Special to The Telegram

EMPORIA Down 53-45 with a little more than seven minutes remaining in Saturday's Class 1A Division I third-place game, South Gray could have been rattled. But the Rebels, who have made trips to the state tournament a habit, weren't about to lose for a second consecutive night.

Senior Garrison Hendricks and junior Ronald Martens combined for 44 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter, as South Gray rallied for a 66-61 win over Victoria at White Auditorium.

"Garrison hit some big threes to keep us in it, and Ronald was great in the fourth quarter," said South Gray coach Mark Applegate, who led the Rebels to state titles in 1997, 2007 and 2008.

"We started going inside in the fourth quarter and got some easy baskets because of our defense. Then it snowballed from there once we got on a run."

Hendricks, who hit five 3-pointers and led third-seeded South Gray (24-2) with 23 points, ignited the late run with a 25-footer from the left wing 40 seconds into the final quarter.

Martens followed with a drive to the basket moments later, and Garrett Watkins added a layup at the 6:15 mark to pull the Rebels within 53-52.

"It really was the reverse of what we've been doing lately," said Victoria coach Stuart Moeckel, whose team recorded four straight come-from-behind upsets to reach the semifinals. "South Gray turned it up big time in the fourth quarter. They've been here a lot, and that showed today."

The eighth-seeded Knights (13-13) had a 61-60 lead with 1:01 remaining on Kyle Schmidt's runner, but Martens connected on two free throws 10 seconds later and drew a charge on Victoria's next possession.

"On defense, it was a matter of us moving our feet better in the fourth quarter," Martens said. "On offense, I just tried to be more aggressive and go to the basket."

Watkins, who had 15 points, swished a pair of free throws with 36 seconds left for a three-point edge, and Martens grabbed his ninth rebound and was fouled on Victoria's next possession. He hit both from the foul line to clinch third place.

"We made some big plays late, and that comes with experience," Applegate said. "Everybody wants to play for first, obviously. But somebody has to play for third. I was proud of our effort today."

The teams traded buckets at the outset until the Knights' Corey Dinkel scored the last seven points of the period on a 3-pointer and back-to-back layups for a 22-15 advantage.

Victoria led by as many as 10 points midway through the second quarter before South Gray pulled within 39-33 at halftime. Hendricks had 13 points in the opening half to keep the Rebels close.

South Gray shot 42 percent (24-of-57) from the field and outrebounded Victoria 38-32. Kameron Dinkel led Victoria with 17 points, while Steven Hotaling had 12 points and seven rebounds.


South Gray 15 18 12 21 -- 66

Victoria 22 17 12 10 -- 61

South Gray (24-2) Mosher 0-1 0-0 0, Love 0-6 1-2 1, Watkins 5-10 5-6 15, Hendricks 8-18 2-4 23, Ridenour 3-6 0-0 6, Martens 8-14 5-7 21, Slaven 0-1 0-0 0, Holloway 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-57 13-19 66.

Victoria (13-13) C. Schmidtberger 3-8 3-5 9, Hotaling 5-5 2-2 12, Schmidt 3-9 1-1 8, K. Dinkel 4-16 7-8 17, Bleske 2-4 2-2 6, C. Dinkel 3-5 1-2 8, Meier 0-0 0-0 0, Dreiling 0-0 0-0 0, Nowak 0-0 0-0 0, T. Schmidtberger 0-2 1-2 1. Totals 20-49 17-22 61.

3-point goals South Gray 5-14 (Hendricks 5-9, Martens 0-2, Mosher 0-1, Love 0-1, Holloway 0-1). Victoria 4-13 (K. Dinkel 2-4, Schmidt 1-6, C. Dinkel 1-1, C. Schmidtberger 0-2). Rebounds South Gray 38 (Love 14), Victoria 32 (Hotaling 7). Turnovers South Gray 7, Victoria 13. Fouls South Gray 21, Victoria 22. Fouled out None.