The Dodge City Red Demons fell to the Maize Eagles Thursday by a score of 98-71.

It was a tough night for the Red Demons from the start. Maize came out and took a 2-0 lead. Then a 4-0 lead. Then a 6-0 lead.

They kept scoring, until the lead was 19-0. Dodge City junior Adrian Mendoza finally hit a 3-pointer with about four minutes left in the first quarter.

Red Demons head coach Tony Starnes said teams play in these tournaments because the competition is good.

“I told the guys I’m sick of playing teams that we’re gonna beat handily,” Starnes said. “You don’t get any better that way. We’ve got to play teams like this.”

That includes Maize, and Maize junior Caleb Grill.

“(Grill’s) a mid-major (college-level) player,” Starnes said. “We’ve gotta get tougher, and I told our guys ‘If you’ve never been dunked on yet, you’re not playing in the right gym.’ If you’ve never played against a really good player you’re not playing in the right gym. You need to go to a different gym and play. That’s how you get better. We don’t get better playing people we’re going (to) beat by 30 or 40.”

The Red Demons struggled on the boards throughout the first half. Maize out-rebounded them 24-9 in the first half. When they got offensive rebounds, the Eagles capitalized far more often in the first half than the Demons, recording 11 second-chance points to 0 by the Red Demons in the first half.

“We got killed on the backboard, we got pushed around,” Starnes said. “(When) you play against good people the margin of error is not as high, and that’s one way you can compete if nothing else, because if you control the backboard I mean you basically can control them, and we didn’t do that. We just got kicked around and pushed around.”

That’s not going to happen again Friday night when the Red Demons play again, against either Bishop Miege or Wichita East. He pointed at the basketball court where Bishop Miege and Wichita East were warming up for their game which was at the time about to start.

“Whoever loses this game, tomorrow night we’re going to be going after them,” Starnes said. “And I’m not saying we’re going to win, I’m not saying we’re going to do what, but I promise you we’re going to be tough tomorrow night.”

Grill led all scorers with 38 points, also adding seven rebounds, five assists, and five steals. Maize junior Brandle Studevan was 11 of 11 from the field and one of three from the free-throw line for 23 points.

For the Red Demons, senior Hunter Heath had a team-high 17 points. Mendoza had 15, and senior Kaden Riekenberg had 12. Sophomore Beau Foster had a team-high six assists. Senior Dawson Williams had a team-high six rebounds.

The Red Demons did better in the third quarter, holding the Eagles without a second-chance point and picking up four of their own, but Maize expanded it’s lead by outscoring the Red Demons 27-21 in the third quarter.

Maize completed the win, out-rebounding Dodge City 45-26 and committing 18 turnovers to Dodge City’s 30.

Toughness is something Starnes said he’ll address first based on this game.

“I saw some tap-outs in us, and we can’t have any tap-out,” Starnes said. “There’s not one job in this world, not one I can think of, that you can put on your resume ‘When it gets tough I’m going to tap out.’ We ain’t teachin that. When it gets we’re gonna get tougher. Now whether that means we win the game or whatever the case is, no tap-outs here.”

The Red Demons will play again at 6 p.m. Friday.