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Bob Lutz: Frankamp, North fail to dictate their terms

Published March 6 at 9:19 p.m. | Last updated March 7 at 10:30 a.m.

The basketball season that became an Iron Man Triathlon for North senior guard Conner Frankamp is over. Two games earlier than expected.

Blue Valley West junk-defensed the Redskins right out of the Class 6A tournament Wednesday night at Koch Arena, 41-35. They locked a box-and-one defense on North and made the Redskins squirm from start to finish.

Frankamp had the worst night of his high school career, in more ways than one. He was hounded like he’s always hounded, only this time he didn’t hound back. He made 4 of 13 shots and 3 of 11 three-pointers.

A BV West team that finished 7-7 in the Eastern Kansas League — and 13-9 overall — shockingly ousted a 20-2 North team, the City League champion, from this tournament.

Frankamp blamed himself for not making shots. He was frustrated all night by the tight first-line defense of BV West’s Conley Wilkins, then harassed by other defenders anytime he broke free.

Wilkins had one assignment Wednesday and he chose to accept it. It was to get in Frankamp’s face, to stare him down, to make him clench his teeth and even his fists. Wilkins, a running back for BV West’s football team, never gave Frankamp a hole to run through.

The North icon, the leading scorer in the best league in the state, goes out with an 11-point game. He goes out with tears of frustration and anger, not of joy. He goes into the dark of the night with some people now questioning what kind of player he’ll be at Kansas.

It takes four years to build a career like Frankamp built at North and four minutes to start tearing it down.

Frankamp was terrible Wednesday. But he was never put into a position to be great.

The Redskins allowed BV West to dictate the tempo of the game. They let a box-and-one defense box them in. They never got a transition game going, rarely got to the free-throw line, struggled to score inside and shot 32.4 percent.

Against a team that was 7-7 in the Eastern Kansas League. I repeated that fact for effect.

While the box-and-one was tremendously effective, it wasn’t a stroke of genius. You can’t convince me BV West coach Donnie Campbell expected it to work for 32 minutes. A quarter, maybe. A half at the most.

But North was forced to do everything it tried from the perimeter. Its two interior starters, Beau Shockley and Sean Bernard, took a total of six shots. The starting guards took 31.

Frankamp had a bad night and so did his teammates. The Redskins were left to try to hang on for dear life instead of delivering a knockout blow.

“It’s sad,’’ Frankamp said outside of North’s locker room. “We had a great season. I thought we had a great team, a team good enough to win state. It just didn’t happen for us.’’

North led most of the way, actually. It was never a comfortable lead, but one that could have made them numb to a BV West comeback.

But the comeback ensued. North led 20-14 at halftime, then came out in the third quarter and held the ball. That’s not what City League basketball teams do. It’s not what North has done anytime this season.

North coach Gary Squires, though, believed it was the best way to preserve the lead.

Instead, BV West outscored North 27-15 in the second half and Squires’ decision to stall will now be classified under “strategy that failed miserably.”

Normally, Frankamp can bail the Redskins out of even the toughest predicaments. He makes shots. He makes tough, guarded shots that few high school players can.

Not in this one, though. Several of his shots rimmed out. He missed the only free throw he took. That tells another story, because Frankamp normally makes camp at the free-throw line.

But North didn’t attack. North played cautiously, tentatively. The Redskins, Frankamp included, looked tight and agitated.

In other words, BV West’s plan worked. A gimmick box-and-one worked for a whole game. Has that ever happened?

Frankamp blamed himself for missing shots. I think he missed shots because he became distracted. He will strongly disagree.

But he’s still a young player. He doesn’t need to acknowledge a student section or the intimidation attempt of a defensive player. Wilkins not only guarded Frankamp, he stared him down. It was uncomfortable to watch unless you were sitting on the BV West bench.

Give credit to the Jaguars. They pulled this box-and-one thing off. But not without a lot of help from North, which played out of character.

So many great City League players from the past have departed their high school careers with state championships. It’s part of their greatness.

Frankamp never played in a state championship game, even. There’s something terribly unjust about that.

His next stop is Kansas and now the Frankamp doubters are having a field day. I’m not one of them. His high school career ended badly, but there are other chapters to be written.

Check Bob Lutz’s blog at blogs.kansas.com/lutz. Reach him at 316-269-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.com.