After winning just 10 games in the past two seasons combined, Fort Osage boys basketball coach Josh Wilson said it was time for a change.
This season, he’s had his Indians take a more defensive-minded approach. So far it’s worked. That was apparent in the third quarter of Friday’s non-conference game at Van Horn when Fort Osage held the Falcons to just four points. That eight-minute stretch allowed the Indians to pull away and claim a 69-56 victory and improve to 3-0.
“It feels good,” junior forward Xavier Kahube said of the Indians’ strong start. “We’re rolling so far. We just need to get as many wins as possible.”
Fort Osage led 33-29 going into halftime and played more aggressive defense coming out of the lock room, holding the Falcons (2-4) to 2 of 14 shooting from the field. Indians senior Jared Larson hit a three early in the quarter to put his team up 36-29. Van Horn sophomore Jaden Monday later responded with a rebound and a coast-to-coast layup to cut the lead to five. From there, Fort Osage went on a 15-2 run to take control. It took advantage of its size advantage over a much smaller Van Horn squad.
The Falcons had four to five guards on the floor at all times, and players like Kahube (6-foot-6),Tristan Turner (6-foot-4) and Ty Baker (6-foot-3) were able to take advantage. Ten of Fort’s final 15 points in the period came in the paint, and Kahube lead the charge with five third-quarter points. Baker capped the scoring in the quarter when he received a lob pass from guard Miles Dunfield and finished over a Van Horn guard down low.
“We played like we had been playing the last two games,” Fort Osage coach Josh Wilson said. “We lock you down on one side and we get layups on the other side of the floor. That’s our strength.
“I told the guys at halftime to get their hands up and help more because (Van Horn) is very athletic. We walked about getting to our help quicker. We did that in the second half and forced them into some quick shots and bad shots.”
The Indians went into the fourth ahead 51-33, but the Falcons began the quarter with back-to-back threes from senior guard Xavier Marrero and Joshua Anzaldo to quickly cut Fort’s advantage to 51-39. However, the Indians went on a 9-3 spurt capped by Baker’s conventional 3-point play to make it 60-42. That gave the Indians enough cushion to withstand any Falcons run.
“I thought our pressure and our tempo was good,” Van Horn coach Max Sollars said. “When shots don’t fall in the third quarter, it’s hard to win. We had three possessions in a row where we shot a no pass or one pass jump shot. We’re 0-for-3 in about 45 seconds. I think morale started to dip at that point.
“We have to get better at overcoming adversity and coming back to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Recently, Fort Osage got a boost when Baker returned for Tuesday’s game against Liberty. He just finished his football season as a quarterback last Saturday after playing in the Class 5 state championship game. Friday, he chipped in with seven points, seven rebounds and three assists of the bench.
Baker admitted that it’s been a little difficult getting back on the hardwood.
“It definitely felt a little odd,” Baker said. “The practices are a little different. There’s a lot more running. It was a long season of football and I am just getting back into basketball.”
Added Kahube: “The last week (Baker has had) noodle legs. He’s just now getting into it. But it’s good to have him back.”
Dunfield led all scorers with 21 points and Kahube also was in double digits with 18 along with senior guard Jared Larson with 11.
“He came off the bench again, and he’s playing with a lot of confidence,” Wilson said of Dunfield. “He can defend, he can handle the ball and can score. He’s an up and coming kid.”
Although his team lost, Sollars took away some positives.
“We would rebound the ball and then push the ball up the floor really well,” Sollars said. “Xavier Marrero and Jaden Monday were really good in transition.”
Marrero led the Falcons with 16 points, followed by Monday with 12 and Chase Quinn with 10.