From the moment the clock started running in the third quarter of SM East’s sub-state opening game against Blue Valley High, the Lancers seemed hellbent on handing the Tigers a victory.
Coach Shawn Hair’s postgame comments
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SM East took the three-point lead it had at the half and promptly handed it to Blue Valley. All of a sudden, the Lancers couldn’t guard. They couldn’t hold onto the ball. And they couldn’t shoot. Blue Valley outscored the Lancers 14-5 in the third quarter, and extended their lead to nine points in the opening minutes of the fourth.
By the looks of it, SM East head coach Shawn Hair’s 400th at the Lancers’ helm was going to be a tough season-ending loss.
Senior Colin Burns hit a three. And then another. SM East’s defense came to life and shut down the Blue Valley shooters who couldn’t miss just a few minutes earlier. With 1:50 remaining and the Lancers down by three, junior Gunnar Englund stole the ball at the top of the Blue Valley key and drove the length of the court for a layup. SM East was down by one point. The SM East gym erupted.
That’s the loudest the SME gym has been in a long time
— Joe Libeer (@Joekemon) March 7, 2014
With around a minute to go, sophomore Joey Wentz drove on the Lancers’ basket and drew a foul. His first shot from the free throw line tied the game. His next shot gave the Lancers their improbable lead — and would be the last point of the night.
Blue Valley held onto the ball as the clock wound down to ensure they would have the last shot, but SM East’s defenders locked down the Tigers’ shooters. Blue Valley never got a shot off. The Lancers had won, surviving to take on the top ranked team in Kansas and defending state champions, the 19-2 Blue Valley Northwest Huskies, in the sub-state final Saturday. Blue Valley Northwest beat SM North Thursday night, bringing the Indians’ season to a close.
Wentz and Burns led the Lancers in scoring with 11 points each. Sophomore Jay Guastello scored 9 and junior Lucas Jones scored 8. The win improved SM East to 12-3 all time against Blue Valley, and made Hair’s record against the Tigers 6-1.
Hair said after the game he was impressed by how his team pieced together their comeback, but that they’ll have to bring a better game to the Huskies’ gym if they want to advance to the state bracket.
“They’re state champions for a reason,” he said. “They’re a winning machine. We’re going to have to play a lot looser than we did today.”
The sub-state final will tip at 7 p.m. Saturday at Blue Valley Northwest.
(Thanks to Kevin Booker for the Blue Valley-SM East stats!)