning runner with 15 seconds left and Jacob Coleman led the Bobcats with 15 points in the win.
LANSING Boys 59, Tonganoxie 45 - Lansing used a 20-11 fourth-quarter run to hold on and move to 3-6 overall and 2-4 in Kaw Valley League play. Jaden Remington (15 points) and Caleb Adams (14 points) led the way.
Maranatha Boys 82, PLEASANT RIDGE 46.
LANSING Girls 48, Tonganoxie 31
BASEHOR-LINWOOD Girls 53, Turner 26
PLEASANT RIDGE Girls 60, Maranatha 28 - Lindsey Heim scored 14 points to lead a balanced Rams' attack in the win.