After defeating Blue Valley North for the Sub-State championship, the Huskies traveled to Wichita, Kan. for the 6A state tournament and a matchup against Shawnee Mission Northwest in the quarterfinals. The Huskies and Cougars kept it close for most of the game, but BVNW pulled away late to win 58-50.
Coming into the game, head coach Aaron Ihm said the team was focused on playing aggressive defense to limit Shawnee Mission Northwest’s two top scorers.
“We knew that they could score in bunches so we wanted to play well defensively. They had two players averaging over 19 points per game and a lot of teams don’t have that,” Ihm said.
Similar to Ihm, junior Grant Stubblefield said he entered the game with the mindset to play with intensity as he wanted to make sure the team kept advancing this weekend.
“We knew Shawnee Mission Northwest was going to be a tough game. Obviously they got here for a reason. We had to come out and play to the best of our ability offensively and defensively if we wanted to continue playing the next few days,” Stubblefield said.
Despite struggling to get shots to fall in the first half, the Huskies went into halftime with a one point lead.
“We were moving the ball well. Even when shots were going out we were getting a lot of offensive rebounds and we controlled the boards the entire half. We were even getting stops when we weren’t playing well offensively and that helped us out a lot,” Stubblefield said.
Ihm suggested some of the first half struggles came from the pressure and nerves of playing in the state tournament.
“This is these kids’ first time playing in the state tournament even though Northwest has been so many times in the last 15 years,” Ihm said. “It’s one of those things that you have to be thinking survive and advance. It doesn’t matter if it’s a one point game, we knew we had to grind it out.”
In a back and forth second half, the Huskies pulled away late in the fourth quarter as they won, 58-50.
“We kept our cool and knew that we had been in this situation before. If we took control we knew they wouldn’t be able to stop us,” Stubblefield said.
As the Huskies fell behind in the fourth quarter, Ihm said the team had a couple of seniors step up and show some leadership to get the team back on track.
“Joey Robinson stepped up huge from a leadership standpoint. Joey basically just said we’re not going to lose and it got everyone fired up. Mikey Pauley also stepped up at an important time for us to keep us going,” Ihm said.
Ihm said he was pleased with the team’s performance, but felt like the team had some things they need to clean up before the next game.
“Earlier in the year, we weren’t a great free throw shooting team and we got better, but we struggled again today. I’m hoping that was sightlines, big game in an arena, stuff like that and I hope stuff like that doesn’t follow us or we’ll be in trouble,” Ihm said “I told them that I didn’t want to take any joy away from it. It’s a huge win, final four win, they beat a really good team, but I want them to know that it could’ve been a 15 or 20 point win.”
With the win, the Huskies advanced to play the Lawrence Free State Firebirds today at 4:00 at Charles Koch Arena.
“We know it’s going to be a tough game. We’re going to need to have a good practice and walkthrough tomorrow and get ready for them. They have a lot of good players and we’re going to have to be on our A-game if we want to come out of it with a win,” Stubblefield said.