The Thayer Bobcats and Lady Bobcats opened Class 2 District 9 play with a couple of very different objectives on their minds.
The Bobcats were looking to reclaim the district title they lost to Alton last year, while the Lady Cats had their eyes on a fourth consecutive district crown.
If the opening round of the tourney at Thayer High School Feb. 26 was any indication how things will fall, both goals look to be on track for the Cats and Lady Bobcats.
Tipping off the tourney with a close 49-43 win over fifth-seeded Koshkonong, the Lady Bobcats, the number four seed, got a win against a highly-competitive opponent under their belts, while the top-seeded team on the boys' side, the Bobcats, had little trouble with eighth-seeded Koshkonong in a 77-52 win.
When the post season rolls around, points are always at a premium.
This goes double for points from the charity stripe.
Thayer used some big free throws from LaShanda Horton late to stave off the upset-minded Lady Bluejays of Koshkonong.
Horton hit five-of-six free throws in the last minute of the game as the Lady Cats prevailed by six points over Koshkonong. For the game, Horton paced Thayer with 21 points.
With a 25-17 lead at the halftime break, it appeared that the Lady Bobcats (15-10) would have little trouble in the second half of play.
The Lady Jays (14-10) however, specifically Katy Roark, had other ideas.
Roark led a Koshkonong charge in the third period by sinking three treys, part of her team-high 21 points on the night.
After Roark's second 3-ball of the frame ate into Thayer's lead, drawing Koshkonong within five, 31-26, at the 1:54 mark, Brittany Allen (eight points) answered with a big triple of her own for the Lady Cats.
Not finished, Roark jacked another trey and Ashley Holesapple stuck back a miss at the 38-second mark to keep the Lady Bluejays close, down 34-31 after three. Holesapple had a huge night on the baseline for Koshkonong, tossing in 13 points to give the Lady Jays an inside presence.
Holesapple connected on the first hoop of the fourth period, a bucket that drew her squad within a single point, 34-33, the closest Koshkonong had been to the lead all game long.
But just as soon as the Lady Jays got close enough to swipe the lead, Thayer just as quickly upped the ante.
Valerie Dixon (eight points) hit a jumper and Horton drained a huge 3-ball that pushed the Lady Cats in front 39-34 at the 5:56 mark.
Not content with just a five-point advantage, Allen and Horton padded Thayer's lead to 43-34 with back-to-back hoops.
This margin allowed the Lady Bobcats to spread the floor and run time off the clock. With Horton icing the game with some big free throws in the waning moments, the Lady Bobcats survived a late run from Koshkonong to advance in the tourney.
The Lady Bobcats started the contest off strong by closing the first period with six unanswered points to lead 12-8 after one, a lead they would hold for the duration of the night.
Tasha Wrenfrow and Heather Coffel posted four points each for Thayer, while Krysta Adams and Tiffany Poulette finished with two points apiece.
Kendra Hall tallied four for Koshkonong, with Ashley Harris adding three. Johna Wade and Amanda Stuart logged one point each for the Lady Bluejays.
In boys' action, Koshkonong's bid for an upset of the fourth-ranked team in Class 2 hoops was not helped by a couple of player defections last week.
As it was, the already-thin Bluejay (13-13) squad battled hard, but the Bobcats (23-2) just were loaded with too much firepower for Koshkonong.
The nets did take a bit of a beating on the night, as both teams combined for 14 3-pointers for the game, seven apiece.
Aaron Henry (16 points) started the 3-point barrage by jacking the first of his five for the contest to open the evening's festivities for the Bobcats.
Josh Wemlinger was feeling every bit as festive as Henry, and he spiced up the first period with a pair of dunks, the second of which was a two-hand-behind-the-head-number. Wemlinger paced Thayer with a game-high 24 points.
Tyler Roark fought back by posting four points in the first for Koshkonong, but his squad was in a 17-6 hole after one. Roark led Koshkonong's effort with a team-high 15 points.
Layne Hawkins (eight points) drilled a pair of triples for Thayer in the second, and Andrew Eckman (11 points) added six points in the frame from the low blocks.
The Bluejays found the hoop just four times in the second, twice from Shane Waggoner (14 points), once from Roark and once from Ryan Ball (eight points). This output left Koshkonong in a 40-15 ditch at the half.
By contrast to the first two periods of play, the third period was alive with offense, as Thayer posted 26 points in the frame, while Koshkonong countered with 27, as both teams sprinted up and down the court full-bore.
Despite the Bluejays' one-point advantage in the third, they were still looking at a 66-42 deficit heading into the fourth period.
Brett Ward (10 points) fired in the first three points of the final frame for Thayer, and the Bobcats cruised to a 25-point victory over Koshkonong.
M.J. Clark added four points for Thayer, while John Tollenaar and Dustin Gaines tallied two points each.
Lucas England logged four points for Koshkonong, while Nathan Evans, Greg Spoor and Joe Carney finished with three points apiece. Seth Johnson posted two points for the Bluejays.