After losing to the Wichita Heights Falcons last year in the 2022 6A boys basketball state championship by a mere 7 points, the Huskies had another shot at defeating the reigning state champions in their opponents hometown, Wichita, Kan. According to senior point guard Grant Stubblefield, this has been a rematch the team has been thinking about for a long time.
“We’ve been thinking about this game for 365 days. I mean, what they did to us last year, we wanted our revenge so when we saw that we were playing them, we were ready,” Stubblefield said.
The Huskies had never defeated the Falcons in BVNW boys basketball school history before this game. Along with studying film and working hard in practices, head coach Aaron Ihm said the team needed to have certainty in themselves in order to defeat the Falcons.
“I told the guys we don’t need to be perfect to win tonight but we need to be solid and we need to be confident. We were more solid and more confident and I think that was the difference,” Ihm said.
According to junior Joey Matteoni, after losing to the Falcons in the same round last year, the Huskies came into the game more ready than before.
“I thought that we were way more prepared this year. I thought that we had a better scout on them and we knew what we were doing,” Matteoni said.
Despite not winning the tip-off, the Huskies took the lead quickly with junior Jake Fritz scoring the first 3 points of the night, setting the tone for the remainder of the game. After taking the early lead, the Huskies would stay in front of the Falcons for the entire game. At the end of the first quarter, the Huskies found themselves up 13-6. Stubblefield attributed some of the early success of the game to the team’s defense.
“We were playing aggressive. That’s probably the best defense we played all year. I’m really proud of our guys,” Stubblefield said. “[The Falcons] looked a little shocked when we came out [playing] man-to-man because we’ve played a lot of zone this year… and they weren’t ready for it.”
At the end of the season, the Huskies had a 21-4 record. Head coach Aaron Ihm said although making it to the state championship was a big goal of the team’s, they focused on each game as it came instead of only focusing on the end goal.
“We knew we were turning into a good team but if all we focused on was the state championship, we would have missed all the important things in between and credit to this group. The details and the work meant something to them and that’s why we were able to [win],” Ihm said.
At halftime, BVNW led Wichita Heights 22-15. However, throughout the third quarter, the Huskies were able to increase their 8 point lead to an 18 point lead at one point in the quarter. According to Matteoni, the team did a good job defending the Falcons which played a large role in furthering the point differential between the two teams.
“We just played together and played defense. We stuck to the scouting report and… got the rebounds,” Matteoni said.
Although the Falcons were able to put more points on the board to make it a closer game in the fourth quarter, Stubblefield said the team was able to stay collected in order to stay ahead.
“They had some runs where they were getting close to coming back. They were making some big shots [but] we kept our composure,” Stubblefield said.
Wichita Heights would go on to score 23 points in the fourth quarter, but it would not be enough to defeat the Huskies who would go on to win 55-50, along with the 2023 6A KSHSAA state champion title.
After defeating Shawnee Mission Northwest in the state quarterfinals and Blue Valley North in the state semifinals, Ihm said defeating Wichita Heights in the state championship was the perfect way to end the tournament.
“What’s a better story than we go beat Shawnee Mission Northwest in the same game that we played last year, go play Blue Valley North, [our] conference rivals and then beat the defending state champs, which by the way, Blue Valley Northwest until tonight had never beaten Wichita Heights. Was 0-7 in school history and so to set school history and win in their city, it’s amazing,” Ihm said.
With this game marking the end of the 2022-2023 boys basketball season, Stubblefield noted on what this win and this team means to him.
“I’m so proud of them, I love these guys with all my heart,” Stubblefield said. “Just to get this [win] after all these years and what has felt like forever, it’s a blessing to be here.”