Buhler tops Circle boys

Lionel Tipton

TOWANDA – Entering Monday’s makeup boys basketball game, both Buhler and host Circle had just played three grueling days of tournament basketball.

Neither team’s players had much left in their tank, but the Crusaders had one very important weapon – senior guard Max Alexander.

Alexander, who transferred to Buhler this year from McPherson, scored 15 of his 23 points in the second half and helped the Crusaders (7-2) power past Circle 49-35. He hit the game’s first two baskets, but then only scored twice more before halftime.

But in the second half, he caught fire, scoring on lay-ins and floaters in the lane, keeping Circle (4-7) at arm’s length the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, Circle’s shots just wouldn’t go down.

Each team was coming off 2-1 tournament showings last weekend. Circle defeated Goddard and host Chaparral in that tournament while losing to second-ranked (Class 4A) Mulvane. Buhler played in the Salina South tournament, defeating Liberal and Wichita South and falling to No. 5 (Class 5A) Andover. 

Circle coach Bo Horyna said neither team’s legs were fresh, but Buhler just had more. 

“This is our fourth game in five days,” Horyna said. “(Buhler) is in the same boat we were. They played three back-to-back and had Sunday off; we played three back-to-back and had Sunday off.

“It was an ugly offensive game. If you were looking for a pretty offensive game, this was not it.”

Fatigued or not, Horyna said Buhler had higher-percentage shots.

“They got some easier buckets than we did,” he said. “Max is a good player. When he gets to the rim, he usually finishes or he gets fouled and gets to the free-throw line.”

Alexander was a significant difference, Horyna said. 

“He just had that extra gear, and you could tell,” he said. “Both teams were gassed. They normally hit more threes. I don’t know if they hit any threes (Monday night). If they did, maybe one (Buhler hit one all night). Normally, they make a lot more than that.”

Horyna said free throws, points in transition and offensive rebounds – and, of course, Alexander – tilted the game toward Buhler. 

“I don’t know how many times they shot an air ball, and it went right to their man,” Horyna said. “Those are hard to rebound. I’m sitting here telling our guys ‘Box out,’ and you box out, but you’re not expecting an air ball. It seems a lot of those air balls went right to them, and they went right back up, right in the perfect spot.”

So, now the Thunderbirds will get a chance to rest a bit before Friday’s game at home against Collegiate (7-2), whose only losses this season are to 10th-ranked Rose Hill and the Manhattan CHIEF homeschool team.

Buhler 49, Circle 35

Buhler 12;14;12;11 – 49

Circle 6;12;8;9 – 35

Buhler: Alexander 8 7-8 23, Voth 4 3-4 11, Scott 3 1-1 7, Keller 2 1-2 3, Ricker 0(1) 0-0 3, Hernandez 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 (1) 12-15 49.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Circle: Cowman 1(3) 2-2 13, Drew Middleton 2(1) 1-1 8, Galloway 4 0-0 8, McGinnis 1 0-0 2, Smith 1 0-0 2, Koehn 1 0-0 2. Totals 10(4) 3-3 35.