Lebo didn’t have a lot to fix during Christmas break. After all, the Wolves were off to a semi-surprise 5-1 start.
On Tuesday night in the first game out of the break, Lebo showed that start was no fluke, but just the beginnings of what could be a great season. After a slow start, Lebo put on a clinic and was able to clear its bench in the final minutes of a 56-33 win over Madison.
“That was kind of a luxury we were excited about,” coach Doug Piper said. “I figured it would be a really tough ballgame. We played them early first game of the season and got up on them a little bit, but I figured this would be a little bit closer and our kids played really well, maybe one of the better games we played all year.”
As Piper kept talking after the game, that “maybe” turned into a definitive declaration that Tuesday night was the best his team had played all season.
The Wolves shook off their slow start — Madison led 7-6 at the end of the first quarter — by picking it up on defense. Lebo forced six turnovers in the second quarter and also was more aggressive offensively taking the ball to the basket.
Lebo got to the free throw line seven times in the second quarter, making six. Senior big man Brent Gould sparked the Wolves’ run in the second quarter, scoring eight points with two and-one baskets and another pair of free throws.
Lebo led 24-16 at half thanks to Gould, who finished with 14 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
“Our big kids played really well tonight, particularly Brent Gould,” Piper said. “Again, I keep saying it was the best game of the year, but it probably was because he rebounded well and took the ball to the hole hard. When he didn’t have it, he kicked it out and he did a good job of doing whatever was within his game.”
If the second quarter was as good as the Wolves have been defensively, the second half was as good as they’ve been offensively. Lebo was able to spread the floor and used ball movement — they had seven assists in the second half — and Calvin Perry’s slashing to tear up Madison’s defense.
Madison got within six at the beginning of the fourth quarter on a Reece Childers basket, and Lebo responded with a 20-3 run to finish the game.
Seldom-used senior Kyle Spielman even got to get in on the action, hitting a jumper that brought the loudest cheers of the night and excited Lebo’s starters on the bench.
“It’s always great when you clear the bench,” Gould said. “It’s good to get other people in. I didn’t expect it. I thought they probably had gotten better, but obviously we have too.”
Madison is just 3-4 but did lose two games before Christmas in the final seconds, including a loss to undefeated Olpe, the only team to beat Lebo. Lebo improved to 6-1.
“I was much more pleased with tonight’s effort than the last game before Christmas,” Piper said. “We played with more intensity, and that’s something we did a better job of throughout our Christmas practices.”
Tuesday at Lebo
Madison 7 9 12 5 — 33
Lebo 6 18 12 20 — 56
Madison (3-4) — Ko. Schankie 3, Ka. Schankie 5, Childers 11, Ott 7, Thomsen 4, Barnard 1, Smith 2.
Lebo (6-1) — Gould 12, Johnston 2, Perry 16, Spielman 2, Barker 4, White 12, Linsey 8.
Madison girls 56, Lebo 43
Madison added some new wrinkles and what coach Glen Stout called “a little swagger” to its offense during Christmas break, but it was Old Reliable that made the difference Tuesday night at Lebo.
Old Reliable, of course, would be the Bulldogs’ three most experienced players, seniors Morgan Stout, Shelby Buster and Chelcie Schankie. The threesome combined to score 45 and controlled the game in nearly every facet.
“It’s kind of nice when we have five of them scoring, but it’s also nice when you have three pretty consistent girls too,” Glen Stout said.
Morgan Stout and Buster provided most of the offense in the first quarter, with both knocking in 3-pointers and scoring the first 14 points of the game. Schankie ended the quarter with a layup to put Madison up 16-7.
Schankie added to the lead in the second quarter, knocking in two 3-pointers. Morgan Thomsen buried back-to-back 3-pointers to finish the half and give Madison a comfortable 29-15 lead.
Madison played a sloppy third quarter and allowed Lebo to nearly get back in the game, cutting the lead to 12 at the end of the third. That continued to start the fourth, when the Wolves got within 10 points.
That’s when the coach went to his daughter and most reliable ballhandler to finish off the game. Stout ate time off the clock dribbling near the halfcourt line, and the Bulldogs went to Buster in the middle of the defense once the Wolves started to pressure. Buster found teammates for open layups and put the game away.
“That was nice, and it’s actually the first time we did it, and we ran it pretty good, too,” Stout said. “I told them we need to quit dribbling the ball quite so much and find the open girl before the defense gets there.”
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