Late comeback sends No. 2 Huskies to third state championship in a row with 61-57 win over No. 6 Shawnee Mission South

The boys varsity basketball team advanced to the state championship game with a 61-57 victory over the Shawnee Mission South Raiders on March 8. Senior guard Christian Braun and junior guard Markell Hood combined to score 46 of the Huskies points.

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Late comeback sends No. 2 Huskies to third state championship in a row with 61-57 win over No. 6 Shawnee Mission South

Senior Christian Braun dribbles the ball in the game against Blue Valley West on Friday Feb. 8 at BVW. BVNW defeated BVW, 57-49.

Senior Christian Braun dribbles the ball in the game against Blue Valley West on Friday Feb. 8 at BVW. BVNW defeated BVW, 57-49.

Sailor Ruby

Senior Christian Braun dribbles the ball in the game against Blue Valley West on Friday Feb. 8 at BVW. BVNW defeated BVW, 57-49.

Sailor Ruby

Sailor Ruby

Senior Christian Braun dribbles the ball in the game against Blue Valley West on Friday Feb. 8 at BVW. BVNW defeated BVW, 57-49.

Jonny Isaacson, Writer

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For the second straight game, the Huskies found themselves staring at a late deficit, down by eight heading into the fourth quarter. Having been outscored in each of the three previous quarters, head coach Ed Fritz, decided to ask the team a question after the third quarter, according to senior Christian Braun.

“[Fritz] actually just asked us ‘have you guys ever came back to win a state championship?’,” Braun said. “Everybody said no, not a lot of guys on the team have won a state championship themselves, so that really motivated us.”

The game started with the Huskies allowing the Raiders to score 19 points on 9-11 shooting. A big reason the Huskies were able to stay within striking distance was junior forward Markell Hood’s ability to score the ball. He was able to score 13 of the Huskies 15 total first quarter points to keep the game close.

“I just knew that last game I was a little bit nervous,” Hood said “Being at state, it was a little nerve-wracking, so I just knew I had to come out and play big for my team.

Throughout the game the Huskies struggled with getting stops on the defensive side of the ball, evident in a 60 percent field goal percentage for the Raiders. Assistant coach David Birch attributed this to the big deficit and the big comeback alike.

“We were here Wednesday, we were down nine, we just harped on the same message that we’ve been harping on for a long time, and that’s that we’ve got to play defense,” Birch said. “We’ve got to keep guys out of the lane, got to hold them to one shot, and when we get the rebound we’ve got to try to run and get our advantage. Every time we get down, it’s because of our defense and every time we get up it’s because of our defense.”

Needing stops late in the game, the Huskies turned to senior Jack Hungerford as he would finish the game with three steals and a block. Hungerford said he just followed the scouting report and played physical defense.

Not being able to get it going, sophomore Jack Chapman had zero points on 0-4 shooting until he would hit a three with 3:55 left in the fourth quarter. The three would double as his first points of the night and give the Huskies their first lead of the night, 51-48. According to Braun, he knew Chapman would be ready for the big moment.

“He kept telling me ‘I’m going to be open, look for me.’ and I told him keep shooting,” Braun said. “I drove and saw him, and I knew what he was going to do with it, that’s Jack, that’s how he’s been all year, he hits shots when he needs to. It meant a lot for him to hit that shot and it was a really good confidence booster for him.”

Heading to the free throw line with four seconds left and clinging on to a two point lead, Braun knew the free throws could seal the game. Braun stepped up and calmly knocked both of them to send the Huskies to the state championship.

“I just knew I had to seal it for the team,” Braun said. “We did a really good job of fighting back in the second half, which I never want to be in that position, but it is my job as the leader of the team to finish and seal the game, that was the job and I did it.”

With the win the No. 2 Huskies will advance to the 6A state championship game against the No. 1 Washburn Rural Blues, Saturday at 6:15 p.m. at Charles Koch Arena.