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Dominant second half pushes Northwest past top-seeded Free State in 6A state semifinals
The boys basketball team defeated Lawrence Free State, 51-42, to advance to the 6A state championship, March 11.
In a matchup between the top seeds in 6A East and West, Blue Valley Northwest overcame a 11-point second quarter deficit as they defeated the Lawrence Free State Firebirds, 51-42.
Head coach Aaron Ihm said the team came into the game knowing Free State was a skilled and athletic team so the Huskies would have to rely on other factors if they wanted to win.
“We knew that they were really athletic and very skilled so we wanted to lean on our strength and height,” Ihm said.
The Huskies trailed for a majority of the first quarter and were down 19-8 late in the second quarter. Junior Grant Stubblefield said the Huskies fell away from their game plan which caused them to fall behind.
“We started giving up second chances and open shots that we shouldn’t have let them get. We were also hurrying on offense which we knew they liked to do,” Stubblefield said.
Coming out of halftime, Northwest switched to a 2-3 zone on defense which helped the Huskies come back, Ihm said.
“We hadn’t really shown zone all year, but we had been working on it for times like this. We thought the flow of the game dictated that we needed to get in some gaps and make them think a little,” Ihm said.
With the help of the zone, the Huskies rattled of a 10-0 out of halftime to take the lead.
“We talked in the locker room and we knew we had to get some points on the board and get the momentum going our way because if they kept making shots it could’ve gone south very quickly,” Stubblefield said.
The Firebirds got up to a 42-40 lead with 2:51 remaining in the game, but the Huskies went on a 11-0 run to win the game.
“We did a great job making adjustments on the fly and we played good defense, rebounded well and made some important free throws down the stretch,” Ihm said.
With the win, the Huskies will be taking on Wichita Heights for the state championship at 6:15 today.
Huskies advance to state semifinals with win over Shawnee Mission Northwest
The boys basketball team defeated the Shawnee Mission Northwest Cougars, 58-50, in the 6A state quarterfinals, March 10.
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.
Boys basketball defeats Blue Valley North, 63-57, to win Sub-State championship
Playing against Blue Valley North for the fourth time this season, the Huskies came out on top in a back-and-forth game to win the Sub-State championship, 63-57.
Head coach Aaron Ihm said playing any team four times is difficult and North always does a great job with their gameplan.
“They’re a really good team and they’re always prepared. They’re not going to give it to you, you have to beat them. We knew we were capable of beating them, but we also knew it was going to be a four quarter grind,” Ihm said. “They’re prepared, they’re well-coached and they’re athletic but you have to go beat them because they’re not going to beat themselves.”
The Huskies and Mustangs kept it close in the first half, but Northwest jumped to a four-point lead by halftime. Senior Joey Robinson said they built a lead because they played hard on both sides of the ball.
“We got the ball moving and we found the hot hand. We also defended well and forced them to take a lot of contested shots,” Robinson said.
Northwest came out of halftime slow and the Mustangs took over the lead by the end of the third quarter. Robinson said the Huskies lost focus and strayed away from their gameplan as North started to come back.
“We got away from ourselves and stopped running our offense. When they started took the lead we tried to get it all back in one play which doesn’t work,” Robinson said.
Ihm added onto Robinson, saying multiple starters got into foul trouble in the third quarter which caused issues on both sides of the ball.
“We got in foul trouble which caused us to have three starters on the bench at one time. They care so much about the game and want to win, but sometimes they try to do it all themselves and we had three bad shots which gave them some easy points on leakouts,” Ihm said.
In the fourth quarter, the Huskies got back on track quickly tying up the game and eventually regained the lead.
“We know that we can score in bunches so we don’t get too up or down and we just keep on defending. I think that’s why we’ve been able to come back in so many games this year because we know as long as we continue to defend, we’ll get enough looks at the basket that we’ll be able to run off 7, 8, or 10 points at a time,” Ihm said. “We knew we just had to continue to make stops and once we did Grant hit an and-one then made a three and you could see it in their eyes that North wasn’t going to score again.”
After getting the lead back, the Huskies stayed solid down the stretch, made important free throws and finished the game with a 63-57 victory to win the Sub-State championship.
The game featured a few lasts for the team. It was the last ever home game for the seniors and the last game in the current main gym.
“It feels good to win my last home game, but it feels even better to move onto state and to beat North,” Robinson said.
Ihm said the team will enjoy the Sub-State championship for the time being, but will quickly begin preparing for the state tournament.
“After this celebration, the coaches are going to do what we do and see who we’re matched up against and getting all the film. We told the guys that we’re good enough we can beat anyone in the state, but we’re not too good that we can’t lose to anyone we play. So we just have to be locked in, believe in ourselves and have fun with it,” Ihm said.
The Huskies will start the 6A state tournament with a game against Shawnee Mission Northwest on Thursday at 4:00 p.m. at Wichita State University’s Charles Koch Arena.
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