EL DORADO – Those who have watched Collegiate basketball over the years know this is nothing new. Coach Mitch Fiegel sends substitutes to the scorer’s table in groups of five and unleashes defensive pressure that tests an opponent’s nerves.
Collegiate wreaked enough havoc to force 22 turnovers on Friday, boosting the Spartans past El Dorado 72-64 in the Bluestem Classic semifinals. Collegiate (7-3) will play Kapaun Mount Carmel, a 49-45 winner over Circle, for the championship on Saturday.
Cameron Christian led four Collegiate players in double figures with 18 points. Jack Larsen added 14, Austin Waddell had 13 and Xzavier Adams 11.
One wave of Spartan substitutes sparked an 11-0 run early in the third quarter after El Dorado (6-4) had chipped away at a 10-point halftime deficit. The group forced three turnovers, and after Camron Chugg hit a three-pointer, Collegiate was up 46-32.
“I think it just allows you to keep the pedal to the metal,” Fiegel said of his wholesale substituting. “It allows you to never take a break from your pressure.
“That was the most disappointing thing at the start of the year. I just didn’t think this group was buying in.”
Evidence to the contrary was plentiful Friday, as five Collegiate players hit the deck in a loose ball scramble that produced an El Dorado turnover. The Wildcats turned the ball over 13 times in the first half and seven more in the third quarter.
“It has a cumulative effect over the length of a game,” El Dorado coach Gary Melcher said. “The question is, ‘Do you have the strength to withstand it?’ That wasn’t us tonight.”
El Dorado didn’t fold, however. Behind 20 points from Travis House, 16 from Alec Hildreth and Jared Haury’s 15, the Wildcats sliced a 17-point, fourth-quarter deficit to 66-60 on House’s three-pointer with 1:43 remaining. Collegiate held off the Wildcats by making 9 of 10 free throws down the stretch.
This on the heels of surrendering a 21-point lead to Newton before recovering to win in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
“I really feel like we’ve won four games in two days,” Fiegel said. “This hasn’t been a ready-made team. We’ve got a couple seniors, we mix in a couple juniors and a whole lot of sophomores. That’s what is rewarding about this group.”
Fiegel said he felt like Friday’s victory was the first significant step of the season for his current team. Next up is Kapaun, which outlasted Circle with similarly effective defensive pressure.
“I don’t know what type of game that will be,” Fiegel said. “But it ought to be entertaining.”
Kapaun 49, Circle 45 – Kapaun earned a shot at its second Bluestem Classic title in three years, forcing 25 turnovers and overcoming another rugged third quarter.
The Crusaders missed all 13 of their field-goal attempts in the third quarter as Circle got the score tied at 27. The Thunderbirds (8-3) took their first lead of the game on Paul Richard’s jumper in the opening minute of the fourth.
But Kapaun quickly countered with a three-point play by Nick Auer and a three-pointer from Thomas O’Connor. The Crusaders (6-5) didn’t trail again, scoring 22 fourth-quarter points.
“They’re figuring it out under pressure, which is totally different than in practice,” Kapaun coach John Cherne said. “They’re getting better and starting to weather some of the storms.”
O’Connor, who spent the final 6½ minutes of the first half on the bench with three fouls, led Kapaun with 16 points. Atir Cherne added 13 for the Crusaders, who hit six three-pointers in the game and 12 of 16 fourth-quarter free throws.
Dylan Driver led Circle with 14 points, including 13 in the second half.
Newton 50, Campus 37 – Sam Lehman scored 16 points and Tevin Berry added 11 for Newton, which ended a three-game losing streak with its second 13-point victory over Campus this month.
Campus, which got 11 points from Cody Nicks, cut a 14-point halftime deficit to 31-29 after three quarters. But Berry and Lehman combined for eight consecutive points early in the fourth to stretch Newton’s lead back to 41-31.
Newton (5-5) made 11 of 15 free throws in the final quarter.
Trinity Academy 66, Great Bend 46 – Junior reserve Austin Shanks made four three-pointers and scored 23 points to help Trinity advance to the fifth-place game.
Shanks made threes on three consecutive possessions in the third quarter to offset the scoring of Great Bend’s Kody Crosby. Crosby finished with a game-high 25 points, but only three other Panthers scored.
Alex Carro added 11 points for Trinity (8-4).
Collegiate 72, El Dorado 64
COLLEGIATE: Chugg 3, Christian 18, Larsen 14, Root 2, Copher 3, Adams 11, Waddell 13, Reed 5, Dick 3.
EL DORADO: Haines 3, House 20, A. Hildreth 16, Haury 15, Johnson 2, Howland 8.
Kapaun 49, Circle 45
CIRCLE: Kirkpatrick 1 0-0 2, Driver 4 6-8 14, Cannon 2 2-2 6, Smith 3 0-1 6, Richard 2 0-1 4, Horyna 1 1-2 3, Wright 1 1-2 3, Fowler 1 5-6 7, Oshakuade 0 0-0 0.
KAPAUN: Ewers 0 0-1 0, O’Connor 4 5-6 16, Auer 1 2-3 4, Monty 1 3-4 5, Cherne 4 4-8 13, Patton 1 3-6 6, Hickerson 0 0-0 0, Sheets 1 2-2 5, Lickteig 0 0-0 0.
Newton 50, Campus 37
NEWTON: J. Kingsley 3, Drinnen 7, Berry 11, Robinson 4, Lehman 16, R. Kingsley 3, Downey 3, Carlgren 3.
CAMPUS: Nicks 11, Walker 4, Moore 2, Moody 6, Leeper 7, Chavez 2, Taylor 5.
Trinity 66, Great Bend 46
GREAT BEND: Crosby 25, Beck 8, Reiser 5, Bryant 8.
TRINITY: Carro 11, Mosley 5, Miller 3, Loon 4, Jones 6, Johnson 5, Shanks 23, Burns 5, List 4.