After going undefeated a season ago and winning the Kansas Class 6A state basketball championship, the Blue Valley Northwest boys team came into this season with a target on its back.
“It’s been a lot harder than last year, and it’s a lot harder to do something twice,” coach Ed Fritz said. “I think we had a few lulls, but it seems like we’re finishing up playing pretty well toward the end of the year, and that’s what you always want as a team.”
With a 20-2 record, the Huskies enter the state tournament as the top seed and will face Wichita North, 12-10, at 3 p.m. Thursday at Koch Arena in Wichita.
The strength of the Huskies has come from the experience and versatility of their starters. All five starters from last year’s state championship team returned, and four of the five have already signed letters of intent to play college ball next year including Clayton Custer, who is headed to Iowa State.
“Clayton is a really good player, and he gets a lot of publicity, but I think the thing that is really nice about our team is that we have some other really good players, and they would be really good scorers on other teams,” Fritz said. “We’ve got a lot of balance in what we’re doing.”Saints exceeding expectations
When the St. Thomas Aquinas boys team entered this season, coach Sean Reilly said the Saints' basketball community had low expectations and justifiably so.
“That wasn’t a knock against us, it was just a reality,” he said. “We didn’t have a lot of varsity players, we were young and we were not really physical. All those assessments were true, but one assessment that only the coach can see when he’s around the guys every day was that they had a few intangibles.”
Those intangibles allowed Aquinas, 11-11, to slip into the Class 5A state tournament where it will face Lansing, 22-0, at 3 p.m. today at the Topeka Expocentre.Hawks find inspiration in team meeting
After losing three of four games toward the end of February, Olathe East boys basketball coach Jim Super sat his players down and gave them a chance to voice their frustrations. What followed is what he called the best practice the Hawks had all season.
“I think we’re playing our best basketball right now,” Super said. “We had a little hiccup during the season, and after that I thought we came out and got better. When you’re coming off a little hiccup and get better, then that’s a good thing because it means the team is really focused and really wants to do well.”
Olathe East, 18-4, will face Maize, 19-3, at 4:45 p.m. Thursday in the 6A state tournament at Koch Arena in Wichita.Mustangs not satisfied
Throughout Eastern Kansas League play, Blue Valley North kept pace with Class 6A defending state champion Blue Valley Northwest.
That led Blue Valley North to an 18-4 record and sixth seeding at this weekend’s state tournament, where the Mustangs will face Shawnee Mission Northwest, 19-3, at 8:15 p.m. Thursday at Koch Arena in Wichita.
“I feel really happy with our season, and we’ve accomplished a lot of our goals but the great thing about it is we’re not satisfied,” coach Ryan Phifer said. “We’ve made it to state now every other year for the last few years, and we feel like we have the ability to get down there and not only say we made it to state, but hopefully do some damage.”