No. 1 Huskies clinch second straight finals appearance with 82-61 win over No. 4 Derby

The varsity boys basketball team clinched a spot in the state championship game with an 82-61 win over Derby High School in the state semifinals March 9 Charles Koch Arena.

Ben Brown, Sports Editor

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Mahmood Khatib

Blue Valley Northwest junior guard Christian Braun (0) extends for a dunk attempt during the second half of the Huskies matchup with Derby at Charles Koch Arena. The Huskies defeated the Panthers, 82-61.

WICHITA– In BVNW’s third straight state semifinals appearance, the No. 1 Huskies led by head coach Ed Fritz took on the No. 4 Derby Panthers coached by Fritz’s former assistant coach at BVNW, Brett Flory. Although they struggled retaining possession at the start, the Huskies would quickly adapt to have a very efficient night offensively in the state semifinals.

The Panthers came out in a man-to-man press and trapped which caused some issues in the backcourt for the Huskies. On the first two possessions for the Huskies, the team was unable to handle the pressure leading to two consecutive turnovers.

“I had a lot of early turnovers because I wasn’t looking up the court,” junior guard Christian Braun said.

BVNW’s guards however would quickly figure out how to handle the pressure. After breaking the press, the Huskies were able to move the ball around and found senior Parker Braun for a layup a minute into the game for the Huskies’ first points of the game. This would be the first basket of an 8-0 run pieced together by BVNW.

After getting in a rhythm, the Huskies took control during the first quarter. BVNW was able to drive the lane which led to a perfect quarter from the field as they went 11-11 on shots. Senior Joe Pleasant said the Huskies offense was at its best when they got in the paint.

“I felt like they really couldn’t stop us inside,” Pleasant said. “We had great ball movement, and we got the extra pass and got good looks to get easy layups.”

This offensive efficiency would give BVNW a 27-13 lead after the first quarter. While BVNW jumped out to a quick lead, No. 4 Derby would start to click offensively in the second quarter. Led by senior Bryant Mocaby, the Derby Panthers started knocking down 3-pointers and found holes in the BVNW defense, something they struggled with in the first half. Fritz said while his team played well offensively, the defense was lacking.

“I thought we did a good job of scoring,” Fritz said. “ [We] did a terrible job on defense. [Mocaby] really did a good job of finding the open lapses in the zone, and they kept the pressure up all night.”

While the Huskies’ defense was not flawless in the second quarter, their offense helped them to keep their lead going into the half. Although the team missed some 3-pointers in the second quarter, they continued their 100% field-goal percentage from 2-point range. Although the Panthers outscored the Huskies 20-17 in the second quarter, BVNW went into the locker room with a 44-33 lead in the state semifinal game.

The second half featured more of the same for both teams. Derby continued to pressure the ball which did not seem to phase the No. 1 team in the state. Due to the constant pressure, the guards were able to find Parker and Pleasant for easy layups and dunks.

While Derby tried to chip away at the lead during the third quarter, BVNW stayed composed to extend their lead to 13 points for a 61-48 score at the end of the third quarter.

With only one quarter standing between them and a second straight trip to the state championship game, BVNW maintained their lead in the fourth quarter. Although Mocaby would go on to score 31 points for Derby, Fritz said he was proud his team continued to fight.

“We did enough things to win, and we kind of broke away to win, so I’m happy with that,” Fritz said.

The five starters for BVNW would go on to score 76 of the team’s 82 points on a night where the Huskies shot 75.6% from the field led by Pleasant’s second-straight game with 21 points. With a offensive showcase from the Huskies, BVNW went on to defeat Derby, 82-61. Florey said the well-coached Huskies were the more talented team.

“Credit goes to them,” Flory said. “They’re the best team in the state for a reason.”

With the state semifinal win, the Huskies extend their win streak to 16 games and advance to the 6A state championship game against Lawrence Free State Saturday, March 10 at 6:30 p.m. With one game left in the season, Fritz said this is the last goal the team wants to achieve.

“You know, we’ve accomplished everything we’ve wanted to do,” Fritz said. “We won the league, we went undefeated at home, we wanted to get down here and this was our last goal. Free State’s really good. They came out and shot the ball great today and so we’re going to have to play well to win.”

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No. 1 Huskies clinch second straight finals appearance with 82-61 win over No. 4 Derby