By BRETT MARSHALL
LEOTI — Wichita County boys basketball coach Matt Crist was hoping that the last home game for his Indians would be in the championship game of the Class 2A sub-state tonight.
Instead, he and his team will watch in their home gym while Spearville and Syracuse battle for the berth in the state tournament next week in Manhattan.
That came as a result of a heartbreaking 53-41 loss to the top-seeded Lancers Friday night in the second semifinal contest. The Lancers (21-1) takes on the Bulldogs in the 7:30 p.m. title game.
"We gave them a good shot and I don't think we could play any harder," a disappointed but not displeased Crist said afterward. "Our tank just wasn't full in the fourth quarter and that's what you get when you've given everything you have in the first three quarters."
Down by five, 41-36, after three quarters the Indians could not scrape together a field goal until 1:03 remaining in the game while watching the Lancers extend that margin to 10, 48-38. Wichita County trimmed the lead to seven, 48-41, at that point but Spearville cashed in five free throws to ice the game.
Crist saw his team jump out to an impressive 15-6 lead after one quarter and credited his team's new "Three" defense for keeping Spearville's top two scorers — Carson Konrade and Willie Cauley — in check in the early going.
The defense, designed to keep both players away from the basket, was working to near perfection in the opening eight minutes when the two were held to just a field goal (Konrade).
"The first half we did exactly what we wanted to do and the defense was working great," Crist said. "Defensively, I thought we were excellent. Offensively, we just missed too many layups and bump shots and you can't do that against a team like Spearville."
Both teams shot only 34 percent, with Wichita County hitting 16-of-45 and Spearville making 18-of-51.
Spearville rallied in the second quarter with 21 points and took the lead for the first time since the game's outset at 27-26 when Konrade canned a 3-pointer with four seconds left.
The last lead for the Indians came at 36-33 with 2:02 left in the third quarter, but Spearville finished off the period with eight unanswered points and never trailed again.
"Only one team wins its last game of the season and if you're going to go out, you might as well go out against a good team. Give Spearville credit; they are a very good team," Crist said.
Konrade finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds for Spearville.
For Wichita County, Trae Bremer had 10 points and 12 boards as the Indians (15-7) completed their best season in many years, which included a Hi-Plains League tournament title.
Spearville 53, Wichita County 41
WICHITA COUNTY (15-7) — Mehl 0-3 0-0 0, McKinney 2-8 1-2 7, Harkness 4-7 0-0 8, Fletcher 2-2 0-0 4, Martinez 3-11 2-4 10, Weilert 1-1 0-0 2, Bremer 4-13 2-2 10. Totals 16-45 5-8 41.
SPEARVILLE (21-2) — Imel 1-5 0-0 2, Ackerman 5-12 5-6 15, King 0-0 0-1 0, Cauley 3-11 4-6 10, C. Stein 2-6 0-0 4, Thacker 0-2 0-0 0, Konrade 7-15 5-7 22. Totals 18-51 14-20 53.
Wichita County 15 11 10 5 -- 41
Spearville 6 21 14 12 -- 53
3-point goals — Wichita Co. 4-14 (Mehl 0-1, McKinney 2-5, Harkness 0-1, Martinez 2-6, Bremer 0-1), Spearville 3-12 (Imel 0-3, Cauley 0-1, Thacker 0-1, Konrade 3-7). Rebounds — Wichita County 36 (Bremer 12), Spearville 31 (Konrade 13). Turnovers — Wichita Co. 21, Spearville 8. Fouls — Wichita Co. 17, Spearville 6. Fouled out — Wichita Co. (Bremer, Harkness, McKinney).