Blue Valley bent but didn’t break in beating Shawnee Mission Northwest 58-48 in a Class 6A substate championship game Saturday at SM Northwest.
By CHARLES REDFIELD
Special to The Star
The Tigers, 13-9, will be heading to the state tournament for the fourth straight year. The last three times were in 5A, and this will be in 6A at Wichita.
Blue Valley jumped out to a 17-4 lead at the end of the first quarter, but turned the ball over 20 times in the second and third quarters against the Cougars’ 2-2-1 full-court zone press. The Tigers just led 36-32 entering the fourth quarter.
“We finally got tough with the basketball in the fourth quarter,” Blue Valley coach Andy Unrein said. “We played passive against their press earlier.”
Senior Bailey Geiman, who has been to all four state tournaments, took charge in the fourth quarter.
“I just knew we had to have someone step up,” she said.
Geiman handled the ball against the press and found several players open under the basket for easy shots in the final period.
With the Tigers leading 46-40 with just more than 3 minutes to play, she found senior Jarin Braithwait open under the basket for two easy shots that made it a 10-point game with 2:46 left.
Blue Valley was 14 of 17 at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and 23 of 31 for the game.
Freshman Maddie Newell was a perfect six of six on free throws in the fourth quarter and eight for eight for the game.
“She really stepped it up tonight at the free-throw line,” Unrein said. “Before tonight she had been one our worse free-throw shooters.”
The Cougars, 16-6, used 10 players in applying tough pressure defense against the Tigers. A field goal by sophomore Tatum Graves with 9 seconds left in the third quarter pulled the Cougars within four, but that was as close as they got.
Blue Valley finished fifth in the East Kansas League with a .500 record but made enough plays against the Cougars to make it four trips in a row to state.
“It feels awesome,” Geiman said. “I would never traded this for anything.”
Newell was the leading scorer in the game with 19 points. Geiman added 14 points and a game-high nine rebounds as the Tigers outrebounded the Cougars 24-14.
Braithwait added 13 points and junior Sydnie Hanson had 11 points.
Senior Anna King and freshman Brenni Rose led SM Northwest with 12 points.
The Cougars were just 18 of 52 from the floor.