This week in practice, Blue Valley North boys basketball coach Ryan Phifer has been asking his team to show more passion.
In last week's Viking Classic at Shawnee Mission West, Phifer said, the Mustangs came out flat and had not been playing to their potential.
Blue Valley North made up for it in a big way on Friday night with a 59-57 rivalry-game upset against Blue Valley Northwest on the road. It was just the second loss of the season for the Huskies, who are the defending Kansas Class 6A state champions and the top-ranked team in the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association poll.
“I know this is a big rivalry game and we respect Blue Valley Northwest quite a bit; they’re a solid, solid team, but we came out and played with pride tonight and played with emotion,” Phifer said. “I think they got sick and tired of me talking about it so they wanted to come out and prove it tonight.”
The Mustangs led by as many as 10 points in the first quarter, but the Huskies rallied and took the lead with a 14-2 run.
The Mustangs held a 26-24 lead at halftime and scored five straight points out of the break, but the Huskies answered with an 8-0 run to take the lead midway through the third quarter. Trailing 48-39, the Huskies put together one final 8-0 run in the fourth to whittle down the Mustangs’ lead to one point with 3:35 remaining, but could not capitalize down the stretch.
“Northwest does a great job of going on runs with their three-point shots and their press,” Phifer said. “We kept talking about how we had to limit their runs. If they make five points in a row, we have to keep our composure and pound the ball inside because that is where we felt like we had an advantage over them. They followed the game plan to a ‘T.’ ”
With the victory, Blue Valley North took over sole possession of the Eastern Kansas League standings and improved to 8-3 and 6-0. Blue Valley Northwest dropped to 10-2 and 5-1.
“It is big,” Cook said. “One of our goals is to win the EKL championship and every game is important. We’ve got to come back next week and get another one.”
Cook led the Mustangs with 21 points off a game-high nine field goals. Senior guards Ben Richardson and Clayton Custer, who is headed to Iowa State next season, led the Huskies with 21.