End of the line: Iola bows out in 3A playoffs

Iola High led by seven early in the second half, but visiting Heritage Christian rallied and took the lead for good late in the third quarter of their Class 3A Substate quarterfinal Monday. The Mustangs' 56-54 defeat ends Iola's basketball season.



February 27, 2024 - 2:11 PM

Iola High's Mac Leonard, left, and Heritage Christian's Timothy Dietz scramble for the loose ball Monday in their Class 3A Substate Tournament opener. Photo by Richard Luken / Iola Register

When it comes to this time of the year, one bad game — heck, one bad quarter — is enough to douse a season’s worth of dreams.

Such was the case Monday for Iola High’s Mustangs, who saw a seven-point lead evaporate in a 3½-minute stretch of the third quarter of their Class 3A Substate opener against Heritage Christian Academy.

The Chargers took the lead for good late in the third period, and then maintained control down the stretch with some clutch free throw shooting.

Iola mounted a challenge in the waning seconds, but Landon Weide’s 3-pointer could do no better than pull the Mustangs within two as time ran out in a 56-54 defeat.

The loss ends the Mustangs’ season at 11-10. Heritage Christian, based in Olathe, advances to the substate semifinals, where the Chargers will take on top-seeded Humboldt at Wellsville High school.

The winner will advance to Saturday’s championship game against either host Wellsville or Anderson County for a berth in next week’s state tournament.

“Every year you get to this point, and unless you win a state championship, you have to get your head around the fact that it’s going to end in disappointment,” Mustang head coach Luke Bycroft said. “But it’s hard to fathom right now.”

Iola High’s Landon Weide (1) guards Heritage Christian’s Biruk Dietz Monday. The Chargers defeated Iola, 56-54, in the Class 3A Substate Tournament contest, thus ending Iola’s season — and Weide’s high school basketball career.Photo by Richard Luken / Iola Register

The game turned primarily because of Heritage Christian’s pressure defense, Bycroft noted.

While the Mustangs were able to effectively attack the press in the first half, they weren’t able to do it consistently enough to maintain control.

“We were too timid at times when we had advantages, and we were too aggressive sometimes when we didn’t, if that makes any sense,” Bycroft explained. “We tried to force stuff when we shouldn’t have, and we were too patient and waited too long when we had opportunities.”

A 7-0 Mustang run midway through the second quarter, including a pair of buckets from Cortland Carson, gave Iola an advantage it maintained for the balance of the half.

Iola held a 25-20 lead at the break, and immediately opened the third quarter with a steal at midcourt, leading to Grady Dougherty’s layup for a seven-point advantage.

But Heritage Christian responded with a flash. A streaking Lucas Prado scored on a layup, was fouled, and converted the subsequent free throw to make it a four-point game.

The sequence triggered an 11-2 Heritage Christian run, pushing the Chargers ahead, 31-29, on Landon Pittman’s putback with 3:50 left in the quarter.

Carson responded with a 3-pointer to push Iola back in front, but the Chargers had the answer with Spencer Cook’s trey to retake a 34-32 lead.