Lionel Tipton Special for Butler County Times Gazette USA TODAY NETWORK
Boys Circle 79, Winfield 41
TOWANDA – A lot – pretty much everything – went well for the Circle boys on Tuesday night.
The Thunderbirds made 13 three-pointers, took a 23-6 lead after one quarter and easily passed a winless Winfield team, 79-41.
“We played very well,” said T-Birds coach Bo Horyna. “We just didn’t give them the chance to get started.
“We shot the ball very well (Tuesday night). It’s as if I said to the guys: when you see the ball go in, confidence increases for everyone.
Leading the three-point shoot-off were Circle’s usual suspects – seniors Luke McGinnis and DJ Middleton (four each) and junior Trevor Cowman (two). But three reserves also hit a three-pointer – senior Daniel Webb, second Conner Chadwell and rookie Keaton Koenigsman.
The abundance of three surprised McGinnis.
“Truly?” he said. “Wow! I didn’t know it was that much. I knew we had some great shots, but I didn’t know it was that much.
Getting the contributions from his reserves also pleased Horyna.
“I think they came and did a good job for us,” he said. “As I told them, I said, ‘You work hard every day in training to make us better; this is your chance to get out there and show what you can do.
“And I think they did a good job in the fourth quarter.”
McGinnis’ three points helped him to a game-high 21 points. Cowman and Middleton had 12 apiece, and junior Ty Smith did his damage inside the arc, finishing with 11.
“When you have an off shooter as a DJ, you’re going to get it every night. I don’t think he even missed a ‘three’,” McGinnis said.
The game quickly spiraled out of control, as Circle (5-3) took a 46-19 halftime lead and extended it to 72-32 after three quarters in a game that was timed to mitigate the damage. Winfield (0-8) was also understaffed, with just nine players.
“We played the last two games well,” said Horyna. “I think our focus has been better; it’s something we talked about. We have to be focused and ready to go from the start. We can’t go out and let the other team get ahead and then try to catch up.
For all the excitement and elation the T-Birds felt, a harsh, cold reality awaited just around the corner.
Circle will travel to face eighth-seeded McPherson (5-3) on Friday night. The Bullpups dispatched Augusta, 71-56, Tuesday night at home.
“Our guys know Friday will be a battle,” Horyna said. “It will be a battle over every possession – attack, defense, the whole nine yards.
“It will definitely be a good mid-season test to see where we are. I can not wait to be there.
Both lost to third-placed Buhler (Class 4A) this season. But McPherson’s only other losses have been to Dodge City (No. 5 in 6A) and Andover (No. 1 in 5A).
“We just need to see where we are as a team and then we can go from there,” Horyna said. “Then we have our mid-season tournament (at Chaparral) next week, so hopefully that will be a springboard for the next few (games).”
In the Chaparral tournament, the field includes Arkansas City, which beat the T-Birds in December, as well as Clearwater, Conway Springs, Mulvane, Wellington, Belle Plaine in addition to hosting Chaparral.
Keeping up with McPherson with the fast pace of games in a tournament is something McGinnis knows will be a challenge, but he said he felt the T-Birds were up for it.
“There are a lot of games in a short time, but I think everything will be fine,” he said. But for now, it was time to enjoy and savor Tuesday’s triumph.
“Everyone contributed,” McGinnis said. “I hated going out early, but young people have to be given time.
“We said to ourselves in the locker room that we wanted to start strong and finish early. End the game as soon as possible and don’t just wait and keep (Winfield) in the game and give them hope.
McGinnis said the team could benefit from Tuesday’s win.
“It gives us momentum, it gives us confidence for the (Friday) game,” he said. “We will use (Tuesday’s win) the rest of this week.”
Boys Circle 79, Winfield 41
Winfield-Moore 9, Yingling 9, McCauley 8, Acosta 7, Stanley 6, Thiel 2.
Circle – McGinnis 21, Cowman 12, Middleton 12, Smith 11, Koenigsman 9, Chadwell 8, Webb 5, Galloway 1.
Girls Circle 40, Winfield 34
TOWANDA — Circle sophomore Kya Thornton provided the best illustration of the importance of free throw practice.
Thornton hit eight of 11 from the foul line — including six of eight in the fourth quarter — and the Thunderbirds cruised to a 40-34 victory Tuesday night over visiting Winfield — Circle’s fifth straight win.
Thornton led Circle in scoring for the third game in a row, and his free throws were part of a 17-point final period that saw the T-Birds walk away after Winfield moved closer to 24-20 after three quarters .
“Kya played very well for us (Tuesday night),” Cercle coach Brian Henry said. “She came into contact with the free throws towards the end.”
Fellow sophomore Mia Fox and senior Adie White (eight points each) accounted for all but 11 of Circle’s total points.
Thornton said she works on her free throws every day, including a little extra time after practice is over.
“After practice, I’ll stay and just shoot free throws, shoot threes, work on my game,” she said.
Playing her sophomore year in college — in addition to being part of Circle’s highly successful women’s soccer team in the spring — Thornton said she was starting to understand how to handle certain situations.
“It’s hard to keep control of everybody when it’s a tight game (and) nerves are on edge,” she said. “I’m just doing my best to calm everyone down, keep it level, not get too aggressive.”
Circle (6-2) took an 11-5 lead after one quarter, buoyed by three points from White, Thornton and junior Katie Coble. But the Vikings (4-4) stayed close thanks to Circle turnovers in the second and third quarters. In the third period, Winfield outscored Circle 9-4 and tightened the game considerably.
But with Circle in the bonus and the Vikings needing to foul for a chance to make up for it, T-Bird rookie Emma Johnson hit two after missing her first two downs; Coble and senior Erin Johnson each hit one of the two.
Winfield posed game problems inside with 6-foot-2 sophomore Aleah Moree and Nevaeh Green 6-1 senior. But Moree was held to 10 points and Green failed to score.
“We knew Moree was a terrific athlete,” Henry said. “We had to do a good job of concentration as a team to contain her. We did a good job as a team, I think, making her work for everything.
Revenues — especially those in the second and third quarters — are concerning, Henry said.
“We just have to improve to take care of the basketball and handle the pressure a little better,” he said. “We gave them opportunities that we really shouldn’t have by not dealing with basketball.
“But overall our girls played with a lot of heart and determination.”
However, as satisfying as this victory is, the T-Birds will only have a few days to enjoy it and make the necessary adjustments before traveling to face McPherson (5-2), who is surprisingly unranked. The Bullpups’ only losses have been to Andover and Dodge City, and they are coming off a 47-21 win over Augusta.
“McPherson is still a talented team,” Henry said. “They’re a bit behind for a McPherson team, but they’re still tough in (Class) 4A.”
Thornton said: “We will definitely have to work, see what they do and do our best. Just play our game.
And, in a few weeks, the T-Birds will be competing in the Lady Cat Classic at El Dorado High.
“We absolutely have to prepare for the tournament,” Thornton said, noting that the nature of the tournament often requires quick turnarounds.
“Just play our game.”
Girls Circle 40, Winfield 34
Winfield – Moree 10, Curtis 8, Sparks 5, Shelton 3, McIntyre 3, Witcher 3, Malbec 2.
Circle – Thornton 13, Fox 8, White 8, Erin Johnson 5, Coble 4, Emma Johnson 2.