Northwest crisp against Junction City for first victory
Using clean, proficient ball movement, the Shawnee Mission Northwest boys basketball team found holes in the defense of the Bluejays from Junction City, jumping out to a 20-point halftime lead before claiming a 63-50 victory Saturday night at Northwest Gymnasium.
The 13-point win was the first of the season for the Cougars and looked very impressive as the Northwest offense moved the ball well from side-to-side and probed the Junction City defense effectively, finding scoring opportunities all night. Of the 26 Cougar field goals, 21 came off of assists.
“We were able to just execute,” said Northwest head coach Mike Rose. “Our stats at halftime said that we had 10 assists and we had 13 baskets in the first half. Any time you have guys sharing the basketball like that, you’re going to be successful.”
And the Cougars couldn’t get much more than the game’s opening four minutes in which they jumped out to an 8-0 lead thanks to back-to-back baskets by junior guard Luke Fields. Senior forward Bill Graves pushed the lead to nine and then 10 points on consecutive baskets in the paint before Junction City junior forward made the score 12-4 on a right baseline jumper just before the first quarter ended.
Three baskets in a row by Northwest senior post Jackson Foth opened the second period and the Cougars had a commanding 19-4 lead with five minutes left in the first half. Junior forward Marcus Collins increased the lead to 18 on a post bucket off a feed from Fields, then Graves gave Northwest its biggest margin of the first half after scoring another post shot off an inbounds assist from Fields, making it 29-9 Northwest at halftime.
The Bluejays began steadily chipping away at the Cougar lead in the third quarter. Junction City 3-pointers that had not been falling in the first half began to drop and the Bluejays became more active on the boards and began driving the ball to the lane more. A layup by junior guard Gabriel Ryan pulled the Bluejays back to within 10. However, Fields again provided heroics for the home team as he drained a trey from the left corner off an assist from sophomore guard Jake Horner just before the buzzer. Fields’ 3-pointer came after the Cougars reversed the ball perfectly and took advantage of a Bluejay defense that was slow in rotating back.
A pair of Horner free throws pushed the lead back to 15 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter and the Blue Jays could not get back to closer than 11 points the rest of the way. The Cougars connected on seven free throws in the final 2:02 to seal the win.
Despite the efficient offense, Rose was not pleased with how the Cougars let Junction City back into the game in the second half.
“The second half was a completely different story,” Rose said. “We let them score 41 points against us in a half. That’s not acceptable for us. They went back to man-to-man defense and we didn’t do as good a job executing against that in the halfcourt. But like I told the guys after the game, ‘Let’s just enjoy this win for now and let’s talk about the things we need to fix on Monday.’”
Foth led the way all night for the Cougars. His dominating inside presence resulted in 25 points, three blocked shots, three rebounds, and two assists for the big man. Fields added 13 points, six assists, two rebounds, and two steals, while Graves had 13 points and a team-high five rebounds.