Story by Bobby Nightengale, courtesy The Lawrence Journal-World
It has been 17 years since Eudora High’s boys basketball team last played in the state tournament.
That will change when the Cardinals face Holton at 4:45 p.m. Thursday in the Class 4A-Divison II state quarterfinals at Hartman Arena in Park City.
Eudora (17-5, ranked No. 3 in 4A-DII by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association) punched its ticket with two sub-state victories over Kansas City Ward and Osawatomie. The players celebrated afterward with members of Eudora’s 1997 state tournament team at a coach’s house and at Pizza Shuttle in Lawrence.
“Last week the home crowd was really good; our student body was really, really good,” Eudora coach Kyle Deterding said. “It was a lot of fun. The kids enjoyed it and played hard. It was a good time. Hopefully they’re having fun now and starting to get ready to get focused in on what’s going ahead.”
The Cardinals battled injuries at the beginning of the season and lost their first two games of the year. Senior point guard Andrew Ballock missed the first six games as he recovered from a fractured ankle.
“Finally we’re just jelling together,” Ballock said. “We all play well together. We all want to contribute.”
Freshman Mitchell Ballock, sophomore Austin Downing and Andrew Ballock have combined for 70 percent of Eudora’s points this year. Mitchell Ballock averages more than 21 points per game while Downing contributes 13.
However, there are plenty of role players who get less recognition but have helped the Cardinals win 12 of their past 13 games.
“(Zach Scroggin) is kind of undersized but we always make him go guard their biggest, best, dirtiest guy,” Deterding said. “He’s the guy, so he takes on all of the challenges. It’s really tough sometimes because everybody he plays is bigger and stronger and weighs more than him, and he has to go in and battle with those guys night in and night out, and he does a good job.”
Downing added: “(Senior Skyler Shockley) brings a lot of energy. He plays defense. (Zhade Wray) and Zach, they get a lot of rebounds in some games. If they’re not rebounding, they’re getting me the ball to score or something. It’s not just us three who score; they score, too. They help the team out a lot.”
Holton (17-5, ranked No. 4) has won 10 of its last 11 games. After a 64-61 overtime loss to Paola on Feb. 13, the Cardinals have won their last six games by an average of 22 points, but nobody is overlooking any future opponent.
The Eudora Boys Basketball team celebrates their sub-state championship following a win against Osawatomie. Pictured left to right – Laken Straub, Trey Byrne, Griggin Katzenmeier, Andrew Ballock, Austin Wellman, Zach Scroggin, Skyler Shockley, Mason Fawcett. Back row not seen – Mitchell Ballock, Austin Downing, Grant Elston, Zhade Wray (photo by Eudorareporter.com photojournalist Julie Stewart)
“We can’t just think we’re going to blow every team out,” Downing said. “Obviously, they are going to state for a reason. They’re obviously good. When we get down there, we’ve got to just be ready to take on any team that comes. We just have to play our game and hope we come out with the ‘W’ every time.”
Eudora took fourth place at state in 1997, losing by 13 points in the semifinals to Medicine Lodge. With the city’s support over the weekend, this year’s Cardinals are hoping to make their fans proud.
“It was pretty cool. The crowd was supporting us and the student section was crazy,” Andrew Ballock said. “It was nice to get a couple of good wins going into state. Hopefully we’ve got three more in us.”