Mustangs fend off pesky Oz

After seeing their lead dwindle to four with 2 minutes remaining, Iola High's Mustangs ended their tussle at Osawatomie on a 6-0 run to win, 55-45. Iola returns to action next Tuesday at home against Wellsville.

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February 14, 2024 - 2:37 PM

Iola High’s Cortland Carson (13) is challenged by Osawatomie’s Jaxon Stevenson Tuesday as Carson puts up a field goal attempt.

OSAWATOMIE — Iola High’s mental toughness paid off again with a victory Tuesday.

The Mustangs took an early lead against Osawatomie, but the host Trojans bounced back every time Iola thought it had things under control.

Osawatomie’s Jasper Sallee drained a long 3-pointer to slice Iola’s lead to 59-55 with just over two minutes left before the Mustangs slammed the door down the stretch.

Iola’s Grady Dougherty scored on a putback beforeNick Bauer got loose for a basket with just about a minute on the clock. Landon Weide’s steal turned into a pair of free throws from Cortland Carson, and suddenly Iola’s lead was back at double digits with 40 seconds  left, sealing the 65-55 victory.

The win keeps Iola in the upper echelon of the Class 3A Sub-State bracket at 11-7, with a home game against Wellsville set for next Tuesday and a road tilt at Santa Fe Trail two nights later to wrap up the regular season.

“Right now, I’m happy to get a few more days of practice,” Iola head coach Luke Bycroft said. “We’ve got a lotta things to clean up.”

The tone was set early on. Cortland Carson and Mac Leonard both hit 3-pointers in the early going as Humboldt raced to a 15-4 lead. But the Trojans emerged from an early timeout with a little more pep in their steps, closing the period with an 11-3 run.

“We started out well, but then we relaxed,” Bycroft said. “We thought it’d be easy. We’ve got to get past that point where we think teams will lay down and quit. They want to win, too.”

The lead veered between three and nine points for the balance of the half before Iola went into the locker room holding a 33-28 advantage.

“We got a little stagnant on offense against their zone,” Bycroft said. “Then we started forcing shots, which is what they wanted.”

Osawatomie scored to open the third quarter to pare the deficit to two. Iola’s Lucas Maier and Grady Dougherty both had traditional 3-point plays in the Mustangs’ next two possessions. Weide’s steal and layup pushed the Mustangs ahead by six, and Carson drained a trey to push Iola’s lead to 44-35.

Leonard and Carson both connected from deep early in the fourth quarter as the margin swelled to 52-42.

Maier’s putback with 2½ minutes left made it 59-50 before Osawatomie rattled off five straight points.

But that was as close as the Trojans could get.

“They started getting the ball deep in the paint,” Bycroft said. “We just weren’t disciplined with how we guarded and helped on the ball.”

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