Some coaches would relish the opportunity to build momentum and save the toughest competition for the end of the regular season, but Olathe East High School’s Clint Evans is not one of those coaches.
His Hawks started the schedule’s gauntlet on Tuesday, with a road game against Shawnee Mission Northwest. Olathe East then will play at Lawrence Free State, at Leavenworth and host Olathe South to close out the regular season. Of the four teams, three entered Tuesday night’s games with just one league loss.
“I like the fact that we are going to face good teams going into substate,” Evans said. “But I think it brought about some complacency. Once we won 10 or 11 games, there was this thought that we were better than we were, which led to a couple really poor weeks of practice.”
Evans said his team’s struggles rose to the surface most in a 46-45 loss to Shawnee Mission South last Tuesday, when the Hawks missed 15 shots inside four feet and went 11-for-22 from the free-throw line. It was their second league loss and fifth overall.
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“I’d like to say that we weren’t running this or that right and be able to point to something, but sometimes you go out and play poorly and miss easy shots,” Evans said.
The Hawks regrouped on Friday with a victory against Olathe North, but going into this season ending stretch Evans said they need to get back to a more consistent defense and a balanced, attacking offense. He also pointed to the perimeter group of Val Scott, Caroline Hoppock, Sydney Wilson as a potential difference maker.
“I really just want them to compete the entire time,” Evans said. “We understand that there will be ups and downs and some different things that happen against four really good teams, but I want to make sure we aren’t sitting back, waiting for them to hit us and not hitting back.”
Games to watch
Blue Valley Northwest at St. Thomas Aquinas, 7 p.m. Monday
St. Thomas Aquinas has been one of the teams to beat in the Eastern Kansas League since the start of the season and Blue Valley Northwest almost pulled off that feat on Feb. 5.
The Huskies pushed the game to the brink and even led at halftime before Aquinas escaped with a five-point victory. Only one team has been able to defeat Aquinas so far, and that is undefeated Bishop Miege, who swept the season series.
Blue Valley Northwest has struggled to find a rhythm in EKL play, but has recently brought a fire to contend with top teams. The Huskies forced overtime against Miege last Friday, before falling 50-45.
Olathe Northwest at Shawnee Mission Northwest, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday
With the Sunflower League race gearing up for a dramatic finish, this game has the potential to shake things up.
Shawnee Mission Northwest is one of three teams with only one loss in league play, so they enter this matchup as the favorite. But Olathe Northwest has shown it can be quite dangerous with a little success from beyond the arc.
Twice this season Olathe Northwest has broken program records for three-pointers in a game, with 15 against Truman and 17 against Ulysses.
In order to pull off the upset, Olathe Northwest will also have to compete with the Cougars’ experience and consistency. SM Northwest’s three losses have come against schools with three or fewer losses.