Leopold forces Oak Ridge outside

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 ~ Updated 12:26 AM
Leopold senior Ryan Davis shoots between Oak Ridge defenders during Tuesday's game in Leopold, Mo. (LAURA SIMON)

LEOPOLD, Mo. -- The host employed a simple defensive strategy Tuesday night.

Leopold packed its defense near the basket and allowed Oak Ridge to shoot as often as it liked from 3-point range.

The Wildcats' plan worked.

Oak Ridge shot 21 percent from long range, which allowed state-ranked Leopold to knock off the Blue Jays 57-53 in boys basketball action.

"If they win with 3s, it's all right," Leopold senior David Fluchel said. "We weren't going to let them shoot in the lane. We're going to stop them before they get to the lane."

Oak Ridge coach Adam Stoneking said his team too often settled for 3-pointers. In fact, 33 of the 59 shots the Blue Jays took during Tuesday's game were 3-pointers.

"I just thought we got a little 3 happy," Stoneking said. "A lot of it comes back on me. I knew they'd played zone all year and I knew they'd really try to pack it in. We penetrate all the time and I knew that's what they'd try to take away."

Oak Ridge's offensive plan usually centers around Garret Light and Brett Thomas penetrating and drawing fouls. The Blue Jays don't hide that strategy, and Leopold coach Shawn Kinder decided he wasn't going to let the Blue Jays duo do it to his team.

"Thomas and Light are some of the best two penetrators I've ever seen," Kinder said. "When they get the ball in their hands, they can really create and make things happen. They're the head of the offense and we had to stop what they do best, and that's penetrate."

So Kinder told his players to pack in the defense. He didn't want Thomas and Light getting near the basket.

"Instead of them driving and shooting layups on us, we just shut them down and got into the lane and let them shoot as many 3s as they wanted," Leopold senior Anthony Seabaugh said.

Oak Ridge senior Logan Mangels said it was frustrating to face constant pressure when trying to drive against Leopold's defense.

"They were making us shoot outside," he said. "We obviously couldn't do that tonight. By the time we got the ball and tried to drive the lane, we had two guys right on us right away. We had to kick out."

The Blue Jays (8-3) opened a seven-point lead in the first quarter, but they couldn't do anything right offensively during the second quarter. Oak Ridge scored three points while going 1 for 13 (8 percent) from the floor in the second quarter.

"We just didn't have any awareness of the game at all," Mangels said of the second quarter. "We'd pass the ball and it'd be a turnover. It got in our heads and we couldn't do anything about it on offense."

Despite the woes, the teams entered the final quarter tied at 39-39. The Wildcats' main offensive weapon turned out to be the free-throw line. They hit 72 percent (13 of 18) of their free throws in the second half.

"Practice paid off," Fluchel said. "At the beginning of practice, we shoot 20 free throws. At the end of practice, we shoot 25. Me and Anthony and all the rest of us stay after and we shoot free throws just to make sure these games like this don't come down to misses on free throws."

The Wildcats, ranked No. 5 in the state in Class 1, shot 78 percent from the line in the game, which pleased Kinder. His team struggled from the charity stripe earlier in the season, so he changed his tactics in practice.

"I used reverse psychology where I didn't say anything at all," he said. "If they missed, I just let it go. Maybe encouraging instead of grilling to get them to shoot free throws. The kids kind of responded to that differently."

Leopold used a 9-0 run to take an eight-point lead with 3 minutes, 54 seconds left in the contest, but Oak Ridge immediately responded with an 8-2 run to pull within two points. The Wildcats hit just enough free throws to swat away the Blue Jays. Light had a look at a 3-pointer with about 10 seconds left that would have tied the game, but his one-handed, off balance shot fell short of the rim. Leopold grabbed the rebound and Fluchel knocked down a free throw to seal the win.

"Oak Ridge is the team, they are the team to beat," Fluchel said. "We've been talking about this the whole season to show our name."

Oak Ridge1831814--53
Leopold13121418--57

OAK RIDGE (53) -- Stephen Bolen 3, Brett Thomas 15, Logan Mangels 11, Garret Light 9, Jacob Light 3, Caleb Elam 8, Lucas Rohde 4. FG 19, FT 8-16, F 24. (3-pointers: Mangels 3, Thomas 2, Elam 1, Bolen 1. Fouled out: Thomas, G. Light)

LEOPOLD (57) -- John Bohnsack 12, Anthony Seabaugh 13, Kyle Stroder 9, David Fluchel 14, Ryan Davis 8, Lance Seiler 1. FG 17, FT 21-27, F 16. (3-pointers: Stroder 1, Bohnsack 1. Fouled out: Stroder)

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