On paper, there weren’t many ways in which the Kapaun Mount Carmel boys basketball team was superior to Bonner Springs.
Bonner Springs entered the quarterfinal game in the Class 5A tournament as the second seed with a 20-2 record and a set of highly-efficient 6-foot-5 senior twins, Devante and Aaron McGee.
But against the odds are exactly where Kapaun is most comfortable, proving once again why in a 55-51 victory over Bonner Springs on Wednesday.
It was four years ago, in John Cherne’s first season coaching Kapaun, that a nine-loss team captured a spark that led them to an improbable championship run. Cherne is beginning to have that same feeling.
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“We just keep finding a way,” Cherne said. “I don’t know how, but we found a way.”
Kapaun (15-8) is finding success in accelerating the tempo and speeding its opponents up to play at an uncomfortable pace. The strategy worked to negate the length of the McGee twins, as they combined for 23 points on 8-of-21 shooting.
Bonner Springs, playing in its first state tournament since 1997, finished shooting 31.5 percent.
But that style has its drawbacks.
Sometimes Kapaun falls victim to its own trap, as it speeds itself up and plays out of control. That led to 19 turnovers, and paired with five misses from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, allowed Bonner Springs to trim a 26-18 halftime lead to 47-44 with 2:31 remaining.
“We were kind of just doing damage control more than anything there at the end,” Kapaun senior Brock Monty said. “We just needed to calm down and not force it as much.”
Bonner Springs had a chance to tie on two possessions, but missed shots both times. It wasn’t one play or shot that closed out the game for Kapaun.
Once again, it had just found a way.
“It definitely feels surreal,” Kapaun’s Mitchell Woodward said. “Everyone overlooked us and we were the underdogs all year, so we’re just having a lot of fun together right now. It’s crazy that we’re one game away (from the title game).”
Chris Meitzner scored a game-high 19 points, while Monty finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds and Woodward chipped in 13 points.
KC Washington 69, Eisenhower 62 – The sinking feeling, when the window to a dream slammed shut sooner than expected, has become all too familiar to the Eisenhower boys. The Expocentre is becoming a place of haunted memories.
For the third time, Eisenhower came to the as a high seed, this time the top one, and for the third time it exited in the opener.
“At some point we’re going to get over that hump,” Eisenhower coach Steve Blue said. “Maybe we need to be an 8-seed or a 7-seed and wear our dark uniforms.”
Washington ended Eisenhower’s 21-2 season by scoring 45 second-half points, erasing an eight-point deficit with an extended 27-12 run to close out the game. DeMarco Smith led the way with a game-high 26 points and 15 rebounds.
“Nobody expected this,” Washington coach Eric King said. “We’re on top of the world right now.”
Eisenhower built leads of 31-19 and 41-32 because Washington couldn’t stop 6-foot-8 junior Matt Pile, who finished with 25 points and 17 rebounds.
But the Tigers went away from Pile, who took just two shots and scored two points in the fourth quarter, as Washington made its decisive run.
Eisenhower’s other six players combined for 29-percent shooting (13 of 44), as sophomore Dylan Vincent, who averaged 18.1 points, finished with nine on 2-of-18 shooting.
“This one hurts because we felt like we were in control of the game,” Blue said. “We felt like we missed a few opportunities to push the lead out even more and it came back to bite us. We should have put them away earlier, but we let them hang around, hang around, and then you saw the result.”