Olathe East and Blue Valley North were locked in a tough basketball battle heading down the stretch on Friday at Olathe East in the season opener for both teams.
But that’s when the Olathe East Hawks took control of the boards, made some key free throws and beat the Mustangs 51-48.
The game was tied at 35-35 going into fourth quarter, and it appeared the visiting Mustangs might gain control of the game.
After a three-point basket by senior Danny Weston and a put-back by junior Jawan Emery, Blue Valley North had a 42-39 lead with 5:55 left in the game.
But the Hawks fought back with their superior size and free-throw shooting.
Ezra Talbert, a 6-7 junior, scored on a rebound basket with 4:44 left in the game. And he had another rebound bucket after Mustang senior Scott Edwards connected on a short shot. That made it 44-43 in favor of Blue Valley North.
Olathe East took the lead for good on two free throws by senior Kyle Smith with 1:21 left. Smith was fouled after coming up with a big offensive rebound.
The Mustangs turned the ball over at the 1:09 mark, and the Hawks were able to stretch the lead to three on two free throws by junior Caelan Neal with 45 seconds left.
Edwards made two free throws of his own to cut the Hawks’ lead to one point with 37 seconds left.
Olathe East’s Neal was fouled after grabbing a missed Mustang shot with 13-seconds left, and he made both free throws to make it 51-48.
Blue Valley North had a chance to tie it, but Edwards’ three-point shot at the buzzer barely missed.
The Mustangs had their chances earlier in the quarter, missing five consecutive free throws while holding the lead. BV North was just five of 12 at the charity stripe in the fourth quarter, and they turned the ball over 16 times in the game.
The Hawks, on the other hand, connected on eight of nine free throws in the fourth and were 12 of 14 for the game.
“We got tougher in the fourth quarter,” Olathe East coach Jim Super said. “We got some loose ball and got some free throws and made them.
“We are off to a good start with a young team.”
Talbert and Smith led the Hawks with 15 points each. Talbert was the leading rebounder in the game with nine. He scored six points off offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter.
“Olathe East is a good team,” BV North coach Ryan Pfifer said. “We made too many mental mistakes, and we played tentative early.
“We gave up too many second chance points. We have a lot to learn from this game.”
Edwards finished with 14 points for the Mustangs.