FRONTENAC — Following a heartbreaking loss in the previous game, the Frontenac High School boys’ basketball team dropped its second consecutive game, losing 58-44 to Piedmont in the third-place game of the Kansas Army National Guard Invitational.
Both teams battled through fatigue in the final of a three-day tournament, but the Wildcats were able to slowly pull away by getting second-chance points and stayed true at the free-throw line.
“I thought we played extremely hard and I thought the tournament was great,” FHS head coach Ryan Varsolona said. “I knew it was going to be a tough battle after two long games against Webb City and Nevada. Our kids played extremely hard. When you play three games in three days, you wonder if your legs are going to be there. The kids gave it everything they had and I’m very proud of the way they competed in this tournament.”
Frontenac drew first blood on a layup by Eian Monsour — the first of three lead changes in the opening quarter — but a 10-2 run by the Wildcats gave them a 15-10 lead going into the second quarter.
FHS came back to within one point of the lead at 17-16 after a 6-2 run in the opening minutes of the second quarter.
The run included a pair of jumpers from Isaac Bicknell and Luke Loy, and a layup by Ryan Long.
Piedmont managed to knock down 3-pointers in back-to-back possessions with just under three minutes left in the first half, which lifted them to an 8-2 run and a 25-20 halftime lead.
The drama quickly evaporated in the second half, as the Wildcats forced the Raiders into a timeout after going on a 15-4 run in the third quarter to increase their lead to 40-24.
Down 43-29 going into the final eight minutes of regulation, the Raiders increased their defensive intensity and pushed the ball up the floor on offense, but couldn’t cut the deficit back to single digits.
A final 9-3 run by the Wildcats capped off the game, as they coasted for the win in the final minutes.
“We went up against schools much larger than us in this tournament, and they weren’t scared to compete,” Varsolona said. “We played really good basketball down the stretch in crunch time. This is all working towards getting better for the end of the year. We want to treat every game like a substate championship game. We’ve had a lot of great games so far and we’re getting a taste of that atmosphere and getting that experience for younger guys to be on the floor in different situations. I think it will pay off for us down the stretch.”
Bicknell was the offensive catalyst for the Raiders with 15 points, seven rebounds and one assist.
Long also shot the ball well with 10 points.
-- Jordan Buckamneer is a sports reporter of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on twitter @jbuckamneer.