By Jordan Wickstrom
GREENSBURG — The Syracuse boys basketball team expected to win the Class 2A sub-state championship on Saturday and knew leaving Kiowa County Gym with any other result would be a letdown.
That's what comes with sporting a 20-2 record will do for a team.
But following a hot start where the Bulldogs (21-2) led 13-5 after one quarter, their opponent, Hi-Plains League rival Meade (18-5), let it be known they shared the same mentality.
Both teams fought to the brink with four quarters not being enough to determine a winner, but it was ultimately Syracuse that would end up taking home the hardware by a score of 52-49.
"We expect to go to state every year," said Syracuse senior Dustin Sibley, who had 11 points. "If you don't, there's something wrong with you. We lost a lot guys from last year, and it's a little different coming and filling roles. But we're happy."
Syracuse opens its bid at the 2A state at 4:45 p.m. Wednesday at Kansas State University's Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan. Two years ago, the Bulldogs had a program-best third place finish, but lost to Spearville in overtime last season in the sub-state final at Leoti.
Both teams had split their previous meetings in the regular season, proving they both knew how to beat one another.
But following the first quarter, it was Meade that looked to have all the momentum on its side.
"Seeing this team three times throughout the season, it's been a dogfight every time," said Syracuse first-year coach Jeff Mathias. "It seems like it's gone that way a couple times where we've come out, and had a decent lead and then they've fought back.
"(In overtime), I don't know what to say about it. They came out with a little fire, they made plays when they needed to and that's all you can ask."
After trailing by one at the end of the second (23-22) and third quarters (35-34), Syracuse fought back to tie the game, and did not allow Meade's Colton Little to make a potential game-winning shot at the buzzer, to force overtime.
Unfortunately for Meade, the veteran Syracuse team found its rhythm from beyond the arc in the extra period.
Syracuse began overtime on an 8-2 run and, despite making only three of its last six free throws, pulled off the victory following a missed game-tying three by Gunner Cordes at the buzzer.
"(Meade's) a very good team," Sibley said. "We're very evenly matched, obviously. But it was just our turn to win."
And with everything the team endured during the sub-state games, Mathias believes it to be well-deserved.
"I've got a couple seniors with four years of varsity experience and I felt like they did a good job with leading," Mathias said. "James Burkett was sick all day yesterday, he was puking at halftime and after the game he couldn't get off the court fast enough. "
Burkett's illness did not seem to faze him in any way, however. He finished the game with a double-double, scoring 13 points while grabbing 14 rebounds.
See state pairings, Scoreboard, Page B2.
Meade 5 18 12 6 8 -- 49
Syracuse 13 9 12 7 11 -- 52
Meade--Hernandez 4 2-3 12, Cordes 5 1-1 12, Frisen 5 1-2 11, C. Little 2 2-2 7, Hardaway 1 2-3 4, Pfanenstiel 1 0-0 2, Davis 0 1-2 1, Totals 18 9-13 49.
Syracuse--Burkett 3 7-9 13, Howeel 6 1-2 13, Parks 4 0-0 11, Sibley 3 3-4 11, Simon 2 0-0 4, Totals 18 11-15 52.
3-point goals--Meade 4 (Hernandez 2, C. Little 1, Cordes 1), Syracuse 5 (Parks 3, Sibley 2).