Coach Pete Logan
Despite falling behind after one quarter due to a stifling zone defense from their opponent and their own lackluster start, the Gardner-Edgerton High School boys’ basketball team rebounded with superior second and third quarter efforts and defeated visiting Kansas City East High School, 57-38, Jan. 29 at Gardner-Edgerton High School Gymnasium.
After one quarter, the home team found themselves frustrated by a Bears’ zone defense that was quick to close out on three-point shooters and also seemed to minimize movement through the defense. The result was a Blazer offense that seemed to lack energy at times early.
“Playing against a zone,” said Zach White, GE head coach, after the game, “sometimes it makes a team a little stagnant, and we definitely were. They played a unique type of zone. It was like a 1-1-3, which you don’t see very often. When we had the ball on top, it looked like a 1-1-3, but when we had the ball in the corner it looked like a 2-3, so it made it kind of difficult to attack it, and they’re long and they’re athletic. We looked at it a little bit in practice, but it’s hard to recreate that length, size, and athleticism. So we definitely came out flat and didn’t play that well at the beginning of the game.”
The Bears used their strong zone presence to frustrate the Trailblazers in the first quarter and claim a 10-8 lead heading into the second frame, but that’s when things started to open up for Gardner-Edgerton. GEHS junior shooting guard Jake McClure opened up the quarter by nailing back-to-back threes to put the Blazers up 14-8. A 5-0 run by East brought the Bears back to within one at 14-13, but GEHS answered with a 6-0 run of their own. First, sophomore point guard Malaki Taylor drilled a three from the right corner, then, junior two-guard Tyler Butash completed an old-fashioned three-point play to make the score 20-13. The Bears closed the deficit to four on a three-pointer that made the score 20-16, but Gardner-Edgerton answered with an 8-2 run that began when senior point guard Ethan Reynolds stole the ball at halfcourt and drove in for a layup and culminated two minutes later, when McClure stole the ball on the GEHS side of the court then fed Taylor for a layup on the break to make the score 26-18. Sophomore shooting guard Conner Elder kept the lead at eight in the last minute of the with a left corner three off an assist from Taylor, making the score 31-23. However, the Bears answered with a bucket just before the halftime buzzer, making the score 31-25 Blazers going into the break.
East opened the scoring to start the second half and pulled back to within four at 31-27, but that’s when the floodgates opened. The Trailblazers embarked on a 12-0 scoring run that began with an inbounds layup from McClure and culminated three-and-a-half minutes later when Blazer senior point guard Kellen Kueser stole the ball at one end and went the length of the court for a fullcourt layup that made the score 43-27. Kueser later added a traditional three-point play right before the end of the third quarter that gave the Blazers their biggest lead at 48-29.
In the fourth quarter, the Bears briefly pulled to within 15 at 48-33, before McClure completed his own steal and fullcourt layup that made the score 50-33. The Blazers cruised home from there to claim the 57-38 win.
When asked about his team’s ability to create more open space for their shooters in the second and thirrd frames, White was quick to compliment his guards.
“Tyler Butash and Kellen Kueser are kind of our distributors, “ White said. “They do a really good job of passing the ball, and they have really good vision. So we kind of put those guys in the position where they would be the passers, and where the passes were coming from was the short corner along the baseline. So, we put Tyler and Kellen along the baseline and the defense collapsed on them, and they were able to find the open guys. That helped us out dramatically.”
McClure led the way on the stat sheet for the Blazers, scoring 20 points to go with his three steals, and two rebounds. Kueser recorded 11 points, four boards, three assists, three steals, and two deflections, while Butash has nine points and three dimes. Reynolds collected six points, three assists, and two rebounds, Taylor had five points, senior post Ivan Jalobomy recorded three points and a team-high six rebounds, and Elder notched three points and three boards.
The win improved the Trailblazers record to 3-7 on the year, with the Blazers emerging victorious in three of their last five contests.