Big rally propels Bobcat girls into Friday's semifinal round

Yes, sir, the Bobcats can find a way to win against the big girls.

Playing host to Class 6A Blue Valley in a Bobcat Basketball Tournament quarterfinal Wednesday, the Class 4A-I Basehor-Linwood girls finally overcame the challenge set forth by a bigger school.

Using an 18-3 second half run, the Bobcats were able to rally and then hold on for a 43-37 quarterfinal win and advance to a 4:30 p.m. semifinal Friday against St. Joseph's (MO) Benton.

Katie Yankovich led all BLHS (5-5) scorers with 18 points while Lucy Lally and Adell Gore added six points apiece.

“It’s really exciting because we haven’t won in the first round of this tournament for a really long time and also we lost to this team last year in the tournament and lost to them over the summer by 10,” Yankovich said. “Coming out and winning on our home court and winning as the underdogs is a really big thing for us. (In the second half) there was a switch that went off in our heads that we knew what we needed to do…we played more like a team.”

The game started slowly for the host Bobcats as their offense was a little choppy, their shooting cold, but their defense kept them within striking distance, trailing 9-3 late in the first quarter.

Finally, the Bobcats got into rhythm in the closing moments of the opening stanza and tied the game at 9-9 moving into the second quarter.

BLHS built its lead to 11-9 early in the newest 8-minute frame before Blue Valley went on a 8-0 bender itself, thanks to two triples to move out to a 17-11 advantage. 

Blue Valley also extended its defensive pressure in the half court to make easy looks a premium for the Basehor attack and then added a third-straight 3-ball to suddenly lead 20-11 with 3:26 left in the first half.

The run of play evened out until halftime and Blue Valley would enter intermission up 24-16. The fact the Bobcats stemmed the tide and made a slight push back may have been the key three minutes of this contest.

“They could have kept rolling…we kept in that defense and I was mad at myself for not getting out of it quick enough,” BLHS head coach Jason Tatkenhorst said. “Give them credit for knocking three (threes) down. We went eight at half and still somehow scored some points and the main thing at halftime was to convince the girls that we could beat this team. We had some good shots in the first half, we just missed them.

“You just have to believe that those shots are going to go down. Katie got some big shots to go down when we needed something.”

Both offenses warmed up out of the break and Blue Valley took a 29-20 lead, but Yankovich would put down two triples to pull the home team to within 29-26 with just under four minutes to go in the third quarter.

Two free throws by Isabel Sibert, one of the Bobcats' exciting freshmen, pulled BLHS to within two, two minutes later.

“I like our freshmen a lot, we are a lot closer from top to bottom,” BLHS senior Libby Stallbaumer said. “It’s exciting and it helped us with our win tonight. If we weren’t as good as friends and as close as we are, I don’t think this team could be as good as we are.”

When the fourth quarter was set to begin,  the Lady Tigers held a wobbly 32-30 lead.

BLHS would take the lead at the 7:10 mark when Lally hit a cooler-than-the-recent weather 3-pointer to give the Bobcats a 33-32 edge.

“The girls were like ‘we’re getting closer,’ and that type of thing,” Tatkenhorst said. “Lucy had struggled early with a couple of shots, but that shot in the corner was a big one for the team and that truly was, not quite the dagger, but it was the turning point for us that we could really go. It was someone other than Katie making an outside shot and we are all going to go now.”

The Bobcats kept the pressure on as Blue Valley was clearly rattled and when the freshman  Gore hit a baseline jumper, BLHS led 37-32 with 3:46 remaining in the game.

“It was right around when we started winning (33-32) and that was when we all realized, ‘hey we can actually beat them, we are ahead this late in the game,’” Stallbaumer said. “They were really frazzled and started making mistakes. Every turnover and bad pass they had we did everything we could to take advantage.”

The lead was bumped up to six, but the Lady Tigers pulled to within 38-37 with 90 ticks left on the clock.

A Gore free throw made it 39-37 and a BLHS defensive stop gave them the ball and subsequently two Yankovich free throws, which she drilled for a 41-37 lead with 30 seconds left.

A Gore layup at the buzzer closed the deal to win a game with a number of players contributing big shots to help Yankovich’s performance.

“(Other players) are seeing that I am taking a contested shot, that they can take an open shot and take one they might not normally take,” Yankovich said.