EL DORADO – Collegiate becomes a dangerous team when it is riding a wave of momentum.
What Gardner-Edgerton proved Saturday night in the Bluestem Classic championship game was the Spartans still have some work to do when the momentum isn’t swinging their way.
Gardner-Edgerton survived the first tidal wave, then proceeded to frustrate a team that specializes in agitating others in a 59-56 victory. It was the second loss for Collegiate (9-2).
It was a clean sweep of the Wichita area for the Blazers, which entered with a losing record in the Eastern Kansas League. But wins over Kapaun Mount Carmel, Trinity Academy and Collegiate moved them to 6-4.
“When things didn’t roll in our favor, we went renegade,” Collegiate coach Mitch Fiegel said. “We went on our own way. Until we can stay within the team concept when things aren’t going our way, come together, be a unit supporting each other, we’re not going to get to where we want to go.”
It was a stunning collapse from a team that was poised to run Gardner-Edgerton off of the court in the first quarter, when Collegiate forced six turnovers and overwhelmed its opponent with its aggression for a 22-12 lead.
That’s when Gardner-Edgerton coach Jeff Langrehr gambled successfully, swinging the game in his team’s favor by applying pressure to Collegiate. As the turnovers piled up, the Blazers were reassured they could compete.
“When we decided to turn the heat back up on them, I think we realized,” Langrehr said, “ ‘you know what, these guys don’t handle the pressure any better than we do.’ ”
Collegiate was a shell of itself for the rest of the game, turning the ball over 20 times the final three quarters and 23 in all. Despite controlling the glass with a 35-24 rebound advantage, Collegiate squandered it with its wasted possessions combined with 38-percent shooting.
The lead built from the first quarter finally dwindled away in the fourth quarter, as Gardner-Edgerton would take the lead for good on a Brett Wright (11 points, seven assists) floater with 6:42 left to go up 45-44.
“It was like it was a completely different game (after the first quarter),” Collegiate’s Cameron Christian said. “The whole reason we made it to this championship game is because we were playing team basketball. We just kind of threw that out tonight. None of us were playing together.”
Adopted by the hometown El Dorado crowd, Gardner-Edgerton used the energy to score points on five of its last six possessions to surge past Collegiate. The Spartans never had a chance to tie the game in the final 30 seconds.
“It was pretty crazy,” Wright said of the unexpected support. “I had no clue we would have any kind of student section here, so the support from the El Dorado guys really helped.”
Collegiate never did recapture its high-tempo, controlled craziness after the first quarter. Fiegel hopes that the team’s second loss by three points can be a turning point in the season for the Spartans.
“We needed to play that team,” Fiegel said. “We can’t find out what our weaknesses are, unless we play teams like that. So it’s back to the drawing board for us.”
Circle 74, Trinity Academy 69 – Circle pulled away from a close game by making 18 of 22 free throws in the fourth quarter to take third place. Senior Justin Wright scored a season-high 20 points to lead the Thunderbirds (9-3) past Trinity (9-3), which was led by 18 points from Alex Carro and Tyler Burns each.
Kapaun 79, Campus 33 – Kapaun (8-3) released some of its frustrations playing in the fifth-place game, scoring at least 19 points in every quarter to win by 46 points. Thomas O’Connor made six threes to lead Kapaun with 24 points, while Mario Ponds had 11 for Campus (2-8).
Great Bend 45, El Dorado 42 – The Wildcats (1-11) nearly completed a daring fourth-quarter comeback in front of their home crowd, but fell despite a game-high 20 points from Alec Hildreth in the seventh-place game.
Collegiate: McNerney 2, Larsen 12, Christian 10, Waddell 12, Copher 2, Adams 9, Chugg 2, Reed 3, Newlin 4.
Gardner-Edgerton: Toomey 3, Wright 11, Haywood 4, Hultgren 14, Bostwick 10, Rohr 8, Boyt 4, Wagner 3, Garrett 2.
Circle: Kirkpatrick 12, Hartley 19, Cannon 9, Parr 3, Horyna 8, Wright 20, Jantzen 3.
Trinity: Carro 18, Thorton 3, Johnson 7, Burns 18, Harkness 2, Jones 14, List 7.
Campus: Ponds 11, Moody 4, Craig 6, Leeper 9, Haefeli 3.
Kapaun: Henning 3, Lickteig 6, Patton 5, Hickerson 4, O’Connor 24, Monty 13, Cherne 17, Singer 5, Ocker 2.
Great Bend: Ibarra 12, Crosby 16, Smith 4, Sullivan 1, Murray 6, Wondra 6.
El Dorado: Haines 2, McCarthy 2, Burnett 3, Howland 6, Fowler 5, Hildreth 20, Ruff 4.