VALLEY CENTER—For the third year in a row, Blue Valley Northwest won the boys basketball championship at the January Jam in Valley Center.
The Huskies walloped Olathe Northwest 80-56 on Saturday, Jan. 19, for the tournament title. They defeated the same squad 61-44 in last year’s final.
Blue Valley Northwest junior Clayton Custer scored a game-high 30 points Saturday. He was named tournament MVP for the second year in a row.
Ed Fritz, the Huskies’ coach, picked up his 500th career win earlier this month. The boys are undefeated this season.
The closest game of the day Saturday occurred in the third-place contest. Garden City edged Wichita Northwest 45-41 for third place. The Buffaloes finished seventh in last year’s January Jam.
“It’s definitely an improvement,” Garden City coach Jacy Holloway said after Saturday’s game. “Obviously it wasn’t our goal to come in here and not place in the championship game.”
Wichita Northwest led 14-8 at the end of the first quarter, but Garden City outscored the Grizzlies 13-3 in the second. The Buffaloes led 21-17 at halftime.
They scored the first six points of the third quarter, including senior Bo Banner’s field goal that gave them a double-digit lead, 27-17. Northwest had narrowed the gap to five, 33-28, by the end of the quarter.
Grizzly sophomore Nick Williams opened the final stanza with a bucket that further whittled Garden City’s advantage to just three, 33-30. With 2:17 remaining in the game, Northwest trailed 39-35.
Junior Brett Johnston’s basket made it a one-possession game, 39-37, and Garden City called for timeout. Holloway said the purpose of the break was to remind his players that they still had the lead.
He explained that the Buffaloes were acting like they were behind instead of “making solid plays like we had the lead.” He added that Northwest pressured them out of their offense.
The two-point margin remained, 40-38, with one minute on the clock. Northwest was forced to foul but struggled to capitalize on possessions. The Grizzlies’ deficit was at four, 42-38, at the 26-second mark. Their three-point attempt failed, but soon after, Johnston managed to steal Garden City’s inbounds pass and he was fouled.
Johnston hit the first of two free throws with 13 seconds left in the game. The Buffaloes grabbed the rebound when Johnston’s second attempt missed, and Northwest resumed its fouling strategy.
Garden City junior Tristan Nanninga and senior Austin Terpstra combined to sink five of six free throws in the final minute.
“I think it’s a focus issue,” said Holloway. “I think when it gets down to the wire, we really focus on making free throws and knocking some down.”
He pointed out that the Buffaloes (9-4) were familiar with close matchups. Seven of their games this year have ended with single-digit margins.
Banner anchored Garden City with 11 points Saturday, while Terpstra scored nine. Johnston led Northwest (5-6) with eight points.