The first round of state basketball is usually pretty predictable. No one could have predicted the fall of the Wichita North Redskins in the first round of the 6A boys state basketball tournament. They were the No. 2 seed with a 20-2 record. Their opponent, Blue Valley West, came in as the No. 7 seed with a 13-9 record. It seemed like a mismatch on paper but the Jaguars couldn’t miss and the Redskins struggled. Despite a strong start the Redskins fell to the Jaguars 41-35.
“We felt like this was our year,” said North head coach Gary Squires. “We had strong sophomores and juniors and Conner coming back this year. I said in there [the locker room] I don’t know what words I can tell you guys to help you get over this.”
The first half belonged to the Redskins. They controlled the tempo. They had a five point lead at the end of the first and a six point lead going into halftime. As quickly as they shifted baskets so did the momentum. Senior Conner Frankamp who averages 31.2 points per game only made 11 points total. Nothing would go in for the Redskins.
“Yeah, I was pretty frustrated but I tried not to show too much of it,” Frankamp said.“ I tried to knock a couple shots down to get going but that never happened. I had open shots. They doubled me most of the night but I still had pretty good looks. I just couldn’t knock them down.”
Squires said the downward spiral paralleled their free throw success. North went 6-for-7 and Blue Valley West made 11-of-14.
“Defensively we did a nice job but we just didn’t make shots,” he said. “They got twice as many free throws as we did. You know with their box-and-one and their zone they had you are not going to get to the line if you don’t penetrate.”
The decision to stall in the third quarter was another decision that took its toll on the Redskins. North couldn’t make a shot and the Jaguars weren’t missing. The ramifications were not clear until the score was tied at 35 with less than a minute remaining. North junior guard Tarius Williams handed the ball off to junior Zach Beard as they bounced back and forth along the perimeter. The Jaguars leading scorer, Connor Kaiser stepped up big and caused a turnover. Kaiser gained possession and found Ryan Ralston at the other end of the court for an easy layup. That was it. Squires said he decided to resort to a stall because they had the lead throughout most of the game and the Jaguars were roaring on offense.
“We had the lead at the end of the third quarter so we just thought we would run the clock out and go for one shot,” he said. “The same way there at the end but we got the ball stolen. We were going to go one last shot for the win. That’s what the game plan was. I was going to call one time out and I was just getting ready to call that time out when I looked out there and we lost the ball.”
A few free points at the line for Blue Valley West and a last ditch attempt for three points by Frankamp made it final. For the second year in a row the Redskins couldn’t clinch that state title. Squires is still optimistic about their chances for next year.
“Frankamp is our only senior so we will have all of these guys back,” he said. “We have another year to play basketball and put in the work in the offseason to get back here.”
Derby becomes the lone representative of Central Kansas
The Derby boys basketball program has never won a state championship. That’s right never. So getting to the final four of the 6A state tournament is a big deal. The Panthers battled with the Garden City Buffs in the first round but punched their ticket to the final four with a 55-46 win. Derby has not been to the state tournament since 1997. Pre-game jitters and excitement were to be expected.
“We were nervous but coach told us to calm down before the game,” said senior Taylor Schieber. “He expected the first couple of minutes to be fast paced but it worked out good.”
The fast pace catapulted Derby to a three point lead at the end of the first quarter and the Panthers didn’t let go. Garden City’s Bo Banner put up 17 points and the Buffs battled back within two points early in the fourth quarter but it would not be enough. Derby head coach Brett Flory said the only way his Panthers could stop the Buffalo comeback was a more aggressive defense.
“We were fortunately able to kind of get a hand in the face on some of their threes and once Banner got going for them that became a problem,” he said. “Then we started getting a hand in his face. You know once they started driving to the hoop on us we didn’t do a good job of defending that but we got just enough stops and just enough foul shots in the end to pull it out.”
The Panthers earned 20 points from free throws compared to the Buffs six. Schieber was the leading scorer with 20 points and said he is excited to be a part of school history.
“We are the first team to do this in Derby’s program so it is really something special,” he said. “We are going to have fun with it and it’s going to be pretty cool. All the credit for my scoring goes to my teammates. They are the ones who set up the perfect picks and got me in position to make that happen.”
Derby advances to take on No. 1 seed Blue Valley Northwest in the semifinals on Friday, March 4, at 4:45 p.m. The Huskies defeated Lawrence-Free State with ease in the first round 56-37.
Wichita East falls to the No. 3 seed Shawnee Mission East
Play to the buzzer. Wichita North and East got caught up in an early lead and it led to their downfall. Despite a six point lead at halftime, the Wichita East Blue Aces fell to the Shawnee Mission East Lancers 53-41.
“We really felt like we had control of the game in the first half,” East head coach Joe Jackson said. “We kind of came out a little bit flat. You’ve got to give credit to them they executed well especially in the second half. We got lost defensively on several occasions. They got too many open looks and too many offensive rebounds. That was a point emphasis for us coming in was that was that we can’t allow them to get second chance points. There were several possessions that they had three or four offensive rebounds. That was a point of emphasis and we didn’t execute that but it’s the first time that we have been back to state in a while. It still hurts to lose that game but I’m really proud of our seniors and our entire team.”
The Blue Aces' field goal percentage drastically dropped from the first to the second half. East shot 37 percent in the first half and 17.2 percent in the second. The Lancers came out of halftime with a stronger defense and kept the Blue Aces to only three points in the third. Jackson said their offense hit a wall.
“We couldn’t throw a rock in the ocean in the second half and maybe that rim was tight,” he said. “They struggled down there in the first half. We have guys that we feel like can knock down a shot but we really struggled to put it in there. Their length bothered us a little bit inside and we even struggled putting it inside. Plus we couldn’t get anything from the perimeter to fall. That’s a tough team they are 20-2 for a reason.”