“We had to buckle down on defense because in the first half I felt like we were a step slow getting in the passing lanes and getting stops,” Eisenhower coach Steve Blue said. “They were catching the ball and then we were getting there, instead of getting there on the catch or getting there early.”
Eisenhower stepped up its defense to start the second half and ended up holding Goddard to two points in the third quarter. The Tigers built their lead up to 22 during that time and went on to win 66-39, sweeping the season series against the Lions.
Eisenhower (15-4, 9-3 AVCTL Division II) went on a 13-0 run over the course of the third quarter to grab a 43-21 lead and force Goddard to call a timeout with 1:50 left. The Tigers continued to clamp down on defense before Britt Hansen made a basket with 21 seconds remaining before the fourth quarter.
Blue felt the key to Eisenhower’s success in the third quarter was playing solid, fundamental defense.
“I thought we did a nice job of boxing out during the third quarter,” he said. “We did a much better job of limiting them to one shot, and we frustrated their guards a little bit and got turnovers.”
Goddard (2-17, 1-10) settled down and made one last run at Eisenhower to begin the fourth quarter. The Lions went on a 9-2 surge to close within 45-32. The Tigers responded by scoring 19 of the game’s next 22 points, including three 3-pointers. Zach Bush added a pair of three-point plays and the senior assisted on both of Matt Morris’ two-point buckets.
Eisenhower made nine 3-pointers total and Blue couldn’t recall a game this season where his team hit that many. With the ability to shoot well from the outside, the Tigers thrive on opponents who use zone defenses.
“We like it when a team will play some zones because we feel like we have good shooters,” Blue said. “And we have guys who can penetrate and kick to those shooters.”
Trevon Evans scored all 15 of his points on 3-pointers for Eisenhower and Brennan Stemple had nine of his 10 points come from behind the arc. Bush had the Tigers’ other trey and finished with a team-high 21 points.
Collin Nevil and Alex Shoemaker led Goddard with 10 points apiece. The Lions duo kept Goddard in the game during the first half by combining to score the team’s first 15 points. Maxie Mikle and Tucker Vang then hit buckets to cut Eisenhower’s lead to 22-19, but the Tigers closed the opening half on an 8-2 run.
Eisenhower has been on a run since it started the season 2-3. The Tigers have won 13 of their past 14 games and they had a 10-game winning streak during that time. Blue is a competitive coach and demands success, but he’s still a little surprised his first-year basketball team is 15-4 and ranked fourth in Class 5A.
“My expectations are pretty high and it’s definitely something we had hoped for, but I didn’t think it’d be reality,” Blue said. “It’s fun, lot of fun. It’s a good way for us to get the school spirit going and our fans have been great.”
Eisenhower ends the regular season Friday at Hutchinson and will then host a first-round sub-state game next week. Goddard hopes to head into sub-state with a win at Andover on Friday.
Goddard girls 42, Eisenhower 40
The Tigers had a great chance to pick up their first win of the season, but they couldn’t hold on to a three-point lead after the third quarter.
Eisenhower led 28-25 heading into the fourth quarter only to see Goddard (5-14, 4-7) outscore it by five in the final eight minutes.
Ashley Foss was the top scorer for the Lions with 12 points and Emily Rausch added nine.
The Tigers were led by Brynn Minor, who matched Foss with 12 points. Ali Blasi contributed eight points for Eisenhower (0-19, 0-12).
Tuesday’s game was completely different than the first meeting of the season between the two teams. The Lions beat the Tigers 66-36 on Jan. 20.