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Bellevue West, Millard North Split Girls-Boys Double-Header

by Dec 8, 2023Preps Boys Basketball, Preps Girls Basketball

Millard North vs. Bellevue West
Photo Credit: Alex Van Gerpen

The Thunderdome played host to a pair of potential Class A state championship previews on Thursday night as Bellevue West hosted Millard North for a varsity double-header.

GIRLS: No. 1 Bellevue West 50, No. 2 Millard North 45

Story of the Game

The girls game was close throughout with the top-ranked Thunderbirds taking a 38-37 lead into the fourth quarter.

Izzie Galligan stole the ball and took it all the way for a layup to put the Mustangs up a point early in the period, but Bellevue West responded with a 7-0 run including a 3 and a driving layup for senior Kenzie Melcher against Millard North’s zone looks. The Northwest Missouri State commit scored six of her 11 points in the fourth quarter.

“She’s a kid we trust,” Bellevue West coach Dane Bacon said of Melcher. “She’s a big-time player. Every high school player is going to go through ebbs and flows as the game’s going on, but she’s a kid we trust. We know she’s going to step up in the big moment. We challenged her at halftime and she responded. We’re not surprised.”

Bellevue West maintained its lead the rest of the way, though the Mustangs had a chance to tie it up in the final seconds. Trailing 48-43 with 6.7 to go, Millard North ran a baseline out-of-bounds play and Brylee Nelsen popped free at the top of the key, but senior Mia McVay closed out and got a piece of the shot to seal the victory.

“Mia’s deceptively long,” Bacon said. “We’re glad she came back out; she’s a kid that we were super excited when she said she was going to join us this year. I thought she got a ton of deflections, a ton of steals. She’s been an x-factor for us early in the year.”

The game was a defensive battle as both sides shot under 33% from the field, but the Thunderbirds made a few more plays to secure the victory and improve to 3-0.

Coach Speak

“It was tough, hard-fought,” Bacon said. “We know Millard North’s a really good team. They do a lot of stuff, a lot of good stuff. We respect them a lot. I thought we played really hard, definitely the hardest we’ve played early in the season. Obviously the 1-2 makes it a little easier to play hard but I thought our kids rose to that challenge. Defensively I thought we were outstanding in that second half.”

Standout Performers

Senior Ahnica Russell-Brown led all scorers with 15 points for the Thunderbirds. Her backcourt partner, Grand Canyon commit Naomi White, notched a double-double with 13 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.

“The kid’s tough. She finds a way to win, and since she’s gotten here we’ve won. I think the kid’s a winner and I’m just super proud of her because she always finds a way to help her team. That’s what she says she wants to do and she did it tonight.”

Junior guard Sara Harley scored 11 points and went 7-of-8 from the foul line for the Mustangs. Sophomore forward Clara Welker provided a spark off the bench with 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting (1-of-1 from deep) and 2-of-4 from the foul line. Junior forward Avril Smith did a bit of everything with six points, 11 rebounds (five offensive), three blocks and three assists as the Mustangs fell to 2-1.

BOYS: No. 3 Millard North 85, No. 1 Bellevue West 74

Story of the Game

After 31 straight victories, Bellevue West finally tasted defeat on Thursday as No. 3 Millard North put together an incredible second half to knock off the reigning Class A state champion.

The No. 1 Thunderbirds led throughout the first half and took a six-point edge into halftime. The Mustangs rallied to take the lead on a Derek Rollins dunk in the final 30 seconds of the third quarter before Eldon Turner knocked down a pull-up jumper at the buzzer to make it 60-59 Bellevue West.

The teams went back and forth early in the fourth before Millard North delivered a knockout blow, ripping off a 16-2 run to build a 13-point lead with less than two to play. Millard North coach Mike Etzelmiller credited Rollins for sparking the run as the 6-foot-5 forward scored half the points himself, part of a 24-point second half.

“I feel like there are a lot of people that are either overlooking him or think that he’s a player that he’s not,” Etzelmiller said. “The young man just plays. He’s a competitor. He’s a quiet gentle giant, but when he gets it going he’s a tough kid to stop.”

As a team, Millard North shot 19-of-23 from the field, including 4-of-6 from 3, and 10-of-13 from the foul line with two put-backs, eight assists and five turnovers. The Mustangs totaled 52 points after halftime, scoring on 25 of their 32 possessions, and held the Thunderbirds to 5-of-15 shooting with four turnovers in the fourth quarter.

Coach Speak

“I thought at the beginning of the game we came out and we didn’t really impose our will,” Etzelmiller said. “I felt like they were more physical. We started our offense clear out at halfcourt and couldn’t really get into things. We probably hit enough shots to stay in the game, then in the second half I thought it was a different story. I thought we got a little more aggressive.”

Standout Performers

Rollins finished with 31 points on 12-of-17 shooting including 4-of-7 from deep, eight rebounds and three blocks.

Senior guard Elijah Gaeth had a big game as well, putting up 22 points on 10-of-16 from the field (2-of-4 from 3), five rebounds, two assists and no turnovers.

“When we came out [after halftime] and he was very positive,” Etzelmiller said of Gaeth. “He said ‘We’ve got this.’ He was a great leader during the game. Sometimes it’s not your day, and when he stepped up and made a couple buckets it was big.”

Senior Neal Mosser, known for his 3-point shooting, didn’t hit a triple on Thursday but still put up 14 points, doing all of his damage at the rim or from the foul line. He also dished out four assists without a turnover and grabbed five rebounds.

All five starters scored in double figures for the Thunderbirds, led by Turner’s 18 and four steals. Senior Jadyn Cascio Jensen, a transfer from Fremont, added 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting (3-of-5 from 3) and 3-of-5 from the foul line. Junior forward Robby Garcia scored 11 points on 4-of-5 from the field (1-of-2 from 3) and 2-of-3 from the line while grabbing eight rebounds.

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