WICHITA — Romping to victory in an all-East Kansas League final Saturday at Wichita States Koch Arena, Blue Valley Northwests undefeated season culminated with the first boys basketball state championship in program history.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Led by Iowa State-bound junior Clay Custer, who scored a game-high 21, the top-seeded Huskies took down upstart No. 7 seed BV West 46-29 for the Class 6A crown.
Its a great feeling, especially to be undefeated and do it with my son (Vince) on the team, said BV Northwest coach Ed Fritz, who won his first state after 31 high school seasons. But all these guys are my sons. Im really close to a lot of them, so that makes it extra special.
The wide, beaming smile that crept across Custers face as he hugged teammates in the seconds after the final horn spoke volumes about the Huskies relief after coming up short in the last three 6A championship games against Wichita Heights and Perry Ellis.
I love the guys on the team so much, Custer said. Theyre my best friends. Theyre my family. Its not common for a team to say I love you to each other as much as we do. We genuinely love each other. For us to win this after all the hard work and ups and downs of the year, especially losing the past few (championship) games, the joy just came out.
It took BV Northwest, 25-0, a few minutes to settle in, but once it did BV West, 15-10, had no chance.
Trailing 6-4 in the early going, junior Kyle Harrison drilled a three-pointer from the right corner off a kick-out pass from Custer.
Harrison, who finished with 10 points, promptly picked Jaguars senior Conley Wilkins pocket at midcourt and launched a two-handed, overhead pass to a streaking David Salach for a rim-rocking dunk.
Custer added another bucket and free throw, while Harrison netted two at the line and Salach added a putback to complete a 12-2 run that had BV Northwest in front 16-8.
BV West never drew closer than six points.
They uglied (the game) up, but they had a lot of trouble scoring against our pressure, Custer said. Thats what we pride ourselves on our defense so were happy we came out and defended the way we did. Thats something weve worked hard on all year.
Down 30-16 at halftime after Huskies senior Mason Schoen drilled a three-point buzzer-beater, the Jaguars who shot 12 for 36 from the field trailed by double digits throughout the second half.
Thats a really good basketball team, BV West coach Donnie Campbell said. Its refreshing to see a team thats so fundamentally sound that can dribble, pass and shoot. It makes them a tough team to beat. It wasnt that our kids effort wasnt there, but the margin for error is very thin.
The Jaguars had knocked off second-seeded Wichita North in the quarterfinals and third-seeded SM East in the semis.
BV North 55, Maize girls 50
Blue Valley Norths girls finished the season on a high note with a 55-50 win against Maize in the third-place game.
The Mustangs, 20-5, took advantage when Eagles sophomore star Keiryn Swenson went to the bench with four fouls in the third quarter, pushing a one-point halftime lead to 39-30 before Swensons return.
Junior Maria Klug extended the lead to 12 points early in the fourth quarter with two free throws before Maize, 21-4, stormed back with a 9-0 run.
The Eagles drew as close as 48-47 in the closing minutes, but seniors Christian Keys and Bria Pierce combined for BV Norths final seven points.
Maize is a good team, so thats a really good win for us, BV North coach Ann Fritz said. Its great to take third and win that last game.
Senior Ali Pollard finished with a team-high 15 points, while Pierce added 13 and Keys scored 12 with a team-best seven rebounds in the win. Another senior, Caroline Dupont, also snagged seven boards.
Derby boys 62, SM East 57
Shawnee Mission East let a halftime lead slip away and never led in the fourth quarter during its loss against Derby in the Class 6A boys third-place game.
We didnt play very good defense in the second half, and offensively we couldnt get to the line, Lancers coach Shawn Hair said. We only shot four free throws in the second half even though we felt like we were attacking the basket.
SM East, 21-4, led 30-24 at halftime but found itself deadlocked at 43-43 after three quarters when Panthers senior Taylor Schieber swished a 15-foot, pull-up shot at the buzzer.
After SM East senior Connor Knabe scored inside and tied the game at 52-52 with fewer than 4 minutes remaining, Derby went on a quick 6-0 run Schieber, who scored 23 points, had two of the baskets and led the rest of the way.
Panthers senior Tyler Chambers iced the win by picking off a length-of-the-floor pass to senior Zach Schneider and hitting two free throws with 1.2 seconds left. Schneider finished with a double-double, with team highs in points (14) and rebounds (10).
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.