With one of the school’s most famous graduates tucked away in a corner of the stands, just a few rows above the team bench, the Blue Valley North boys basketball team started its season in dramatic fashion.
The Mustangs used their speed and athleticism, as well as a stellar performance from behind the three-point line, to topple the visiting Olathe East Hawks 70-56 on Friday night at Blue Valley North.
That capped a special night in which Blue Valley North also inducted professional tennis player Jack Sock into the school’s athletic hall of fame.
“This is a great first game for us,” Mustangs coach Ryan Phifer said.
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“We knew that last year they stormed the court when they beat us, so we had that in the video. And we talked about how we wanted to make sure we protected our home court.”
The Mustangs trailed early but used a 16-6 first-quarter run to get the lead. They had a 19-9 advantage at the end of the quarter and never let the lead get lower than eight points for the remainder of the contest. The Mustangs closed the first half with a 14-4 run.
The Mustangs did more than half of their damage from beyond the arc in the first half, scoring 18 of their 35 points there. Joe Lippoli and Keilon Hunter each had two three-pointers in that span.
Blue Valley North did not hit a single three-pointer in the second half but held a steady lead throughout with contributions from the bench.
“I was a little surprised, because we haven’t been shooting that well in practice,” Phifer said. “A lot of these guys were in their first varsity experience like Joe Lippoli, who was playing in his first game.”
Colby Bullock led the Mustangs with 23 points, and Daekwon Gross joined him in double figures with 11 before leaving with a knee injury in the third quarter. The team does not know yet how long he will be sidelined.
Cedric Roland, Cameron Hunter and Kameron Barnes each finished in double figures for the Hawks.
The Mustangs were playing without two key starters in Joey Dolan and Alex Blake. Dolan broke his hand at the end of football season and Blake rolled an ankle. Both are expected to return.
The Hawks were also missing a starter, with Josiah Talbert restricted to the sideline on crutches. He has a torn ligament in his toe, but expects to be back after winter break.
In his halftime speech, Sock acknowledged his fond memories from his time with the Mustangs. He posted a perfect 80-0 record in four individual state-champion seasons and dropped just one set.
“I’ve only been here once since I graduated, so to come back in front of a big crowd, to recognize me is really amazing,” Sock said.
As a professional player, he is currently ranked No. 26 in the world with a U.S. Open mixed doubles championship and a 2014 Wimbledon doubles championship to his name.