After a string of seven straight losses — some of them painfully close — Blue Valley coach Chris Hansen could see the effect on his team.
By CHARLES REDFIELD
Special to The Star
And with 46 seconds left in Friday’s home game against St. Thomas Aquinas, the Tigers were in a familiar position: trailing in a close game.
Then something unfamiliar happened. Blue Valley got the ball to the right shooter, hit two crucial free throws and had a good defensive stop on the last possession of the game to hand the Saints a 41-38 East Kansas League loss.
“I have never been around a team that more needed to have something good to happen,” Tigers coach Chris Hansen said. “We’ve had a stretch where we made just enough mistakes to lose. We think we can be a good basketball team.”
The Tigers had looked to be in good position, taking a lead early in the second quarter and gamely keeping Aquinas at bay until 6-7 senior Gavin Manley’s late put-back gave the Saints a 38-36 lead.
But Blue Valley got the ball to senior Mitch Sundquist for a three-pointer from the right wing with 38 seconds remaining.
Both teams missed free throws over the next 17 seconds before Tigers senior Connor Hurst hit two free throws with just 14 seconds left in the game.
After a Saints’ timeout, the Tigers didn’t allow senior Tyler Clement an open look, and a shot from the right wing was off the mark.
“We had some toughness down the stretch,” Hansen said. “We had good ball movement in getting the ball to Sundquist for the three-pointer, and we really defended well on the last possession.”
The Tigers had a 10-point lead at 29-19 in the middle of the third quarter, but the Saints got the margin back to one with a 9-0 run. Aquinas’ full-court pressure and half-court scramble defense forced the Tigers into four turnovers during the run.
The victory improved the Tigers to 6-10 overall and 3-7 in league, while the Saints fell to 9-7 and 4-6.
Charlie Marquardt, a 6-8 senior, led Blue Valley with 14 points. Sundquist added 10 and Hurst six.
Clement had a game-high 20-points for the Saints. He was eight-of-14, including three three-pointers.
Manley had eight points, but he had to sit much of the second half with foul trouble.
The Tigers won the rebounding battle 18-9, led by senior Parker Little with six and Marquardt with four.