NEODESHA The 2019 Iola Mustangs live and die by the little things.
Things like knowing where they need to be in defensive rotations, not allowing offensive rebounds and effectively moving the ball.
When they do those things for four quarters, itd be hard to find a team at their level who could beat them. When they dont do them at all, its hard to watch.
But in the last two games that theyve played Tuesdays eight-point loss to Yates Center and Fridays five-point win over Leon Bluestem the frequency at which the Mustangs (6-5) do those things has been infrequent at best. Yes, the Mustangs ended up with third place in the Wilson County Classic thanks to a five-point win, but at points in the game, they both led and trailed by nine.
Head coach Luke Bycroft knows that isnt sustainable and while he was pleased with the strong fourth quarter effort that led to the Mustangs win, he knows his team can still be better.
We are getting better and we are improving, Bycroft said. But we need to start being more consistent with doing our little things well. When we do those little things, I think were a pretty good team. We did it for a couple of games and then the last two have been kind of hit and miss but tonight we did enough to come away with a win.
Similarly to Tuesdays Yates Center loss, Iola came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. Shots were falling and their defensive effort was strong leading to nearly a 10-point lead at the end of the quarter.
But the same malaise that sunk the Mustangs versus Yates Center on Tuesday started to seep back in and Iolas lead disappeared.
Its the same story, Bycroft said. It got easy and our mindset changed. We started making silly passes, we werent moving the ball quickly enough, we werent taking good shots and we werent helping on defense.
Bluestem led by three at the half and despite an early third quarter effort to tie things up, the Lions started hitting shots from all over and extended their lead to nine before Iola was able to get it down to seven by the end of the quarter.
We didnt play as poorly in the third quarter but our biggest problem was they hit shots, Bycroft said. But we also werent getting out and challenging shooting like we shouldve been. What we want to do is approach from the inside out and contain their dribble drive so they arent as successful kicking it out to someone.
Thats when it all clicked. The Mustangs jumped out to an 11-3 run and took a 49-48 lead. Iola looked like a team on a mission.
Next possession, Bycroft said. Thats all it was. We just had to go out and win the next possession on offense. Whether we score or not, we needed to have a good possession on the defensive end. And when were able to string those together, thats how we were able to come back.
The Mustangs led by as much as four before Bluestem tied everything back up at 55. Iola took a 59-57 lead with 26 seconds left after senior Kane Rogers rebounded his own miss and powered through a Bluestem defender to score.
Iola was then fouled with 20 seconds left after another defensive stop and hit one of two from the free throw line to push their lead to three.
The Lions had a final shot to tie it all up but junior Cal Leonard stole the ball while Bluestem was taking it down the court and laid it in through contact and a foul to give the Mustangs the five-point lead with just seconds to play.
The difference is night and day who are as a team when we do those little things right, Bycroft said. Through the three games weve played this week, I hope theyve seen the difference between how good we can be opposed to how bad, When we do things together as a team, were pretty darn good but thats only if we play together.
Leonard led the Mustangs with 14 points followed by 12 for Rogers and 10 for senior Blake Ashmore.
Iola will host rival Chanute at home for their Winter Homecoming game next Friday.
Iola (15-7-16-2462) (2pt/3pt-FT-F-TP) Leonard 3/2-2-2-14, Rogers 5/0-2-2-12, B. Ashmore 1/2-2-1-10, De. Bycroft 3/0-3-1-9, Preston 2/0-0-2-4, Di. Bycroft 1/0-2-4-4, Carson 0/1-0-1-3, Regehr 1/0-0-2-2, Delich 0/0-2-2-2, N. Ashmore 0/0-2-1-2. TOTALS 16/5-15-17-62.
Leon-Bluestem (7-18-20-1257) (2pt/3pt-FT-F-TP) Laidler 0/4-6-2-18, Clift 5/2-2-4-18, Wilson 3/0-3-4-9, Simon 2/0-1-2-5, Emmons 0/1-2-3-5, Korte 1/0-0-5-2, Rigg 0/0-0-1-0, Dawson 0/0-0-1-0. TOTALS: 11/7-14-20-57.
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