Boys basketball wins sub-state championship

Despite a difficult first half, the Jaguars defeat J.C. Harmon 58-42

Taylor Anderson, JAG editor-in-chief

The boys basketball team defeated J.C. Harmon 58-42 on Friday, March 4, securing a sub-state championship and advancing them to the state tournament for the third time in four years.

Beginning with a great deal of back-and-forth possession, both teams quickly set a fast pace for the remainder of the game. Sophomore Cooper Kaifes said the intensity of the first half led to a rocky start for the Jaguars.

“In the first half, we didn’t play too well,” Kaifes said. “[Harmon] didn’t really miss any shots, and in the second half we really buckled down on defense.”

At the end of the first quarter, the score was tied 17-17, and going into halftime, the Jaguars clinged to 29-27 lead after coming back from behind within the last two minutes of the half. As as result of the close score, Kaifes said defense become the top priority for the team in the third and fourth quarters.

“Coach [Mike Bennett] was really on us in the first half because our defense wasn’t that good, so in the second half we really picked up our defense,” Kaifes said. “That’s the reason why we won the game.”

Starting fresh in the second half, players pushed to widen their lead. According to senior Clayton Holmberg, team members shifted the focus to high-intensity plays to keep momentum up, which included a dunk by Kaifes in the last five minutes of the game.

“We just try to focus on big-energy plays, like when [senior] Jaison Widmer dove on the floor to give [sophomore] Cooper Kaifes that dunk,” Holmberg said. “Plays like that spur the team to keep the energy up.”

Despite struggles early on, the team ultimately defeated Harmon 58-42. Holmberg accredited the victory to team work among players.

“We started out pretty rough, but we got together, especially in the third and fourth quarter, and we came together to play like we know we could,” Holmberg said.

Kaifes said the win was a result of the defensive strategy the team took on after the difficult first half.

“In the first half, [Harmon] played well, but in the second half, our defense really got them,” Kaifes said. “When we pressured them, they just didn’t play that well.”

The win will move the team forward into the state tournament, which will begin Wednesday, March 9 at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka.

“It feels so nice to have back-to-back state appearances. We’ve gone three times in the four years I’ve been here, so it’s pretty wonderful,” Holmberg said. “We’re just going to take it one game at a time; get one win three times and hope we get a state championship.”

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