CIMARRON — It was a turnaround for the ages.
Down 30-18 right after halftime, the Cimarron Bluejays boys basketball team came to life and defeated Minneola 48-42 to advance to the semifinals of their own tournament on Friday, when they will take on Sublette at 8:15 p.m..
Playing most of the second half with a group of sophomores, it went from a story of “woe is me” to “happily ever after.”
The Wildcats had the upper hand, taking a 34-25 lead after a second Cimarron technical foul. Little did they know their next field goal at 1:44 left in the third period would be it for the next 9 minutes.
The Jays went on a 20-0 run in that frame, committing no turnovers the rest of the game, and leaving the Wildcats stunned.
Nick Ast led the charge, scoring 14 of his game-high 25 points in that stretch.
He got the tie at 36 with a pair of free throws following a drive to the basket at 5:33.
Minneola turned the ball over in five of its next nine possessions, and missed seven straight shots while watching the Jays pile onto the lead.
Cimarron spread the floor for most of the final quarter and forced the Cats to foul.
Pretty cool under pressure for such a young group.
“That’s the way it’s going to be this year,” coach Dave Losey said. “We’re going to have ups and downs. We have some talented kids. Now if we can just play together and play hard.”
Losey’s crew had mostly ups down the stretch, playing a pressure defense that stymied the Cats. They committed 15 turnovers in the second half after just five in the first.
That defensive intensity seemed to bolster his team, Losey said.
“One of the things we talked about at halftime was we’ve got to move,” he said. “We had guys standing around and not move, and we’d make a pass and watch. Second half when we amped it up and went for it full court, maybe that’s what we have to do.”
Moving the defense started the offense moving, and the Jays started getting open passes and open looks.
“Things happened then,” Losey said.
Minneola, meanwhile, went 16 possessions with either a missed shot or a turnover.
Losey felt his team let calls against them become discouraging, but he thought the game was called well, and his players needed to pick themselves up.
“That’s their age a little bit, I think,” he said. “We only have three guys who played varsity last year. But I told them they’ve got a pretty high ceiling if they just work.”
Jaylen Pickle, a 6-foot-5 freshman who had 25 points against Ulysses last Friday after Ast got in foul trouble, sat much of the game with fouls, but he still scored four baskets and plugged up the middle in the final minutes.
Blake Neuschafer also had eight points.
Joey Harrington led the Wildcats with 17 points and Landon Walker had 10.
Losey said his team’s defense was “OK” in the first half, but those two had a number of aggressive layups for points. Second half, different story.
“We went to the boards like crazy. First half we were just flat-footed and down,” he said. “I think we found out it’s OK to play fast.”
Minneola drops to the consolation bracket for a 6:30 p.m. game Friday against Satanta in the old gym.
MINNEOLA—Hornback 1 0-0 3, Ediger 1 0-0 2, Harrington 7 3-7 17, Berger 3 0-0 7, Walker 4 2-6 10, Lang 0 3-5 3. Totals 16-40 8-18 42.
CIMARRON—Bell 2 0-0 4, Ast 8 4-11 25, Dewey 0 1-3 1, B. Neuschafer 2 4-7 8, K. Neuschafer 1 0-2 2, Pickle 4 0-4 8. Totals 17-40 13-27 48.
Minneola 8 10 8 6 — 42
Cimarron 0 0 14 16 — 48
3-pt. goals—Minneola 2-8 (Hornback, Berger), Cimarron 1-9 (Ast). Rebounds—Minneola 19 (Walker 8), Cimarron 20 (Ast 7). Personal fouls—Minneola 19, Cimarron 13. Technical fouls—Cimarron 2. Fouled out—Cimarron (K. Neuschafer).
Ever the opportunists, the Cimarron Lady Jays took advantage of an an under-sized, turnover-prone Minneola team in the opening round of their own tournament, cruising to a 64-20 win to advance to Friday’s semifinal.
After what they count as a sluggish start (not scoring a field goal on their first seven possessions), Cimarron went on an 18-2 run to close out the first quarter and then outscored the Lady Wildcats 20-3 in the second.
Minneola, with no player over 5-foot-9, had trouble with the Jays’ speed and height, turning the ball over 20 times in the opening half (31 for the game) and were just 4 of 11 from the field (they finished the game just 7 for 25).
Meanwhile, Cimarron used the entire floor in the first half, hitting 15 of its 34 shots.
Korina Bailon had the hot hand for the Jays in that half, coming off the bench to score six straight at the end of the first period, once on a give-and-go, the next on an assist from Morgan Ediger, and finishing with an offensive rebound putback.
She finished the game with 10 in just two quarters.
“It was a lot with my team. It takes a lot to work together on defense and that makes the offense work together,” Bailon said. “I guess my team just helped me out.”
Coach Ediger said Bailon is just a tough player.
“She’s tough on the boards. She’s a really good player,” he said. “People don’t realize how good she is.”
Ediger scored 14 of her game-high 18 points in the second period to spur the Jays’ put-away run.
“We talk about coming out every game, making sure we’re ready to play,” she said. “We’re undersized this year, so we’re really for trapping and being active defensively.”
Coach Ediger saw improvements in his team compared to their opener last week.
“We started way slower than we did last Friday (a 23-0 run to begin the game against Ulysses) but we finished way better,” he said. “I saw a lot of improvement tonight from Friday, cleaning some things up. We’re really fast; if we could just learn to play together fast — right now we’re just feeling each other out. We have a lot of new faces, a lot of girls who haven’t had a lot of varsity time.”
That’s why he tried different combinations throughout the game, he added, trying to mix in some different rotations.
Cimarron (2-0) was 23 of 54 from the field, but just 3 of 17 from beyond the arc.
“We’re going to shoot a lot,” coach Ediger said. “But we get a lot more possessions than our opponents do. We get more shot opportunities because we work so hard on defense.”
The Jays take on Sublette at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the semifinals of the Bluejay Invitational, a tough team, he said.
“We’re going to have to play well to beat them,” Ediger said. “I was impressed with them the other night.”
Minneola drops into the consolation bracket and takes on Satanta in the old gym, also at 6:30 p.m.
MINNEOLA—Strecker 1 0-2 2, Stewart 3 1-2 7, Chamu 1 0-0 2, Pfaff 0 2-2 2, S. Jaeger 2 3-4 7. Totals 7-25 6-10 20.
CIMARRON—Rather 3 0-1 7, Burns 1 0-0 2, Meis 1 0-0 2, Blattner 4 1-3 11, McPhail 2 0-0 4, Walker 1 0-0 2, Moler 1 0-0 3, Bryant 1 0-0 2, Ediger 6 5-5 18, K. Bailon 4 2-2 10, A. Bailon 1 1-1 3. Totals 23-54 9-12 64.
Minneola 8 3 4 5 — 20
Cimarron 18 20 15 9 — 64
3-pt. goals—Minneola 0; Cimarron 3-17 (Rath, Moler, Ediger.Rebounds—Minneola 21 (Pfaff 6); Cimarron 15 (Ediger 4).Personal fouls—Minneola 13; Cimarron 12. Technical fouls—none.