By Tommy Dalhk
Special to The Telegram
HUTCHINSON — Council Grove High School had just seen the exact situation at the end of its Class 3A quarterfinal overtime game against Cimarron a day prior.
Sure, it wasn't in front of an electric crowd, and it involved coach Jason Shelangouski trying to hit a game-winner leading the scout team.
But it sure prepared the Lady Braves as they stopped Cimarron star Morgan Ediger from hitting a game-winning shot at the end of regulation and overtime in a thrilling 58-53 Council Grove win in the Hutchinson Sports Arena Thursday during the Class 3A state semifinals.
"I played the part of 23 (Ediger) because she probably is the best player we've played all year," Shelangouski said. "We had the same circumstance. Scout team was down by one, I was trying to take control and hit the last shot. We got a stop. Same thing happened here."
Council Grove started out hot on a 13-4 run. The Braves kept the momentum going into halftime and led 27-16. In the first half, the Braves held Cimarron to a rough 28 percent shooting percentage, and the Bluejays went 0-of-12 on 3-point field goals.
Freshman Faith Brintle paced the Braves with 11 first-half points. Shelangouski said the Braves were simply patient and ignored the Cimarron students shouting "boring" chants as they routinely ate up some clock.
"It was just looking for the right shots," Shelangouski said. "Not just any shot, just the right one."
Bluejay coach David Ediger said they fell behind because their strength became their weakness.
"The first half, we just couldn't shoot the ball," David Ediger said. "That's our strength — shooting the ball and creating shots."
But the second half was a completely different story.
After causing a bevy of Council Grove lapses, Cimarron opened on a 14-4 run to get within one. In the second half and overtime, Cimarron forced 18 Braves turnovers.
Council Grove got its lead back to six early in the fourth quarter, but once again Cimarron clawed back into the game.
With 57 seconds left and trailing by three, Ediger drained a 3 to tie the game up for the first time since the opening minute.
The Bluejays forced a turnover on the subsequent possession and got the ball back with 30 seconds left.
Cimarron couldn't convert in the final seconds, but neither could Council Grove and the game went to overtime.
Both teams kept exchanging baskets throughout overtime, and Council Grove entered the final minute with a 55-53 lead. After killing 40 seconds off the clock, Council Grove's Kate Hula got to the line and made 1-of-2 free throws, giving Cimarron one last chance to even up the game.
But Council Grove's defense came up big at the end and forced a Bluejay turnover. Hula then sank two free throws with three seconds left to clinch the win.
"Late, especially in overtime, we stepped up and hit free throws, showed leadership, saw our girls get together," Shelangouski said.
Hula led the Braves with 16 points and 12 rebounds, while Megan Poole scored 15. Ediger led Cimarron with 22 points — 16 of which came in the second half and overtime.
"I told the girls don't hang your head," coach Ediger said. "We fought hard. I'm really proud of their effort and they fought all the way back and got the lead a couple of times.
The Bluejays end their season at 21-3, while the Braves move on to play Hesston (23-1) in today's 6:30 p.m. semifinal in the Sports Arena.