Maize’s boys set a standard for their basketball program Thursday — first team to reach the Class 6A semifinals.
“It’s awesome,” said junior Connor Lungwitz, who had nine points. “I can’t explain the feeling. You’ve got two more (games), no matter what. Maize has never been past the first round. It feels great.”
Maize (20-3) beat Olathe East 44-43 after a tense defensive stand and will play Blue Valley Northwest (21-2) at 4:45 p.m. Friday in the semifinals at Koch Arena.
A final defensive stand was set up by Maize senior Jacob Horsch offense. He was 1 of 6 and had missed all five three-point attempts.
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With Maize trailing 40-37, teammate Caleb Wilcox got the offensive rebound and found Horsch for a three-pointer. This shot fell to tie the game with 2:07 to go.
“I missed a lot early,” Horsch said. “So I was due for one.”
Down 43-42 in the final minute, it was Horsch again. He attempted a three and got his own rebound at the free-throw line, making the second shot for the lead with 34 seconds to go.
Now it was the defense’s turn. But how to stop Olathe East’s bigs, and how to stop the guards from driving to the rim as they had all afternoon?
“Their No. 24 (Ezra Talbert), he was a force down low,” Lungwitz said. “He was tough to stop. We were trying to get around, without getting fouls, trying to shut him down, down low and make their guards shoot it and not drive.”
Talbert finished with 10 points, but the ball went to Caelan Neal, who had scorched Maize, hitting 7 of his first 11 shots and finishing with 20 points.
“We put our best defender on him, Caleb Wilcox,” Horsch said.
Neal had to settle for a jumper. It fell short and as the ball caromed off into the middle of the lane, Lungwitz and Talbert leaped for the ball.
“I said, ‘I don’t want to lose on a putback. I’m not going to let this guy get the ball. I jumped like I could and I just held on,” Lungwitz said.
Both grabbed it in midair, with Lungwitz in front of Talbert. But both were straight up and a jump ball was called with 1.6 seconds to play.
“I looked at the score table, I saw the arrow, and I just started screaming,” Lungwitz said.
After a time-out, Lungwitz — the football quarterback — threw the inbounds pass past halfcourt, and teammate Aaron Shaw, who scored a team-high 18 points and hit three three-pointers, tracked it down and dribbled out the final 1.6 seconds.
An exuberant coach Chris Davis yelled “you belong” to his team in the locker room after the game.
“We do believe,” he said. “We’ve beaten and played good teams all year. We’ve been preparing for this stage all year. Going to Dodge (City for the midseason tournament), also playing (Wichita) Southeast here. That set the tone.”
BV Northwest 65, Wichita North 44 — BV Northwest, the defending champion, scored the game’s first 12 points as it rolled to the win.
North didn’t score until more than four minutes had passed when senior Zach Beard scored four unanswered points. But that eight-point deficit was the closest North got.
“We dug ourselves a hole right off the bat, down 12-0,” North coach Gary Squires said. “We had some looks, they didn’t go in. It’s a coach’s nightmare.”
North was led by Tarius Williams’ 13 points. BV Northwest’s Vince Fritz scored a game-high 18 points. Teammate Clay Custer, a two-time All-State selection, had 17 points and 11 rebounds.
The final 25 seconds, Olathe East vs. Maize
Maize junior Connor Lungwitz
Maize guard Jacob Horsch
Maize coach Chris Davis
BV Northwest coach Ed Fritz
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