LOUISBURG — There would be no thrilling comeback for the Mustang faithful, no edge-of-your seat excitement to keep the fans abuzz.
Louisburg High’s defenders made sure of that.
The Wildcats brought Iola High’s basketball season to an abrupt halt Friday, roaring out of the gates to leads of 18-5 and 32-9.
Iola fared better in the third quarter, and even outscored Louisburg in the frame, but could not draw any closer than 18 in a 57-32 defeat in the Class 4A Substate Championship.
The loss ends Iola’s season at 14-8, while Louisburg advances to host Parsons in a state quarterfinal game Monday.
“We weren’t ready for their physicality and intensity,” Iola head coach Luke Bycroft said. “We talked about it and we worked on it. We tried preparing for it, but they really got after it on our guards.”
Iola committed 11 turnovers in the first half, and struggled mightily at getting the ball in any kind of shooting position. “We were soft with the ball,” Bycroft said.
Then, if the Mustangs got the ball inside, they had to contend with Louisburg’s towering junior, 6-9 Julian Margrave, who altered several shots at the rim.
The Wildcats had no such troubles on their end of the floor, particularly with the aforementioned Margrave lighting it up from 3-point range. He drilled three 3-pointers in the first two quarters as Louisburg took control.
Iola was within 7-5 with 2 minutes left in the first period when the Wildcats’ Dawson Barnes scored inside to trigger a 9-0 run over the final 2:20 of the period. Margrave was the primary catalyst. He drilled a 3-pointer, slammed home an alley-oop, then put back his own miss at the first-quarter buzzer.
“He’s tough to guard, and he shot it well,” Bycroft said.
The run continued in the second period as Iola’s offense remained stuck in neutral.
The Mustangs’ Tyler Boeken worked his way inside for a bucket with 22 seconds left in the half — Iola’s only field goal in the period. By then the Mustangs trailed 32-7.
Iola found things more favorable after the break. Boeken and Landon Carson combined to score nine points before Dillon Bycroft drilled a 3-pointer to close the deficit to 39-21 at the 3:45 mark.
But the run came at a price. Carson, Iola’s leading score this season, saw his night end prematurely when he picked up his fourth and fifth fouls late in the third.
Still, Coach Bycroft liked his team’s fire coming out in the second half.
“We told them at halftime to go out and win the third quarter and that’s what they did,” he said. “We got into some foul trouble, obviously, with key guys. It would have been real easy to lay down and quit.”
Boeken ended the night as Iola’s most consistent performer, scoring 12 points, while pulling down five rebounds.
“He did a nice job, which I expected,“ Bycroft said. “He was stronger than their big guys.”
Dillon Bycroft added six points and three assists. Carson ended with five points, four rebounds and two steals.
Cole had six boards; Jack Adams dished out three assists.
Margrave scored 14 of his 16 before halftime to lead Louisburg. Ben Guetterman added 12.
With the end of the season, it also means bidding adieu to the senior core of the 2020-21 Mustangs.
Dillon Bycroft, Adams, Cole, Carson and Nathan Loukall laced ’em up for the final time, as did Patrick Weaver, Dillon Slaven, Nathan Louk and Eli Smith.
“Most of those guys I started coaching in fifth grade with traveling teams,” Bycroft said. “It’s probably the toughest senior class I’ll ever have to deal with losing because I had them so long.”
The class of 2021 also brought with them a big bag of recent IHS bragging rights. Their scintillating semifinal win over Fort Scott, in which Iola erased an 11-point deficit over the game’s final 5 minutes, gave Iola 14 wins on the season, the most for a Mustang squad since 2002.
“This game was tough,” Bycroft said. “I’m proud of them.”
Iola (5-4-14-9—32) (FG/3pt): Bycroft 0/2-0-1-6, Weaver 1-1-0-3, Adams 0-0-5-0, Fager 1-0-0-2, Louk 0-0-1-0, Cole 1-0-0-2, Riley 1-0-0-2, Carson 2-1-5-5, Boeken 5-2-2-12. TOTALS: 11/2-4-14-32.
Louisburg (18-14-10-15—57) (FG/3pt): Seuferling 2-5-0-9, W. Guetterman 2-3-1-7, Rockers 0/1-2-1-5, Vohs 0/1-0-0-3, Barnes 1-0-2-2, B. Guetterman 3/2-0-2-12, Hupp 1-1-2-3, Margrave 2/3-3-2-16. TOTALS: 11/7-14-10-57.