With three minutes left in Friday’s game, the big contingent of Olathe East fans on hand at Olathe South could clearly envision a grand opportunity: Rushing the floor of their bitter rivals, a metaphorical thumb in the eye of the Falcons.
But the Hawks’ fans had to wait. Nursing a slim lead, their team went into a delay offense, betting that patience would pay dividends.
“They were pressing out,” Olathe East coach Jim Super said. “I wanted to look for the backdoor (layups) or free throws.
“We are a good free throw shooting team.”
The Hawks certainly were Friday. In the last 3 minutes, 8 seconds, they were seven of 10 from the free throw line. For the game, Olathe East was 21 of 25 from the stripe.
With a 55-47 victory secured, the court storming could proceed without any loss of exuberance, even if it had been put on hold for a bit.
“They are a big rival, and it is a good rivalry,” Super said. “We opened after Olathe South, so it has always been a big rivalry game.”
The Falcons led early, but 6-foot-7 Olathe East senior Ezra Talbert had 13 points in the first quarter as the Hawks took a 19-17 lead at the end of the first period.
The Hawks built on that lead, taking a 28-22 halftime advantage and expanding it to 42-34 at the end of three quarters.
Olathe South senior Kelly Knight, the game’s leading scorer with 25 points, connected on two free throws to make it 47-43 with 3:08 left. But the deficit was just too big to overcome.
Olathe East used a variety of zone defenses, including a half-court zone trap to try to limit the Falcons’ scoring.
“I figured they would play well and they did,” Super said. “My hat’s off to them.”
Olathe South used a zone defense in the first half with Talbert scoring 15 of his team high 21 points before intermission. He hit two three pointers and senior Justin Matthews had three threes in the first 16 minutes.
The Falcons switched to a man defense in the second half, allowing senior Caelan Neal to use his speed and quickness to advantage in driving to the basket. He had 15 of his 17 points in the second half.
The victory gave the Hawks a final regular-season record of 16-4.
“We will likely be the No. 2 seed in our substate,” Super said. “Lawrence can tie us, but we beat them in the regular season game.”
If the Hawks are the No. 2 seed when substate pairings are determined today, they will host a tournament.
Olathe South finished the regular season with a 10-10 record.