Letcher’s Bomb Sinks Braves

JJ Letcher (Piper)

by David Brox, davidbrox@shukc.com

I have certainly felt better but getting to see last nights game between the Piper Pirates and Bonner Springs Braves certainly helped.  I usually start thinking about what I am going to write as the game eves and flows.  This article is going to take you on the roller coaster of thoughts I had during the game which was very entertaining.

Before I start I want to simply tell the players on both teams that they played great.  That was the best $5 worth of entertainment anyone in that gym could have gotten Friday night.  The crowd was great as well, relentlessly cheering on their team.  Kudos to all involved. 

S/O to Jamison Jackson who recently had his surgery, speedy recovery.  Jackson is a topic because I have had a few conversations about Bonner Springs who is 4-2 since his injury.  Obviously there were players who were stepping up to shoulder some of the load in his absence.  The Braves were looking to put some respeck on their name against the Piper Pirates. 

The Pirates were riding high.  They lost to a state contender (Eisenhower) at the Spring Hill tournament which was not a bad loss at all.  They followed that up by vanquishing a 8+ year old demon running through the halls of Piper by beating Basehor-Linwood.  It would however be important that Piper not peak ahead to Tuesday when they travel to Basehor-Linwood.  This had trap game written all over it for the Pirates.

Bonner Springs came out to start the game beating Piper like they stole something.  Jadon Pouncil was very aggressive in the opening moments of the game setting a tone for the rest of the Braves.  Keyon Thomas whose name you are going to hear through out this article was on fire.  I don’t keep stats during the game but am going to guess he posted a 30+ point game last night.  He assisted and scored at will as Bonner jumped out 22-11 after 1.

The second quarter saw the Bonner lead stretch to 35-17 when Coach Shelley called timeout with 5:19 remaining in the half.  Junior Jackson Poe of Bonner Springs would not miss as the 3’s rained in from the corner.  All the credit has to go to Bonner Springs for this start.  I would guess they were shooting 70% from the field including their 3 attempts.  Piper looked like they were walking in mud.  If the Pirates were looking ahead they were at the same time blowing their advantage in league standings.  I don’t know what Coach Shelley said in that huddle but what ever it was fired the Pirates up. 

Keyon Thomas (Bonner Springs)
Despite the hot start this is basketball and good team make runs.  Piper started pouring in 3’s of their own starting with Eli Johnson from the corner.  Jordan Goodpaster followed up from the top of the key on the next possession.  Terrell Hall who was fantastic last night followed that up with another.  Meanwhile in the post Jalen Taylor was quietly stacking up points off the glass.  His game has certainly evolved mostly from how well he uses his length.  He has quick twitch ability to get off the ground multiple times while again maintaining his height advantage.  No doubt another double double night for Taylor overall.  Piper closed out the half on a 19-9 run and closed the gap to 44-35.

I don’t know what it is about Bonner Springs and blowing big leads but even when they were up 18 I didn’t feel like Piper was completely out of it.  Still hanging 44 on Piper in the first half was a huge positive and hopefully halftime could settle things down and kill the run.

Piper at the half had to be thinking that they settled this thing down.  I doubt there was anyone looking ahead to Basehor now as Bonner Springs had gotten their full attention in the first half.  They just got worked over giving up 44 and needed to buckle down to complete the comeback.

Piper opened the 3rd quarter as they finished the second.  10-3 to start as the defensive intensity picked up.  The shots were not falling for Bonner as they were earlier and Piper was able to generate a few turnovers to get in transition.  Taylor took a nice pass from Goodpaster for a drop step dunk and later caught one off the rim for another.  Momentum had all but shifted in the game as they dominated the 3rd quarter and tied the game at 52 just before the end of the quarter.

Now the end of quarters is what I want to start talking about right now.  At the end of the 1st, 2nd and 3 quarter Bonner ran upwards of  3 minutes of game time holding for final shots.  It was sound strategy and made a lot of sense.  The 3rd quarter being the most significant as Keyon Thomas buried a 3 from near half court to claim a 55-52 lead.  Piper had 6 possessions in the 3rd quarter to claim a lead and the best they could do was tie the game.  That 3 from Thomas was a dagger shot that really woke Bonner Springs back up.

The fourth quarter will go down in SHUKC history.  Keyon Thomas riding the momentum from that 3rd quarter buzzer beater led the Braves on 11-2 extended run.  Piper took the timeout with the score 63-54 with 4:35 remaining in the game.  At this moment I thought Bonner Springs had this one in the bag.  I was about to write a book praising Thomas’ break out game slicing and dicing the Piper Pirates.  He was magnificent from behind the arch and finished around the rim like a magician.  He is only a sophomore and had just dismantled the 14-2 Piper Pirates despite their best come back efforts, is what I was thinking in that moment.

Jalen Taylor (Piper)
I don’t know if it was adrenaline or just getting caught in the moment but there is no nice way to say it.  Bonner Springs played like they were trailing by 9 for the last 4:35.  Obviously Piper came out of the time out desperate as can be and ready to pick up full court.  As easy as it was for Thomas and other Braves to dribble right through the press they for some reason turned the game into a track meet.  Not once in the final stretch did Bonner Springs break the press and run some form of clock draining offense forcing Piper to foul.  Time after time Piper sped them up and they took quick open 3’s or drove to the rim for a difficult layup attempts.  Piper took full advantage.  Doc Covington was in paradise in this type of game.  Taylor cleaned the glass and started the fast breaks. Hell there was one possession that 3 Pirates were still at half court when Bonner shot the ball.  To really drive home this point we were well under 2:00 minutes before Bonner was in the bonus.

With 12.2 remaining Piper had worked the lead down to 72-68 Piper was in desperation mode and Bonner was shooting either their second FT or a front end of a 1 and 1.  JJ Letcher who played his guts out in that 4th quarter.  During the madness that was the 4th quarter he made a steal and dive for the ball along the sideline which was superior hustle.  He was struggling from behind the arch and you could have made a case for putting in a shooter at that moment.  Bonner missed the front end of a 1 and 1.  Taylor cleared the rebound and hit Letcher with an outlet pass.  Weaving his way down the floor he shoots what could best be described as a 3 point layup.  I am quoting anyone that has played organized basketball that was sitting in the gym as he let that shot go.  “What the hell?” Regardless of how it looked he banked in the 3 to get Piper to with in 1 with 4.7 remaining.  Perhaps he was practicing?

Piper was not getting any relief on the clock work.  I don’t know if Coach Shelley was late calling the timeout but seconds came off after Letcher’s shot.  Based on the improbability of the shot going in it is likely he was a little slow to respond to the situation.  In that second though players need to show a bit of IQ and situation.  Bonner should have been 10 feet or more from the ball letting the clock run.  I am sure that wasn’t a consideration but the next team I see execute this scenario properly will be the first.

Jordan Goodpaster (Piper)

RULE: If you are leading with under 30 seconds in the game and a shot is made stay away from the ball and let the clock run.  I would go so far as to make the ref hand my player the ball. 

I won’t harp too much because Coach Shelley called the timeout.  Bonner inbounds and Piper fouls immediately.  That process which should have been instant took the clock to 2.9 remaining.  I believe it was Cole Oakes at the line for 2, needing both to take a 3 point lead.  He missed the first.  Here is where I am a bit of a disadvantage.  I don’t know if Piper had a timeout remaining but I would considered missing the second shot.  Getting a rebound and outlet would be a lot harder than a good outlet from out of bounds.  Oakes was good on the second and Taylor took the ball out with Piper trailing 72-70. 

One note on any of the strategy talk from me is that hind sight is always 20/20.

2.9 and Piper with their 7th attempt at taking their first lead of the game.  Sometimes it is better to just watch what happened.

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