By Christopher Tenpenny
The Harrisonville Wildcats boys’ basketball team fell to Center on Dec. 17 in the semifinals of the Missouri River Valley Conference (MRVC) Tournament, 70-64 at Harrisonville. Both teams look to be early contenders in the MRVC and the game reflected the evenness of the two teams.
Center runs a full court press and with their length and size, it tends to give teams trouble. The Wildcats were no exception as they struggled to break the press early and committed turnovers.
“I was proud of our effort. We did a lot of good things tonight,” Head coach Jeff Langrehr said. “The problem with getting hit with the press early is you can talk about all you want, until you see it, it’s like telling someone how to hit a 95-mph fastball. We were a little shell shocked early and some of the turnovers early were what we came in trying to prevent.”
The Wildcats were able to calm down and started putting together quality possessions. Brooks Langrehr made a number of tough shots in the first half and finished with 20 points. It could have been more had Center not made it a point to slow him down.
“Brooks kept us in the game early,” Langrehr said. “He didn’t shoot it as well in the second half and that’s because they totally sold out in the second half. They weren’t helping on his side at all. They were almost playing a box and one.”
The Wildcats went into the half down 34-32.
With Brooks Langrehr being guarded heavily, the Wildcats needed to find another source of offense. Kennedy Atkinson stepped in and had a double-double for Harrisonville with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Atkinson also took two charges in the game.
“Kennedy is playing at a really high level,” Langrehr said. “He’s not quite averaging a double-double because he isn’t scoring enough, but he had a nice scoring game tonight. He finished up around the rim and cleared up some misses for us.”
Connor Blixt provided a spark with 10 points, including 2-3 from behind the three-point-line and Montgomery Schroeder came off the bench with four points, eight rebounds, and a charge.
Point guard Kobe Norris adjusted to the Center defense and impressed his coach.
“I thought Kobe Norris did a real nice job for us,” Langrehr said. “We put all pressure on him to break their press. He struggled a little early, but with Center’s quickness, they force you into mistakes. He did a real nice job of handling the pressure as the game went on.”
With the score tied 52-52 at the end of third quarter, it was still anyone’s game. Center’s press seemed to be the difference as they forced 19 turnovers. Center was able to make their free throws down the road and win 70-64.
The Wildcats were scheduled to play in the third-place game on Friday, but COVID-19 tracing cancelled the game. The Wildcats had played Oak Grove on Dec. 14 and days later, two Oak Grove came down with COVID-19. The Harrisonville boys’ team has now been forced to go into quarantine and can not play for 10 days.
This year has been unlike any other and Langrehr is frustrated he has a healthy team but cannot play any games. The Wildcats were scheduled to play one more game before Christmas break, Butler on Tuesday, but will now have to wait until Jan. 8 when they host Belton.