The gym was rocking and rolling Monday night at Fort Osage High School, where hundreds of elementary school, Fort Osage Youth League and middle school basketball players were cheering for the Indians as they got off to a 10-1 lead against visiting Ruskin in a Suburban Middle Six matchup.
“How about this for an atmosphere?” asked Fort Osage activities director Ryan Schartz, as the standing-room-only crowd seemed to pump new life into an Indians team that has struggled this season, winning just two games.
“You’re looking at the future of Indians boys and girls basketball – you can tell how special it’s going to be for these kids to play for the boys and girls teams at the high school level.”
Once Ruskin established the game’s tempo, and found a way to stop the Indians dominance in the paint, the Lady Eagles claimed a 62-55 win.
But that didn’t stop all the youngsters from flooding the court after the game as coach Lindsay Thompson handed out photos of her team for the future Indians to get signed.
“There are things that are bigger than the game itself, and tonight is one of those instances,” said Thompson, a Fort Osage graduate who believes better days lie ahead for her team. “I think tonight, by looking in the stands and seeing how excited all these young kids are about wearing a Fort Osage uniform someday, our girls realized how special it is to be a member of our team.
“We’ve struggled this year, and we really wanted to give everyone a victory tonight, but it’s still special to wear this uniform. Just ask all the youth league and middle school players. They can’t wait to get to the high school.”
With the Eagles plagued by early turnovers, the methodical Indians were able to get the ball down court and find sophomore forward Hailey Chase alone under the basket.
She scored 12 of her team-high 27 points in the first quarter and the Indians took a 20-15 lead into the second quarter.
That’s when the Eagles found their offensive rhythm and ran off to an 8-0 start, taking a 23-20 lead they never relinquished.
“We didn’t lose the game at the end, we lost it at the beginning of the second quarter when we couldn’t stop that 8-0 run,” Thompson said. “But we did a lot of good things tonight. When we played our game, we were pretty successful.”
Chase said she could feel the tempo of the game and Ruskin’s defensive scheme change in the second period.
“I was pretty much wide open the first quarter,” Chase said, “but they went to a zone, and a kind of box-and-one defense where there was always someone right there with me.”
The Eagles led 35-30 at halftime and 45-41 going into the final period.
Fort Osage (2-15, 0-5 Middle Six) cut the deficit to 52-51 at 2:17 on a Camryn Miller layup, but could inch no closer.
Tamara McCray, who hit nine free throws in the final quarter, led the Eagles with 27 points.