High School Sports

Tournament struggles provide an upside for Northwest, East

There's two ways to look at how the East boys and Northwest girls finished in their midseason basketball tournaments last month.

There's the negative: finishing fourth with a 1-2 record means your team isn't as good as it was considered.

There's the positive: difficult lessons were learned that will help the team in the postseason.

The positive point is the one I ascribe to, as do East coach Ron Allen and Northwest coach Jim Mernagh.

There's no doubt that both continue to be talented teams and contenders in Class 6A.

And Allen firmly believes that playing in midseason tournaments, no matter the final result, help his team.

He's in his 17th season at East and he knows the wrinkles each City League coach is likely to throw at his team. But at the Topeka Invitational, teams showed different defenses designed to slow and frustrate the Aces.

And while those teams were successful running zone defense against East, Allen is OK with that.

"You have to make some adjustments in order to play to another style," Allen said. "This might be off the subject, but that's what happened to us. We did not adjust very well to that style of that continuous zone, night in, night out. That's what you saw.

"We didn't adjust very well. I attribute that to me."

The Northwest girls were also tested at their midseason tournament in Lawrence.

"It showed us some of our weaknesses and what we need to work on," Mernagh said. "They played us some tough man-to-man and switching man-to-man. I think we learned a lot about ourselves."

Northwest and East struggled offensively in their tournaments. And Mernagh noted that, if his team had shot better, the outcome could have been different.

State tournament teams have to battle through rough patches offensively. While it's not fun to go through such difficult games, Mernagh and Allen insist the tournaments ultimately helped their teams.

"I'm glad that we learned our lesson," Allen said. "When you get to the postseason ... we will be prepared to play that style of game."

He's taken steps to prevent similar difficulties against the zone defense.

"I've broken down tape, I've looked at personnel," Allen said. "I have already made adjustments for that as we speak now. There's more than one way to attack that situation, and I've implemented another method that will really free us up. It will allow us to play to our strengths against a zone."

The Heights girls had little difficulty at the Pratt tournament. The Falcons beat Chaparral 91-11, Medicine Lodge 64-18 and Pratt 73-22 in the title game.

When asked if his team would have been better served not playing such blowouts, instead taking the time to practice, coach Kip Pulliam said no.

"I think it was a great idea for us," he said. "We played some teams that showed us different things. Pratt is not a bad team. They were very, very competitive. They showed us different looks that we've got to work on.... We had to come out and play hard no matter who it was against."

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