It was a case of so close but so far when the Dodge City High School boys took on the Liberal Redskins Thursday night. A last-second shot that would have tied the game and possibly sent it into overtime fell short, and the Demons took a heartbreaking loss to Liberal, 52-55.

The game didn't start that way.

The Demons were down at the half by seven or eight points, and at one time Liberal had a 13-point lead. Then the Demons found their range and got their defense working. They went on a 15-2 run to take a 48-46 lead late in the game, but Liberal took the lead back. The Demons had chance to tie but just missed.

Helping trigger the comeback and the run was John Johnson rejoining the team after missing several weeks from a football injury. Johnson scored 13 points and had 10 rebounds. Cooper Scheck led all scorers with 19 points while Josh Harshberger added six points and eight rebounds.

Turnovers plagued the team with 23 for the game and 16 of those in the just the first half, said coach Tony Starnes.

The Demons did a better job of handling the ball in the second half and handled the Liberal trap better.

From the free throw line, the Demons connected on 13 of 19.

"This is the best we've shot from the free throw line," Starnes said.

There were times when the team didn't execute when they had to. After their loss Tuesday, the coaches talked a lot about being disciplined all the time. If a team is disciplined six out of 10 times, those other four times can hurt the team.

"We weren't disciplined at the right time and they took advantage of it," Starnes said.

The team had too many zero possessions on the night. They would turn the ball over before they had a chance to get a shot at the basket.

"We had way too many of those," Starnes said.

At the end of the game, the team gave themselves an opportunity to win but early on, they turned it over way too much and had way to many zero possessions.

The Demons play position-less basketball, where each player has to cover most of the positions. If a player only knows how to play three positions at a crucial time in the game, it comes back at you, Starnes said.

"If we expect them to be disciplined, we've got to coach that way and hold them to that standard and that falls to me," Starnes said.

After Christmas break, the Demons travel to McPherson. Starnes is not looking forward to that trip because its going to be extremely difficult.

"McPherson has good players and a hall of fame coach," Starnes said.

While the Demons battled McPherson well last year, McPherson has some good kids, including a big senior and some good sophomores.

"It's going to be a battle on the boards," Starnes said.

The Demons schedule is extremely tough. To be successful this season, the Demons have to work hard and fast.

"We have to come in and quickly get ready to go to McPherson," Starnes said. "We have to toughen up and grow up and do it quicker than most teams have to do it."

While the team can't control its lack of size or strength, it has to control the things it can. Against McPherson, the team has to take better care of the ball both offensively and defensively.

"We have to do what needs to be done the way it needs to be done and do it every time," Starnes said.

Starnes said the team was not as far along as he expected but getting Johnson back will help.

To contact the writer, email grose@pratttribune.com.