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No. 3 Huskies open season with 70-62 win over No. 9 Hogan Prep

The defending Kansas 6A State champion Blue Valley Northwest varsity basketball team opened their 2017-18 season with a 70-62 win over Hogan Prep. Senior guard Sam Ward led all Northwest scorers with a team-high 21 points.

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Mahmood Khatib
Head coach Ed Fritz talks with his team in the huddle during a time out in the second half of the Huskies game against Hogan Prep Dec. 1.

Blue Valley Northwest basketball fans welcomed a new sight Friday night, as the Huskies started an entirely new backcourt with senior guards Sam Ward and Max Johnson, alongside junior guard Christian Braun. Although it was a new look for Husky fans, Ward said it was not anything out of the ordinary for the three of them.

“It’s new to you guys, but, we’re always playing together no matter where it is,” Ward said, “so it’s new to you guys, but it’s not new to us.”

A corner 3 by Johnson with 5:37 remaining in the first quarter gave the Huskies a 5-2 lead over the Rams which they would not surrender for the rest of the night. The Huskies, ranked No. 3 in the metro by 810 Varsity would go on to win the season-opener over the No. 9 ranked Rams, 70-62. Johnson, who sat behind 2017 graduate A.J. Pleasant for the past three years, said his first start was an excitement for him.

“I was beyond excited to before the game,” Johnson said. “I mean we’ve all been waiting for it. Sam and I have actually been playing together since sixth grade, and so Sam, Joe and I had a talk before the game like this is our time, and ever since practice started, we knew that we clicked really well.”

Despite Ward getting a few starts last year, the inexperience of the three guards was on display through what head coach Ed Fritz described as an uncharacteristic night of turnovers.

“We turned the ball over a lot more than a typical Blue Valley Northwest team does,” Fritz said. “Christian didn’t play even close to his potential today. I thought he really kind of came out, saw everything going on and I think he just wasn’t quite ready for the moment. I think this will be a good thing, way for him to get going.”

“They were kind of iffy on the decision-making,” senior forward Joe Pleasant, who scored 16 points said of the guard-play. “They made some good decisions here, and made some bad decisions there. I felt like they made their free throws when they counted, made some big plays, but I feel like as the year goes on they’ll gain more experience and be more comfortable at this varsity level and we can expect better play from them from here on out.”

Ward tied his career-high in scoring which he set last season in a game against Hogan Prep, with 21 points Friday night. The senior guard hit four 3-pointers in the first half against the Rams zone defense.

“Sam really gave us a lift,” Fritz said. “He’s a really good shooter. He did a really good job of getting us in our sets.”

Ward’s 16 first half points gave the Huskies a 38-27 lead at the half. Throughout the night, Hogan Prep senior guard Damien Daniels gave the Huskies defense trouble, leading all scorers with 23 points.

“Well he shot the ball well, we did a really bad job of figuring out where he was and we’ll work on that,” Fritz said. “I’m glad we won. Those guys are quick as heck but we’ve gotta do a better job of preparing and playing. We just didn’t execute like I thought we could’ve.”

The Huskies will travel to Glendale High School for two games in the Ozark Mountain Shootout next weekend. Friday Dec. 8, Blue Valley Northwest takes on Ozark High School. Tip-off is scheduled for 9:30 p.m.

Saturday Dec. 9 the Huskies take on Hazelwood Central at 5 p.m.

“I think anybody who gets a hold of this tape is probably going to think like ‘hey, let’s press these guys a little bit,’” Fritz said. “I think the other thing that people look at is ‘hey let’s get them into their bench’, and so hey this is a good first game, we’ve got something to build on.”

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No. 3 Huskies open season with 70-62 win over No. 9 Hogan Prep