Iola found itself in undiscovered territory on Tuesday in a 62-54 loss to Burlington.
Through the majority of the game, the Mustangs — who had basically cruised in their first three games of the season — trailed Burlington, something they had hardly done so far this season.
Near the end of the third quarter, they seemed to be working through it.
A double-digit deficit at times was whittled down to nothing and then — with less than two minutes left in the quarter — became a three-point lead for Iola.
The Mustangs, ranked ninth in the KCBA poll, were seemingly back on their way toward another win.
However, the seventh-ranked Wildcats weren’t just another team. In the final minute of the third quarter, two quick buckets gave Burlington a one-point lead headed into the fourth quarter and it was one it would not relinquish.
“I think we lost focus,” head coach Luke Bycroft said. “We got comfortable when we got the lead. We challenged them at halftime that if they took care of the ball and made a few shots we would have a chance all day long. Then once we got ahead, we relaxed instead of continuing to do things the right way. We got sloppy again.”
The Mustangs had trouble finding an offensive rhythm throughout the majority of the game. Just when they thought they had the Bur-lington defense figured out — the Wildcats switched it. Just when they had found a way to work around one of their key players riding the bench due to foul trouble — the Wildcats found a way to key in on something else, keeping Iola off balance.
Senior Ethan Holloway was tagged with his second foul with 4:42 left in the first quarter. He basically sat the remainder of the half with hopes that the Mustangs would be able to use him for the duration of the second.
With him out, senior bigs Evan Sigg and Matt Miller really held down the fort, ending the night with 16 and 8 points.
“It affected us for a while when Ethan was on the bench, but to be honest I thought we had worked out of it by the second quarter,” Bycroft said. “We played pretty well without him for a while and we figured some stuff out. Sigg really did a good job for the most part on the inside.”
Meanwhile, Iola played good defense. The open shots that allowed Santa Fe Trail to stay in the game last week were contested on Tuesday. The only problem being that even with Mustang hands in their face, Burlington still managed to knock-down some key long-range jumpers to keep Iola from making a run.
“The shots they hit, we challenged them,” Bycroft said. “We did a much better job of stopping that penetration. Our help defense was a lot better and I was happy about that.”
In the end, it just came down to Burlington’s pressure. Iola could not handle it and it showed as the Mustangs far exceed their acceptable limit of turnovers.
“We committed 23 turnovers,” Bycroft said. “(Burlington) is a good team… they’re a good team and I’ll leave it at that. They’re good enough to beat us with 23 turnovers but I don’t know if they’re good enough to beat us with 10 or 12. Our goal is 10 or less so that’s 13 extra possessions that we gave them on top of what our goal would be.”
The loss is Iola’s first this season and their first in Pioneer League play. They will return to Iola on Friday for their home opener versus Prairie View.
Iola (11-14-19-10—54) (2pt/3pt-FT-F-TP) Sigg 8/0-0-4-16, Miller 3/0-2-2-8, Holloway 4/0-0-3-8, Vink 1/1-0-2-5, Barnhart 1/0-2-3-4, Rogers 1/0-2-1-4, Bycroft 1/0-2-2-4, Cokely 1/0-1-0-3, Ashmore 1/0-0-3-2. TOTALS: 21/1-9-19-54.
Burlington (17-15-13-17) (2pt/3pt-FT-F-TP) Fiedler 6/0-3-3-15, Nordstedt 0/3-4-4-13, Watkins 1/2-4-0-12, Jeffers 4/0-3-3-11, Hess 2/1-2-3-9,Taylor 1/0-0-1-2, Beyer 0/0-0-1-0. TOTALS: 14/6-16-18-62.
PHOTO: Senior Ethan Holloway turns toward the basket while being guarded by Burlington senior Garrison Fiedler in Tuesday’s 62-54 loss. REGISTER/TIMOTHY EVERSON
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