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Tiger Basketball Teams Battle at District Competition

The women's basketball team secured a 2nd place finish at the district tournament (photo via Lady Tigers Basketball).

Men’s First Round Action

Tuesday night saw the five-seed Excelsior Springs Tigers (2-21) take on the four-seed Odessa Bulldogs (4-22) in round one of the class 4 district 15 tournament. Excelsior Springs has played Odessa twice this year, losing the first one 57-61 in a close matchup and 43-55 the second time. Excelsior Springs has averaged 41 points per game (PPG) on 37.2 FG% on the year, compared to 45.4 PPG on 33.3 FG% for Odessa. Some of the key players for the Tigers include Jake Zapata, Easton Ryan, and Carson Gholson. Zapata is the best 3-point shooter on the team, with 25% shooting from behind the arch. Easton Ryan is the Tigers’ leading scorer, averaging 9.9 PPG, and is a massive threat in the paint. Carson Ghoulson, absent in the first game against Odessa, averages 6.8 PPG and is also one of the team’s better defenders. Defensively, it was important for the Tigers to contain Odessa’s Hunter Nye. Nye is Odessa’s best shooter with a 30 3FG% and could take over a game if they let him. 

Excelsior started out strong with a 5-0 run to start the game, forcing an Odessa timeout just 1:55 into the game. Odessa then caught fire, and Excelsior’s offense cooled off, ending the first quarter with a 15-9 lead for Odessa. The second quarter was mainly spent trading blows with each other until Odessa lit fire from the 3-point line, hitting three 3-pointers in quick succession. The score at halftime was 31-20 Bulldogs. In the first half, Odessa’s full-court press defense caused a lot of sloppy turnovers. In the second half, it was clear that the Tigers would need to take better care of the ball and protect the perimeter better in order to complete the comeback. 

Odessa continued its dominance from the 3-point line in the third quarter, extending its lead to 51-32. Unfortunately, the Tigers could not complete the comeback and lost 43-65. In a touching moment, first-year head coach Ian Burch sent seniors Ziha Hyche, Cade Leonard, Braedyn Sejkora, and Theo Sturrmann onto the court for the last few minutes of the game to give them one last sendoff in their high school basketball career. Thank you, seniors, for all of the blood, sweat, and tears you have put into this basketball program!

Women’s First Round

On the women’s side of class 4 district 15, the 2-seed Excelsior Springs Tigers (8-14) faced off against the 3-seed Richmond Spartans (3-21) in the semifinals. These two teams were yet to match up this season. The Tigers have averaged 26 PPG in 24.3% shooting, while the Spartans have averaged 27 PPG on only 17.1% shooting. Sophomore Kinley Rogers leads the Tigers with an impressive 11.6 PPG and 40.4 FG%. Richmond’s leading scorer is Candiace Claypole, with 6.8 PPG. Like the boys’ game, taking care of the ball was crucial for the Lady Tigers to advance to the district finals. 

Kinley Rogers started out very hot, scoring the Tigers’ first 5 points. Rogers got many of her first-quarter points from the free-throw line. A dominant force in the paint, the Spartans often had no choice but to foul Kinley. The first quarter was high-scoring and primarily spent with the two teams battling back and forth, with the Tigers leading 17-14 after the first quarter. The second quarter was a low-scoring affair with only 11 points total being scored, 9 of those coming in the last three minutes of the quarter. At halftime, the score was 23-19 Tigers. 

The second half began with another relatively low-scoring quarter. The third quarter was also a back-and-forth battle, with both teams going on runs. At the end of the third quarter, the Tigers led 29-26, making it a very close game in the final quarter. In the 4th quarter, the Lady Tigers’ defense went huge, not allowing any points until 2:32 left in the game. In the final few minutes, some clutch free throws and continued stellar defense nailed the hammer down for a Tiger win! The final score of this game was 40-33 Tigers.

The Tigers shot 27.8% from the field Wednesday night with 17 offensive rebounds. The domination around the boards was a massive part of Wednesday’s win. Two of the standouts for Excelsior were Kinley Rogers and senior Baylee O’Dell. Rogers scored 13 points on 30.8% shooting, nine rebounds, and three assists. Rogers also had 13 free throw attempts during the game, making 5 of them. O’Dell scored 10 points on 36.4% shooting, with five rebounds and two assists. In a close game, these two women were massive in keeping the team’s postseason hopes alive.

Women Advance to District Championship!

Friday night, the two-seed Excelsior Springs Lady Tigers (9-14) battled St. Pius X High School (13-14) in the class 4 district 15 championship. Excelsior advanced to the championship via a 40-33 win against Richmond on Wednesday night. St. Pius advanced via forfeit against Northeast (Kansas City). This year, St. Pius averaged an impressive 49.7 PPG on 37.2% shooting, compared to Excelsior’s 38.4 PPG on 29.6% shooting. Of Pius’ 49.7 average points, 24 came from beyond the arch. In fact, they shoot more threes per game than they do two-pointers. Because of this, protecting the perimeter was a key part of the Tigers’ game plan.

The first quarter was largely back and forth until St. Pius hit a buzzer-beater three to give them the lead 13-8 after one quarter. St. Pius began the second quarter with a quick offensive flurry, scoring 7 points in just over 2 minutes. This flurry continued, with the Tigers falling behind 38-16 at halftime. The second half contained much of the same, with St. Pius continuing to score with ease. After the 3rd quarter, the score was 47-26. Unfortunately, this lead was too big for the Tigers to overcome, and they lost 59-33. It was an unfortunate end to the season, but it was still a phenomenal accomplishment to make it to the district championship!

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