Mustangs upend Wildcats in first round

By JOCELYN SHEETS
Register Sports Editor

Register/Jocelyn Sheets
Driving to the basket is Iola High’s Michael Middleton, who led the Mustangs to a 63-58 first-round win Tuesday at the Burlington High Invitational. Middleton scored 22 points as Iola upended host Burlington.

BURLINGTON — Not in four previous Burlington High Invitationals had Iola High’s Mustangs posted a first-round victory.
And Tuesday, the seventh-seeded Mustangs had to face the host team, Burlington High’s Wildcats, in the opening round. The Wildcats (7-2) were the second seed in the 17th annual Burlington Invitational.
It appeared early that the Wildcats would pocket an easy first-round win. They led 20-9 at the 5:23 mark of the second quarter.
Something funny happened on the way to that Wildcat victory. The Mustangs reared up and went on a 15-3 run to lead 24-23 at halftime.
Then it was katy-bar-the-door time.
The Mustangs and Wildcats had a back-and-forth second half. Iola prevailed 63-58. There were two ties and seven lead changes in the second half alone.
Iola got the lead for good on a basket by Kent Toland with 4:47 left to play. Michael Middleton sank 8 of 9 free throws in the last four and a half minutes to keep Iola in front.
Middleton, who was 11 of 13 at the free-throw line on the night, hit both ends of a one-and-one to boost Iola to a 53-49 lead. Middleton had a game-high 22 points.
Seth Walden’s basket at the 3:55 mark made it 55-51. The Wildcats stayed right with the Mustangs as Blake Thomsen came off the bench to nail his second three-pointer of the night.
Iola was protecting a one-point lead. The Mustang defense fended off the Wildcats three times before Middleton downed two more free throws.
Iola pulled a defensive rebound and Seth Walden was fouled. Walden, who ended up with 17 points, dropped in two charities.
The Mustangs led 59-54 with 39 seconds left. Patrick Mahoney hit a three for the Wildcats.
Middleton sank four free throws in the final 19 seconds to seal the win. Burlington missed on several three-point tries in that stretch.
“This was a big win for our guys. We came out real flat in the first quarter but we started to get into the flow of our game. Burlington started coming back to us,” said Steve Taylor, Mustang head coach.
“Our guys didn’t let up tonight. They worked through things and we started getting the momentum in the second quarter.”
Now with its first opening-round win since coming into the tournament in 2006, Iola advances to the semifinals Friday night. The Mustangs (4-5) play fourth-ranked Class 4A Topeka-Hayden High’s Wildcats at 8:15 p.m. in the BHS gym.
Hayden decked Labette County 74-49 Tuesday. Top-seeded Rossville beat Paola 47-39 and Santa Fe Trail defeated Sabetha 49-41.
Win or lose Friday and Saturday, the Mustangs are on their way to their best finish in the Burlington tournament. they were fifth in 2007, sixth in 2006, seventh in 2008 and eighth in 2009.
If Iola wins Friday, the Mustangs play in the championship game at 4:45 p.m. Saturday in the BHS gym. If the Mustangs lose, they play for third place at 1:35 at the high school.
“We got contributions from every body tonight. Our bench players provided us with good quality minutes,” Taylor said.
“They stepped up whenever we were in trouble — fouls, getting tired or just making bad decisions.”
Taylor is talking of Chris Heffern, Christian Kauth, Drew Walden, Clint Heffern and Corey Taylor.
Seth Walden touched off the comeback with a field goal. Toland scored then Alec Peterson dropped in two free throws.
Middleton and Seth Walden each drained three three-pointers in the game. Middleton’s second one of the night came with 2:23 on the clock, making it 20-18.
Thomsen answered with a trey for the Wildcats. But guess what — Clint Heffern drilled a trey from up top of the arc for Iola.
Middleton’s two free throws tied the game, 23-23, with 1:20 to play in the second quarter. His free throw with 1.5 seconds put Iola up 24-23 at intermission.
Burlington’s Mackenzie Redding seemed determined to get the Wildcats back in charge in the third quarter. He had three points to put the Cats on top 26-25.
Seth Walden buried a trey but so did Redding. Burlington gained a 33-28 lead before Seth Walden hit another three.
Down 37-33, Peterson and Toland had back-to-back baskets to tie the game. Thomsen sank free throws to extend Burlington’s lead to 40-37.
Drew Walden stole the basketball and made a pass to Clint Heffern. Heffern’s layup beat the buzzer and it was 43-41 Burlington heading to the final eight minutes.
Iola dropped back to 45-41 when Seth Walden connected from long range again. Down two, Middleton fired in a three to get Iola back on top, 47-46, at the 6:01 mark.
The lead changed twice and Zak Martin hit one of two free throws to tie the game at 49-49. Iola took it from there.
Iola cashed in on 15 of 17 free throw attempts to Burlington’s 17 of 29. The Mustangs shot 41 percent, 19 of 46, from the field.
Iola (9-15-17-22—63) (FG/3-pt): Cl. Heffern 1/1-0-2-5, Ch. Heffern 0-0-2-0, Toland 3-0-3-6, Kauth 0-0-1-0, D. Walden 2-0-3-4, S. Walden 3/3-2-1-17, Apt 0-0-4-0, Middleton 1/3-11-2-22, Peterson 2-3-4-7. TOTALS: 12/7-15-22-63.
Burlington (17-6-20-15—58) (FG/3-pt): Reznicek 0-0-1-0, Martin 2-4-2-8, Sutherland 0-0-3-0, Mahoney 2/2-3-4-13, Bluma 1-0-3-2, Boyce 1-3-1-5, Owens 1-1-2-3, Redding 6/1-3-1-18, Thomsen 0/2-3-3-9. TOTALS: 13/5-17-20-58.