Boys pull away, girls falls short

So close, so far, so often.

A young Leavenworth High girls' basketball team has fallen in so many competitive Sunflower League contests that it is now becoming an unwelcome pattern after knowing years of success in such games and Tuesday was no different.

Without head coach Derek Bissitt on the bench, the Pioneers battled Class 6A heavy, Olathe South in Leavenworth and after three competitive quarters of play, saw the Falcons pull away for a 51-43 win.

Leavenworth (8-9, 3-7) was led by Cierra Robinson and McKenzie Brown who scored 15 points apiece and Alexis Cole who chipped in with eight points and her dependable defensive efforts.

The Leavenworth Times was unable to cite a reason for Bissitt's absence.

“There was a 2-minute span in the fourth quarter where we acted like we couldn’t recover and I wasn’t happy with that,” LVHS assistant coach Terrance Jordan said. “I was happy with how the game went from that point. I thought the kids played really hard and I liked some of the things the kids were doing for three quarters. I wish we just could have finished it off.

“The biggest point was us not recognizing to get the ball inside when their top defender in the post had four fouls. We needed her out and McKenzie was playing so well inside, we needed that.”

With Bissitt absent, the Pioneer work ethic remained on full display as they battled the perennial power Falcons as the teams traded punches in the game's first 16 minutes to end up tied at 24 heading into the intermission.

Brown, riding the wave of a huge game four nights earlier, helped keep Leavenworth battling with 10 points in the first half, all at the tin.

Leavenworth started the second half well, taking a 33-28 lead midway through the third quarter on a hoop and harm by Cierra Robinson.

But the Falcons rallied with an 8-0 run to lead 36-35 heading into the final 8-minute period of play.

In the fourth quarter, Leavenworth got cold and South did enough to mount s 45-38 lead with 4:27 to go.

From there South had enough to pull away for the win as LVHS was unable to finish in a close contest.

“Our struggle is that we need to finish,” Cole said. “They go on a run and we stop and can’t come back. What we should do is not allow them to go on that run and stop them and go hard. I think we started to give up a little and that’s why we got down so far. At the end, we were going hard again, but we have to be consistent. The effort is there. I know we can be so good and we lose so many games (close), we just have to finish. That’s our problem.”

Pioneer boys roll

Lesson learned.

OK, so the Leavenworth boys once again had a less-than-appetizing start to another game, but at least this time they were able to rally, take control and finish things off in a 56-44 win over the Falcons.

Leading the way for the Pioneers (5-12, 4-7) was a balanced effort between Mike Sauer (14 points), Reece Williams (11 points, 11 rebounds), Tah-Ji Pinch (11 points) Julian Williams (10 points, eight rebounds) and Kevin Payne (nine points).

“We were tenacious defensively and we quit letting those guys get to the rim, we played better help side and got rebounds,” LVHS head coach Larry Hogan said. “We took the ball to the rim. It was just a better job offensively.”

The Pioneer boys, once again, got off to an inauspicious start and trailed 13-5 after the first quarter ran its course.

“We are just coming out slow and it stinks because you can see how good we can play,” Reece Williams said. “It’s too much and we dig ourselves too big of a hole that we aren’t able to get out of. It has more to do with out minds and get over the mindset that we are a fourth quarter team. Yes, we are a fourth quarter team, but we got to be an all-quarter team. You can’t come on late because the good teams, you have to play them the whole game because they won’t make the mistake other teams make.”

The game evened out in the second quarter with neither team able to claim any noticeable momentum as the Falcons led 26-18 at halftime.

The second half saw the Pioneers clamp down defensively out of the break and they scored the first nine points out of halftime to lead 27-26 on a midrange jumper by Julian Williams at the 3:10 mark of the period.

Jumpers by Sauer and Pinch ended the quarter as Leavenworth led 31-26 going to the final quarter after pitching a shutout for eight minutes.

The lead bumped up to seven early in the final quarter, but a hoop and harm by a very fortunate South player on a once-in-a-lifetime shot made it a four-point deficit for the Falcons.

After that it was relatively smooth sailing for the Pioneers who continued to attack the rim and score from the foul line for a much needed easy victory.

“Straight out of halftime we came out and hit them straight in the mouth instead of us getting hit,” Reece Williams said. “We got the lead back quick. In the first half we shot a lot of threes and in the second half we were attacking the basket, getting fouls and getting to the line and got in the bonus early. We were taking better shots than we were in the first half.”