Olathe North coach Jeff Walton had a big smile on his face Friday night after his Eagles beat Shawnee Mission East 51-40 at SM East. After all, it was the end of a nine-year losing streak.
“I told them before the game to let me walk out of here with a W for the first time,” said Walton, whose Eagles beat the Lancers for the first time in Walton’s tenure at Olathe North.
But as satisfying as the victory was, it was just as difficult. The game was tied at 16-16 at halftime, and the Lancers led 32-31 entering the fourth quarter.
“They (SM East) came out with so much energy at the start of the third quarter,” Walton said. “But we found some energy and really played well in the fourth quarter.”
Olathe North took control of the game with a 6-0 run to start the final period. Junior Josh Moore scored on a put-back, and senior Julian Winton did the same off his own missed shot.
Then sophomore RJ Smith scored on a fast break, giving the Eagles a 37-32 lead with 5:42 left in the contest.
Joey Wentz hit a basket for the Lancers at the 4:52 mark to cut the margin to three, but then Olathe North went on a decisive 7-0 run.
“We really turned up the heat in the fourth quarter,” Walton said. “We were able to get out and go, and that is our game.
“They kept the game in their style for most of the game.”
Walton praised Smith and Winton for their play.
“RJ really gave us a lift off the bench,” he said. “And Winton really struggled in the first half and was fighting himself. He really played well in the second half.”
Winton led the Eagles in scoring with 17 points, 11 of which came in the second half. Smith had seven points off the bench. Junior Josh Moore had 10 points and senior Josh Burk added nine.
The Eagles were four of six from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, but were just four of 10 in the first three quarters.
Lucas Jones led the Lancers with 20 points. The 6-7 junior had 12 points in the third quarter. He was the only SM East player to score in double figures.
The Lancers made their first 12 free throws in the game and ended 15-of-16 from the charity stripe.
The victory moved the Eagles to 11-3 overall and 4-1 in Sunflower League play. The Lancers fell to 10-4 and 3-2 in the league.SM East girls 34, Olathe North 19
The Lancers led 16-5 at halftime and 26-9 going into the last quarter.
The Eagles didn’t get into double figures until Syrra Lindsey hit a short shot with 4 minutes left in the game.
Seniors Molly Ross and Erin McGinley led SM East with 11 points each, and freshman guard Kyle Haverty added 10.