Four different players knocked down at least one three-pointer in the first half for Mill Valley, but the player who stole the show in the first 16 minutes was sophomore Cooper Kaifes.
Kaifes’ NBA-range three-pointer at the second quarter buzzer gave Mill Valley a 22-point halftime lead over Washington on Friday in the Kansas 5A boys semifinals at the Kansas Expocentre.
It was a big enough cushion for the Jaguars to cruise to a 65-37 victory and into the 5A state championship game at 6:15 p.m. Saturday.
“It was one of the most fun games I’ve played in,” said Kaifes, who finished with a game-high 17 points. “This was probably the best game we’ve played all year. I’m glad it is now.”
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Kaifes scored in numerous ways in the first half while getting 14 points. He raced down the court for a couple of layups on fast breaks. He had a dunk that gave Mill Valley a 29-15 lead and his second three-pointer of the first half sent the Jaguars into halftime ahead 41-19.
“I probably liked the dunk the most because it is more entertaining, and I try to be an entertainer out there,” Kaifes said.
If it was only Kaifes scoring, Washington might have had a chance. All the Jaguars were clicking at a high level. It started with senior Kasey Conklin knocking down a couple of threes in the opening minutes. His second one increased Mill Valley’s lead to 11-7.
Once the Jaguars got the four-point advantage, they never slowed down. At the end of the first quarter, they led 19-11.
They were even better on offense in the second quarter, scoring 22 points. Mill Valley 6-foot-8 senior center Clayton Holmberg stepped outside and drained a three-pointer late in the second quarter, giving Mill Valley a 38-19 lead.
“This feels wonderful,” said Holmberg, who finished with seven points and seven rebounds. “We’ve been putting in this work for four years. It is nice to have the first state championship appearance in basketball.”
All five starters for Mill Valley scored at least four points in the first half.
“As much as it looked like it was a great offensive game, our defense was tremendous,” Mill Valley coach Michael Bennett said. “Our defense played extremely well. They are really hard to guard. They are explosive on the offensive side. I thought our defense stepped up with high intensity the entire time.”