|RAYTOWN SOUTH HIGH SCHOOL||VS||SMITHVILLE HIGH SCHOOL|
|Raytown South High School||18||17||9||15||13|
|Smithville High School||8||17||16||18||10|
“I’ve never wanted to win a game more in my life…”
If there was a moment in our locker room after our big win vs. Raytown South that encapsulated the moment and momentarily made the ‘ol ball coach wonder why the locker room was so dusty, this was it. Senior, Marcus Garza, excited and grinning ear to ear, remarked that this was the quote on the bench from junior, Spencer Engle, late in the game.. On the drive home, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. How awesome. In an absolute dogfight of a game, two upperclassmen, two great young men, two leaders in our school, two players who could have very easily asked or thought to themselves, “Why am I not in the game? Why have I not played tonight?” and in the moment–not after but in the moment–this was Spencer’s genuine reaction. “I’ve never wanted to win a game more in my life.” And Marcus’ reaction was the same as mine–he absolutely loved it– enough to repeat it to the team just after the win. I just love that and absolutely love those two. Our first text after the game? Senior, Ryan Edwards, also beloved by our team, who was home sick tonight, probably losing his mind watching the stream, couldn’t contain his excitement and was a leader from home.
From the first guy on the floor to the last guy on the bench, this team plays for one another. They have for a very long time and in many different sports and it’s what makes special nights like tonight possible.
The Warriors came out with another strong 1st quarter, jumping out to an 18-8 lead as the first quarter came to a close. The 2nd quarter was a back and forth battle and both teams played well, cancelling each other out and it was a 10 point lead for us at halftime. Ryker Edwards had a great first half, getting hot early and walked into the locker room with 19 points, Andrew Miller also chipped in 5 before the break, continuing his great play. Ty Adkins came off of the bench and buried a corner 3 for us in a moment where the momentum was teetering. Thought we played one of our best first halves of the year.
The 2nd half, however, with more attention going to #15, the driving lanes opened up for Keltin Nitsche and Caleb Donnell and the chase was on. Those two were dynamite for us all game but especially, I thought, in the 2nd half. They controlled the pace of the game beautifully, picking the right spots to attack. And then came to bash brothers down low, Rhett Foster and Dawson Strickland who played like absolute giants all night, Rhett finishing with 14 points and Dawson whose effort and clutch FT’s late helped us close the win, every person on our team contributed in some way tonight and that’s what it’s all about.
Lets talk about the finish though. Ask any player on our team about “one shot” and they’ll probably start laughing. We have been very, very bad in “1 shot situations” so far this season and it’s put at least 20 grey hairs on my head. We’ve talked about it in the moment, we’ve begun drilling it at practice but over and over, I’ve reiterated, this will win or lose you a game (and soon) if we don’t get better about it. And of course, I look up, tie ball game, 35 seconds on the clock, our ball, 4th quarter.
The exact scenario we had just worked on in practice, over and over. Games are won in practice and we executed beautifully. We held the ball, we ran a play. It wasn’t working how we wanted so we called a timeout and ran a SLOB play that got us a good look for the win at the buzzer. So awesome to see the small details that you stress to the kids and see them rise up and deliver in those moments when they show up in the game.
Overtime was a heavyweight battle, just two boxers out there delivering body blows, back and forth, matching shot for shot. Eventually though, it was our turn to deliver the knockout blow and that came from Ryker, on a brilliant pass from Rhett Foster, buried a corner 3 to put us up by 5 with under 20 seconds. Credit to Raytown South who immediately came back and buried a 3 pointer of their own and as the ball was entered and Dawson Strickland was headed back to the line with 5 seconds remaining, I yelled right at him and said “Nobody else I’d rather have on the line!” He buried the first to make it a 3 point game and then–while very aware that I might be icing my own guy–wanted to make sure that our guys knew exactly what we were doing after the next free throw. They executed. Ballgame. Warriors win 72-69.
First win against Raytown South in school history. 1-0 in conference play. Moves us to 8-3 on the season.
Couldn’t be happier for our guys and our fans—who were also brilliant tonight and helped push us over the finish line. It was one of those games that you just file away and know that will help you later on this season. We grew up a little bit tonight. Of the 40 minutes, we led 39:15, we earned every bit of that win and now we get to turn our attention to Winnetonka, who will be ready to play in their own gym for a big conference matchup on Friday. Hope to see you there!