Turnovers down the stretch prove critical in battle between HHS, RV girls
For the second time in as many games, the Holton girls had to sweat out a win on the basketball court and even trailed for almost the entire second half before pulling off the comeback and securing a 49-44 win over county rival Royal Valley on Friday.
When the going got tough, the Wildcats relied on that old standby of pressure defense and got a few key turnovers late that proved critical to the final outcome. Shay Tanking’s steal and ensuing lay-up with 23 seconds left was one example and it allowed HHS to take the lead for good and fend off the pesky Panthers.
“We needed all the guts we had. That’s one of the things we talked about at halftime is playing with some guts,” HHS coach Jon Holliday said. “We didn’t do a great job at the end of the second quarter or the start of the third quarter, but once we kind of got going and clawed back into it and starting doing some better things, especially defensively, it was a great high school basketball game.”
“Both teams played their hearts out. We just got lucky,” Holliday added.
Royal Valley coach Corey Katzer echoed that sentiment noting the night and day difference of his team’s performance in the first and second half and the chance the Panthers gave themselves in the end.
“The kids gave everything they had and laid it on the line and as a coach, that’s all you can ask,” Katzer said.
Holton opened up a lead early thanks to some stout defense that kept the Panther forwards in check in the first quarter. The Wildcats didn’t give RV very many good looks and also forced 10 turnovers in the first quarter alone to take a 15-8 lead after one quarter of play.
Panthers Tamo Thomas and Jaycee Worrell started to attack towards the end of the first quarter and that seemed to boost the team going into the second period.
“We really worked on telling our guards to be aggressive. Don’t settle on the outside. Try to penetrate and get to the basket, make them open things up,” Katzer said.
In the second quarter, Royal Valley managed to hold a major advantage in team fouls and free throws that allowed the team to make it a game. At one point, RV made six straight free throws and eventually got within two points going into halftime.
“That was a major concern because in the first half, nine of their 23 points came from the foul line. They were nine for 10 and that’s just way too many free throws to be shooting. You have to be even at the free throw line. You can’t spot a team that many free throws and expect to win too many ball games,” Holliday said.
“That’s been something we’ve been pressing from the beginning is our poor free throw percentage. We put an emphasis on it in practice, tonight being the best it’s gone here,” Katzer noted.
As well as that went, Katzer also made sure to point out to his team just how few offensive sets the Panthers actually ran in the first half, making that a focal point coming out of the break.
Royal Valley quickly corrected those issues, too, and got the forwards involved in the process as Kate Hanson and Kassidy Dahl scored on back-to-back possessions to start the third quarter and gave the Panthers their first lead of the game, 27-25.
Hanson and Thomas led the charge for the Panthers in the third quarter, as RV started on a 7-0 run, but Courtney Boswell hit a big three for the Wildcats to quash Royal Valley’s momentum and keep it a two-point lead for the moment.
Despite a move to the full court press to end the quarter, Holton couldn’t get any closer than that and ended up going in to the fourth quarter down five, 36-31, to the Panthers.
While Royal Valley entered the quarter looking like it would win the free throw battle again, Holton quickly evened the foul situation up and even got into the single bonus first in the fourth quarter. That was thanks to an aggressive, attacking mentality on offense from players like Boswell and forward Hayley Thompson that Holliday said served the team well.
It also helped the Wildcats in getting Hanson into some foul trouble and limiting her effectiveness down the stretch. Hanson converted a big basket right after her fourth foul, but by that time the Wildcats had fought their way right back into the game and tied it back up as Ashlyn Weilert went the length of the court for a lay-up to make it 42-42.
Both teams were in for a wild ride and depth seemingly proved a factor for Holton down the stretch as it cranked up the defense once again thanks to some substitutions, which factored in during the final minute of the game.
“They’re really good athletes, maybe not the best offensively, but they are really good defensively and that’s something they can bring to the table and that’s something they’re getting their heads around understanding. They come on the floor, they’re in for one purpose and that’s to guard somebody. Good things happened when those kids stepped on the floor,” Holliday said.
The teams proceeded to trade baskets until that final minute, when Royal Valley threw the ball away into the backcourt for what seemed to be a game-changing turnover. Holton could not convert and RV got another chance to hit the go-ahead basket, but that is when Tanking came up with her big steal and lay-up that instead put the Wildcats ahead for good.
Holton then closed out with some strong free throw shooting of its own to secure the 49-44 victory on the its home court, getting some more experience performing in pressure situations along the way.
“It’s nice to look out and see the kids in a tight ball game with no panic on their faces,” Holliday said. “The game seems to be slowing down a little bit for us in that situation. That’s going to be a plus for us down the road.”
Despite a tough loss in a line of losses Royal Valley has suffered at the hands of Holton over the years, Katzer said he was hoping the game would serve as a mental breakthrough of sorts for his team moving forward.
“I don’t know that we’ve beat them in 20 years and that starts to creep in those kids’ heads. We’re not trying to overcome an opponent on the floor. We’re trying to overcome an opponent between the ears. Hopefully, we took a step in realizing that we can be a pretty good basketball team when we want to be,” Katzer said.
Both teams will now get a short reprieve from the tough league schedule as they head into tournament week, though the Wildcats and Panthers won’t have any less of a challenge.
Holton (6-3) starts tournament competition in the Basehor-Linwood Invitational this (Monday) afternoon against Blue Valley, while Royal Valley (4-5) will be back in action on Friday in their home tournament with a match-up against Wabaunsee.
Jan. 16, 2015
HHS: Boswell 5 (1) 3-3 14, A. Weilert 3 3-4 9, Thompson 4 0-0 8, Tanking 2 (1) 3-4 8, Moore 0 3-4 3, Degenhardt 1 0-0 2. T. Weilert 0 2-2 2, Boyett 0 1-2 1. Totals- 15 (2) 15-19 49.
RV: Hanson 3 8-8 14, Worrell 3 (2) 7-8 12, Thomas 3 (1) 1-2 8, Biggoose 1 2-2 4, Dahl 2 0-0 4, Putnam 1 0-0 2. Totals- 13 (2) 18-20 44.
Rebounds: HHS- 25 (Boswell 6, Thompson 4, A. Weilert 3, Holaday 3); RV- 26 (Thomas 8, Hanson 8).
Assists: HHS- 9 (Boswell 2, A. Weilert 2, Tanking 2); RV- 8 (Worrell 3, Thomas 3).
Turnovers: HHS- 18; RV- 26.
Holton 37, Royal Valley 29