Both Chanute High School basketball teams showed some elements of ferocity despite losing both Iola games Thursday night at home.
Both coaches can attribute those flashes to the kind of competition they faced at their annual winter tournaments last weekend, which for the Lady Blue Comets was the Bill Hanson Memorial Tournament in Pittsburg, and for the Blue Comets was the 48th annual Ralph Miller Classic at CHS.
The Lady Blue Comets lost their first game in the tournament 53-45 to Cassville on Jan. 23. Kori Babcock scored 16 points and Jacey Lewis had 15. But CHS came back and won two in a row, including a 51-49 win over Wichita East Jan. 24 thanks to Babcock’s 25 points and nine rebounds and nine points and five rebounds from Brianna Waggoner, as well as a 50-49 win over Blue Valley Northwest Jan. 25 thanks to Babcock’s 14 and Lewis’ 12.
After winning those last two games in the tournament, CHS seemed primed to win versus Iola on Thursday. CHS looked to dominate Iola by going on a 15-2 run at the start of the game, but the Lady Mustangs used a 32-4 run that ultimately propelled the local rival to a win – Iola’s first win in three years over Chanute – despite the last minute efforts of the Lady Blue Comets. Those included a last second shot by Babcock in which she was hacked, but the officials didn’t call an obvious foul and left the court as a contingent of fans loudly booed. Babcock left the game with 26 points and four rebounds.
“After the way we played tonight (Thursday night), I’m not so sure,” Lady Comets head coach Dustin Fox said. “I think the biggest lesson that we need to take away from our first game at that Bill Hanson Memorial Tournament and tonight is that we’ve got to play a full four quarters. We’re a pretty good team when we are locked in and playing hard. But we can’t just show up, so we’ll learn from that. And hopefully it’s the last time we’ll have to learn that lesson.”
Putting aside the outcome of the loss to Iola, Fox said the competitive level of the tournament can assist the team moving forward.
“We got to play two 6A teams in our last two games of that tournament, and we were able to pull out close wins versus both of them, so knowing that you can play with teams like that definitely gives you a lot of confidence and being able to learn from those close games, all that experience, it adds up,” Fox said. “I wish we could’ve played a little better tonight down the stretch, but having been in these spots, and in these close games, that’s going to serve us well later on.”
The CHS boys lost the first two games at home in the Ralph Miller tourney, one being an 82-69 loss to the eventual three-peat champions, Andover Central, on Jan. 23. Kam Koester scored 21 on seven 3s and Ty Bowman had 20. The Blue Comets then closed within just six points after a 72-66 loss to Olathe North Jan. 24, even after Garrett Almond’s career-high of 30 points, before winning the final contest 51-45 over Goddard High School Jan. 25 thanks to Koester’s 15 points.
From the tournament up until last night’s loss to Iola, it was as if Chanute was on a roller coaster. The first loss was Chanute on the rise as the motor turned the chain loop, and with the close loss, the Blue Comets still needed to climb higher to the apex before finally reaching the top after a win over Goddard. But Chanute dropped down, roller-coasting at high speeds to a loss to Iola by 20 points (60-40) – the Mustangs’ first win over Chanute in eight years – though the Blue Comets competed arduously throughout the game, even with point guard Briley Peavy missing action due to a migraine.
Still, head coach Devon Crabtree said his team used a shortage of big plays from the Ralph Miller tournament as another part of his team’s maturation process.
“I just thought it was a nice opportunity to win against big schools that are good, that are going to have a chance to play in the state tournament – 6A, 5A levels – so it’s exciting, and we were in every game, even the ones that we lost,” Crabtree noted. “We played with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder as a small school in the tournament. It’s got to be that way. We are trying to develop that in our culture right now with just playing tough and playing with a chip on our shoulder, and I thought we improved there.”
Both basketball teams will look to improve overall Tuesday versus Fort Scott on the road.