There was no getting around the sense of disappointment in the SM East boys basketball team’s locker room Saturday.
Not 24 hours after suffering a heartbreaking 59-58 loss to Blue Valley West in the state 6A semi-finals, they’d had to endure another close loss in the consolation game, this time at the hands of Derby. The 62-57 defeat put the Lancers in fourth place in the tournament.
“There was a lot of sadness,” said head coach Shawn Hair. “We talked after the game Friday about putting things in perspective and playing our hearts out in that last game. And I think they did. They played their hearts out against Derby. We just came up a little short.”
But, Hair says, it likely won’t be long before the nine seniors who ended their high school careers this weekend can look back and be proud of what they accomplished. The team’s 21-4 overall record was the best in school history; no other team has won as many games. And key wins over Oklahoma’s Bishop McGuiness in the season-opening tournament and rival Rockhurst on Jan. 25 built momentum that attracted more and more fans to come out for their games.
“I hope these kids will all look back and remember the good highlights,” Hair said Sunday. “This was a group of hard workers who invested a lot of themselves. You got the sense that, so many times, they just weren’t going to take no for an answer.”
With state play over (Blue Valley Northwest beat Blue Valley West 46-29 in the title game Saturday), Hair and his assistants are already looking to putting the pieces in place for a strong team next season — no small challenge considering the team is losing nine seniors. Sophomore standout Lucas Jones will be back, as will juniors Christian Blessen, Colin Burns and Luke Haverty. Joey Wentz, who made the varsity team as a freshman, will be back as well.
But Joey’s brother Vance — the talented 6’4″ guard — has played his last game in Columbia blue. Vance Wentz is headed to Montana State University next year to play for their NCAA Division I team. And Wentz’s 6’7″ compatriot at forward will likely be playing college ball next year as well. Hair said Zach Schneider has attracted interest from a number of Division II schools, including Northwest Missouri State, Central Missouri State, Truman State and William Jewell.
“Zach played so well for us down the stretch,” Hair said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what he decides.”