By Sam Jack
The Goddard Lions boys basketball team had some much-needed momentum going into last week after a pair of strong challenges versus higher-ranked teams. They succeeded in turning that momentum into their third and fourth wins for the season, beating Arkansas City at home on Feb. 22, 43-27, then beating Salina South at home on Feb. 24, 37-31.
The Arkansas City Bulldogs had scored 56 points in three straight games prior to facing the Lions, so Lions head coach Lee Baldwin was pleased at his team’s defensive work.
“In my opinion, it doesn’t matter who you play, if you hold them to 27, you’re doing a good job,” Baldwin said. “Offensively, it wasn’t an enjoyable game to watch; it was a struggle to score on both ends. But mid-way through the third quarter, we stretched the lead from about 8 to 12, and they started to try to pressure us. We did a good job of taking care of the ball and maintained a pretty comfortable lead all the way to the fourth quarter.”
It was the Goddard boys’ first home win since December of 2016, Baldwin said. The win also mathematically assured that the Lions would not fall into the bottom two in Class 5A’s west division, and therefore miss playing in a substate, but Baldwin didn’t go out of his way to inform his players of that fact, hoping to keep them motivated for the Salina South game two days later.
“I knew that on Thursday we had an opportunity to win another game. I was just telling our guys, ‘We really need to win this game,’” Baldwin said.
Versus Salina South, the Lions got off to a great start with 9 unanswered points. The Cougars, who finished the regular season with a 7-13 record, scored just 9 in the entire first half.
“In the third quarter, they got up, started to be more aggressive, and they actually tied the game midway through the fourth quarter,” Baldwin said.
With about a minute left and the game tied, Baldwin called a timeout and told his players to extend their 1-3-1 defense into more of a three-quarter-court press, which led to a couple of layups for the Lions.
“We made two big free throws in a one-and-one situation that iced the game,” Baldwin said. “In terms of the quality of opponents that we’ve beaten this year, that probably tops the list.”
The 15th-seed Lions played No. 2 Kapaun Mt. Carmel on Tuesday in the opening round of substate. The winner of that game will play either Valley Center or Salina Central on Friday.
Goddard: Jake Jasnoski 12, Seth Wilhelm 8, Mason Lubbers 8, Gabriel Villegas 5, Ryan Bay 2.