GIRARD — Coming off an emotional overtime win against Parsons on Tuesday, the Girard boys basketball team had to fight all the way up until the final buzzer against Labette County on Friday to avoid a letdown and keep their perfect season intact.
The Trojans are now 12-0 after beating the Grizzlies 60-47 inside the Ted R. Taylor Gymnasium in their Homecoming game.
“We like the win, but we know at the same time that we’re going to have to play better basketball with league play starting next week,” Girard head coach Rod Wescott said. “You always think [it there could be a letdown as a coach]. It’s been a long two weeks for us with the tournament on Saturday, then playing Tuesday and Friday ... We’ll get a couple days of rest and take this weekend off and hopefully get our legs back under us.”
In front of a packed crowd, Girard came out to a fast start, going up 6-0 with the game’s first three baskets. That’s as easy as it would be for the Trojans offensively the rest of the night.
A high-scoring opening quarter saw Girard up 19-17 after the first eight minutes, having trouble with Labette County’s Javon Reliford, who scored 13 of the Grizzlies 17 points.
“We put Drew [Davied] on him at halftime and held him to two points in the second half,” Wescott said. “I think [Drew’s] length really made it tough on him. That was our focus at halftime, you have to give the kids credit for executing that in the second half.”
The adjustments Coach Wescott made seemed to work as Reliford scored just seven points in the remaining three quarters.
Girard had three players finish in double figures, with Laike Damman scoring a game-high 21 points.
Drew Davied finished with 12 points, while Eric Wilson scored 11 in the Trojan win.
“I thought we had some kids who played really well tonight,” Wescott said. “Laike had a big game, obviously. Eric stepped up for us in the third quarter and was able to get going; knocked down some big free throws. Drew did a great job in the second half against Reliford.”
Wilson was clutch for the Trojans down the stretch, scoring seven straight points for Girard inside the final five minutes. All but two of those points came from the free-throw line during that output.
“[Laike] put us on his back tonight,” Wescott said. “He’s done a good job of getting to the rim and has been playing extremely well for us as of late. I don’t want to talk about him too much because I don’t want to jinx him, but he’s put in the work and deserves all the credit he gets.”
Something must be in the water in Girard because they keep producing basketball players who knock down half-court shots and making it look easy.
After Pitt State’s Haydn Herlocker drilled a half-courter in PSU’s win over No. 6 Missouri Western on Wednesday, Davied matched her with a half-court heave that touched nothing by nylon to send his Trojans into the intermission up 36-30.
Girard built their lead up to 11 points by the end of the third quarter, outscoring the Grizzlies 10-6 with Damman putting up seven of those points. He knocked down a triple to start the third and finished the quarter out with a dribble drive into a spin move from the left side for a bucket.
“That was a big shot and the kids were pretty fired up about it, but I wasn’t really happy about how we played in the first half. So, I probably took the emotion out of them in the locker room,” Wescott said laughing.
The Trojans held off the Grizzlies down the stretch with Wilson’s contributions late as the backbone of the stronghold.
Labette County’s Easton dean finished with 12 points in the loss.
Coach Wescott on his team dealing with a perfect season up to this point: “Everybody is starting to talk about. I wish they wouldn’t talk about it,” he said with a chuckle. “We’ve just talked about how it has to be about the next possession. That’s our focus. When it’s not during a game, the focus has to be on the next practice. That’s all we can think about. We can’t put ourselves in a position where we overlook anybody.”
Girard enters Crawford-Neosho-Cherokee League play when they battle Frontenac at home Tuesday following the girls’ game.
“We’ve got make sure we’re prepared for everybody because we’ve got that bull’s eye on us right now,” Wescott said. “I think the kids understand that. We just have to come out and make sure we’re giving good effort every night. If we do that, hopefully, things will continue to bode well for us.”
Grizzlies' 4th-quarter run sinks Trojan girls
The Girard girls’ basketball was in a neck-and-neck game with Labette County Friday heading into the final quarter. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies stole the momentum after scoring the first 13 points in the fourth to go on to win 63-47.
The Trojans battled the Grizzlies to a 34-33 advantage with one quarter to play. LCHS’ Tristan Gegg — who got hot in the third period — led the charge down the stretch for the Grizzlies. Trailing 46-13, Girard couldn’t find a run of its own to get back into the ball game.
“I felt like our girls did a heck of a a good job guarding their great players," Girard head coach Brad Herlocker said. "That expended a lot of energy and we maybe got a little bit tired in that fourth quarter. I tip my hat to Labette County. They took advantage of the situation and made plays."
The Trojans sit at 11-2 on the season, with their only losses coming against Pittsburg — a Class 5A school at the top of the Southeast Kansas League with a 10-3 record — and the Grizzlies — who sit at 10-2 and are in the thick of the race for the SEK title as well as one of the top teams in Class 4A D-1.
“I thought we did an awesome job overall of handling their pressure," Herlocker said. "We got some really good looks, but there was just a stretch there where we could not find an answer."
Gegg finished the game as the leading scorer, dropping in 21 points in the win. She scored 12 points in the second half for Labette County.
The Trojans had two players finish in double figures, with Calea Augustine earning a team-high 13 points and Ashley Ray coming up with 12 points in the contest. Girard’s Sydnee Crain had nine points for the Trojan girls.
Gwyn Dean had 16 in the Labette County win — 12 coming in the second half of play — and Erica Gartner tallied 10 to give the Grizzlies three players with double-digit scoring totals.
Dean started off the fourth quarter with a basket inside and Gegg knocked down a 3-pointer from the with two possessions later to give LCHS three straight possessions with a bucket. The triple prompted Coach Herlocker to call a timeout with his team trailing 40-34 with 3:23 to play.
LCHS kept rolling as Gegg scored on a run out following a GHS turnover. Dean followed with an offensive rebound and put back to push the lead Grizzlies’ lead to 10 points, 43-33.
After a sixth consecutive basket from LCHS, Girard’s Augustine was able to stop the bleeding by converting a three-point play on the feed from Ray to make the score 46-37 with 3:59 to play.
Girard cut the lead to eight moments later, but Gegg essentially iced the win for the Grizzlies with a 3-pointer from the corner with 1:50 remaining to put her team up 11.
After trailing 8-6 after the first eight minutes of the game, the momentum pendulum swung in the favor of the Trojan girls in the second quarter. Girard came out with an 11-2 run to take a 17-10 with five minutes to play in the half.
Augustine knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner off an inbound pass to get the GHS offense in motion, giving the Trojans a 9-8 lead over the Grizzlies.
Following a basket from Gwyn Dean on a drive to the basket, Ray scored twice from the post and Olivia Hanson sank two free throws after getting a fouled following her steal on the other end at the top of the key.
Crain gave Girard a seven-point lead when she hit a pull-up jumper in the lane.
Labette County found rhythm on offense as Tristan Gregg hit a triple to cut the GHS lead to 17-14 with 3:31 to play.
Augustine answered back with a 3-pointer of her own on the next Girard possession.
The Grizzlies got consecutive baskets on inside shots before Crain sent the Trojans into the locker room with a 24-18 advantage off a 3-pointer from the top of the key with hand in her face coming off a ball screen.
The Grizzlies were able to cut the lead to one by the start of the fourth by outscoring the Trojans 15-10.
Girard begins Crawford-Neosho-Cherokee League play as they take on Frontenac Feb. 2 at 6 p.m. in the Ted. R. Taylor Gymnasium.
Lucas Davis is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter at @LDsportswriter.