Darien Jackson walked off the court with a medal and a basketball net around his neck.
Blue Valley Northwest had spent all year ranked first in the state after placing fourth in the Class 6A boys basketball tournament last year. The Huskies were ready for the crown.
And Saturday at Charles Koch Arena, the Huskies got it. Barely. Blue Valley Northwest defeated Lawrence 64-61.
Lawrence (17-7) beat BV Northwest (21-3) in the third-place game last year by eight points and nearly repeated history on a bigger stage this time.
“I think a little later this will feel good. I didn’t like the way we finished,” said BV Northwest head coach Ed Fritz. “We were No. 1 in the state at the beginning of the year and we were No. 1 at the end of the year. It was a pretty remarkable run.”
The final 5:28 turned Koch Arena into the same frenzied place it became during the fourth quarter of the Class 6A girls state final just two hours earlier, when Derby mounted a ferocious 18-point rally but lost to Manhattan after a layup with 13 seconds left.
It just didn’t seem like it would happen.
Blue Valley Northwest’s Sam Ward hit a three-pointer, and 30 seconds later threw a perfect pass to give JaMichael Morgan an easy dunk in the third quarter to give Blue Valley Northwest a 21-point lead with 2:56 remaining in the third quarter. Lawrence narrowed the gap to 18 by the buzzer, then kicked off the fourth quarter with an 11-2 run, led by Jackson Mallory’s nine points.
Mallory scored 14 points, all in the fourth quarter, and was the key to Lawrence’s rally. Freshman Clarence King finished with 19 points and sophomore Brett Chapple had 11 points and nine rebounds for the Lions.
After three games in the tournament, Jackson (26 points) finished with 62 points, Morgan had 28 points, Joseph Pleasant scored 24 and Ward added 21. AJ Pleasant scored 16 points in the final game.
Boys third-place: Lawrence Free State 43, Blue Valley North 42
The weight of a third-place trophy was on the shoulders of Jay Dineen.
He had just drawn a foul with five seconds remaining in the Class 6A boys consolation game at Charles Koch Arena on Saturday. Lawrence Free State had led through three quarters but trailed Blue Valley North 42-41.
Dineen hit his first free throw, then BV North called a timeout. As soon as the ball came down from the hoop, the Mustangs, who’d roared back into contention with 24 fourth-quarter points, would have one more frantic play to make.
But the timeout didn’t save BV North from Dineen’s second good shot. As senior Colby Bullock unleashed a last-ditch half-court shot, Free State players rose from the bench to cheer a win over BV North.
Free State had led by 11 points, but Blue Valley North had snuffed out that advantage with four minutes to go. During BV North’s 17-4 extended run, junior Eric Baston’s 6-foot-4 frame landed on the other side of the press table when he jumped over the sidelines to steal an errant pass. He returned to the court as Mitchell Rhyner, who’d hit a three-pointer to give Blue Valley North a 33-31 lead 30 seconds earlier, buried another shot to put the Mustangs back in front.
But Free State was able to take advantage of Miles Emery’s fifth personal foul and ensuing technical foul. The Firebirds went 3 for 4 at the free-throw line and hit a layup to take the lead. The teams later traded fouls and a pair of three-pointers in the final minute.
Bullock led Blue Valley North with 14 points, 2 three-pointers and 2 assists. Emery finished with 11 points and a team-high 8 rebounds.
Free State was led by Jacob Pavlyak, who was 4 of 5 from three-point range and scored 14 points.
Girls third-place: Olathe South 66, Wichita West 39
The Olathe South Falcons placed third for the second year in a row by defeating Wichita West.
After leading just 18-15 at the end of the first quarter, Olathe South bore down against Wichita West and gave up only five points. Wichita West, the team that upset four-time defending champion Wichita South in the first round and threw the entire girls bracket off balance, trailed Olathe South 34-20 at halftime.
Olathe South only allowed 19 points the rest of the way. Destiny Pittman, Wichita West’s leading scorer, finished with 12 points and was the only player to make it into double digits.
Seniors DejaNae Roebuck (20 points), Kaiti Butaud (16) and Lindsey Bartels (15 points, eight rebounds) led Olathe South. In three tournament games, Roebuck totaled 48 points, Butaud 39 and Bartels 32 to close out their careers.