Mustangs top Vikings



December 14, 2019 - 12:57 AM

Cal Leonard at the free-throw line for the Mustangs. REGISTER/ERICK MITCHELL

RICHMOND — Cal Leonard remained cool, calm, and collected down the stretch in Thursday night’s game against Central Heights. 

Leonard converted 8/8 free throws in the fourth quarter to lead the Mustangs to a 52-44 win over the Vikings, and send Iola to the championship game of the Central Heights tournament. 

“This is a goal we set, and we are marching toward that goal,” head coach Luke Bycroft said. “It is not over yet, so I’m not ecstatic.”

The Mustangs led 10-8 at the end of the first quarter. Landon Carson scored a half-dozen in the period, but the Iola offense appeared to be out of rhythm.

“We run an offense that relies on movement away from the ball, so we have to have movement, but we had too many guys standing,” Bycroft said. “It was just one guy with the ball in his hand, and others standing and watching.”

After two Viking baskets to start the second, a 3-pointer from Carson and a dime from Leonard to Bradyn Cole helped Iola regain a 15-12 lead. Central Heights continued to battle back, but a steal from Leonard turned into an easy layup to give Iola a two-point advantage heading into the break. 

While Leonard wasn’t firing from the floor in the first half, he made up for it with his defense and aggression on the offensive end.

“What impressed me is that even though we weren’t able to get any jump shots out of our action on offense because of the way they were playing us and guarding Cal, he stuck with it,” Bycroft said. “In the past, Cal wanted to be a jump shooter first, and would have disappeared in a game like that. But tonight, he made his presence known.” 

To start the second half, Iola grew its lead to five after another assist from Leonard, this time finding big man Dillon Bycroft to put the Mustangs ahead 34-29. Central Heights responded with four straight 3-pointers to construct a 12-0 run and gain a 34-29 lead. Iola trailed 36-34 after three quarters played.

“We were closing out with our hands down on their outside shots,” Bycroft said. “What we wanted to do was put our hands up when he was shooting the ball, but what we teach is challenge the shooter before he becomes a shooter.”

Twelve of Iola’s 18 fourth-quarter points came via the free throw line. Iola shot a perfect 12/12 from the charity strike to finish off the Vikings 52-44. 

The win puts Iola in the championship game against Metro Academy. That game will tip off tonight after the conclusion of the girls’ game, which is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. at Central Heights. 



Iola (10-11-13-19 — 52) (pts): Bycroft 6, Leonard 16, Cole 12, Carson 12, Delich 6. 

Central Heights (8-11-17-8 — 44) (pts): Crawford 14, Camady 8, Bowler 15, Burson 5, Coffman 2.