LIPAN – Tolar boys basketball coach Kent Caruthers entered Tuesday’s basketball season opener at rival Lipan with mostly junior varsity players because most of his starters are still playing football.
And while the Rattlers did end up losing 53-34, Caruthers had praise for his team that simply couldn’t hang with the more-experienced Indians in the second half.
“They competed well in the first half. We were outnumbered and got tired, and we started getting beat downcourt,” said Caruthers.
“But these guys need the experience. The best way to get in basketball shape is to play a basketball game.
“This will help us. There’s three or four guys on my bench who might play varsity.”
Riley Osterman was the only Tolar player coming into Tuesday with varsity experience. He led the Rattlers with 13 points and nine rebounds.
Lipan (2-1) was led by Derrick Cook with 14 points and 15 rebounds (including nine offensive), while Joel Rice scored a dozen points with six boards.
The Indians used a 17-2 run in the third quarter to overcome a 19-13 halftime deficit. Rice had seven points in the run that put Lipan up 32-23.
“For two quarters we played absolutely terrible, and for two we played good,” said Lipan coach Cody Chandler.
The Indians also took their game inside more. In the first half Lipan was 0-for-15 from 3-point range. In the second half they only attempted five shots from 3-point range and made three.
“We came out in the second half and found some of their holes,” said Chandler. “Instead of perimeter shooting, we went inside.
“We also started rebounding, especially offensively.”
Lipan had 14 offensive rebounds in the second half and 17 for the game. Overall, they outrebounded the Rattlers 46-36, with Tolar grabbing 13 offensive boards.
Tolar led 14-5 early in the second quarter, and Lipan got no closer than five points before halftime. Chandler credited Tolar for coming prepared for the challenge, adding that his own team might have underestimated the Rattlers’ enthusiasm despite the difference in experience.
“I think our kids knew that and expected it to be a cake walk, but Tolar was ready,” said Chandler. “Kent does a fantastic job over there. It seems every season he starts with a lot of guys still playing football, and yet he always pulls it together and they make the playoffs.
“If you’re not ready, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing, you can get yourself in trouble, and we saw that in the first half tonight. We have to do things together as a team, and in the second half we had that.”
The Indians actually had more turnovers (22) than did the Rattlers (20), but the majority of Lipan’s mistakes came in the first half, whereas they forced the Rattlers into numerous miscues in the third and fourth quarters.
Tolar’s final push, a 7-3 run, pulled the Rattlers to 35-30 early in the fourth periiod. However, the Indians then ended the game with an 18-4 run as Cook scored 10 points.
“The speed is a lot faster on the varsity, and our guys need to get used to that,” said Caruthers. “We’ll benefit from this.”
The teams once competed for district championships, but have not been in the same league for years and are no longer in the same classification. However, both coaches say they want to see the rivalry continue.
“I don’t think it will ever go away,” said Caruthers.
“There’s not that many teams that close that can give you competitive games on a regular basis,” said Chandler. “And it is still fun.”
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Tolar 12 7 9 6 – 34
Lipan 5 8 22 18 – 53
Tolar (0-1) scoring – Riley Osterman 13, Tristin Phillips 8, Devin Hodges 5, Cade Brown 4, Darrell Boatman 2, Kaleb Weatherford 2.
Lipan (2-1) scoring – Derrick Cook 14, Joel Rice 12, Trevor Hedeman 8, Joey McFadden 8, Lance Ferguson 5, Brady Nelson 3, Hunter Hightower 3.
3-pointers – Tolar: Hodges 1. Lipan: Ferguson 1, Hedeman 1, Hightower 1.
Rebound leaders – Tolar: Osterman 9. Lipan: Cook 15 Ferguson 7, Rice 6.
Assist leaders – Lipan: Hedeman 7, McFadden 3, Ferguson 3.
Steal leaders – Lipan: Nelson 4, McFadden 3.
2-point FG – Tolar 15-40 (38 percent). Lipan 20-43 (47 percent).
3-point FG – Tolar 1-16 (6 percent). Lipan 3-20 (15 percent).
Free throws – Tolar 1-2 (50 percent). Lipan 4-10 (40 percent).
Rebounds – Tolar 36 (13 offensive). Lipan 46 (17 offensive).
Turnovers – Tolar 20. Lipan 22.
Records – Tolar 0-1. Lipan 2-1.