Conklin, Lichtenauer lead Jaguars to 8-1 with win at SM South
Overland Park The other day, Mill Valley coach John McFall posed a question to his players about why the defense-first system has been so good to them.
By now, in 50-plus games as the Jaguars head coach, the sample size is big enough to speak for itself.
“Can you name one when we weren’t in it down right at the stretch?” he asked his team.
Of course, some players thought of a few losses. But McFall’s point was there was always a chance. Even in its one loss this year, the Jaguars had a chance to win as the clock expired.
Mill Valley (8-1, 6-0) once again smothered a team defensively by defeating Shawnee Mission South Friday night, 34-29. The Raiders brought a hefty defensive game of their own, making those 34 points hard to come by.
“It was good for us to not have things working out,” senior Stephanie Lichtenauer said.
Having moved from 6A to 5A, the Raiders brought the toughness of playing in the Sunflower League and the Jaguars embraced it. Last week against Bonner Springs, Mill Valley made every shot and all other aspects of the game fell into place.
This game was the opposite. After an easy layup to start the game, it took nearly seven minutes for Mill Valley to score again. Senior Mackenzie Conklin broke the dry spell with 35 seconds left in the quarter then hit a three as the period ended, taking a 7-5 lead.
After yielding the lead to the Raiders in the second quarter, the Jaguars had nine straight points to start the second half to take a seven-point lead. SM South hit back-to-back threes to cut the lead to one.
Frustrated with the best sequence of the night dissolving in a matter of seconds, Mill Valley had to regroup.
Generally, Lichtenauer said, somebody on the team — it’s different every game — takes charge in this situation and motivates the team. This game?
“Ehh, I don’t really know,” she said. “I feel like it was kind of all of us.”
All seven players who played, McFall said, had significant contributions. Conklin led the team with 14 and Lichtenauer added 10. But numbers can’t quantify how some players affect the outcome, especially on defense.
“Kenzie Koch, Mary Altman, those players that probably, in the box score, don’t show up but they do so many things for us,” McFall said.
Having found a steady groove, the Jaguars hit their free throws and are now looking ahead to Wichita West on Thursday.
For the season, Mill Valley is holding teams to 31 points per game while having scored more than that in each game this season. Even in the team’s only loss of the season, 32-33 to Blue Valley Northwest, the Jaguars had a chance to win the game on the final possession.
In one of its least efficient offensive nights of season, Mill Valley still showed dominance. And any future opponent should expect a long night.
“If they start pulling away, then we’re going to step up and come right back,” Lichtenauer said of the team’s tenacity. “We’re not going to let a team get away from us. We just aren’t going to let that happen.”