By BRETT MARSHALL
HUTCHINSON — Well, it wasn't pretty. It probably wasn't what coach Glenn O'Neil expected in the first round of the Class 3A state tournament at the Sports Arena, either. But it was a win.
So the Scott City Beavers' 61-48 victory over Pittsburg-St. Mary's Colgan was just that.
Now, the Beavers take the next step toward securing their third consecutive state championship, but right in their way will be a familiar foe — Nemaha Valley.
Last year's victim in the state title game — 61-47 — the Raiders raced out to an early big lead and then held off Wichita Independent to win 53-47 in the second opening round game.
Those familiar foes will tangle at 4:45 p.m. today in the first semifinal, while the late semifinal will pit No. 1 seeded Humboldt (24-0) against Silver Lake (22-2) In the 8:15 p.m. semifinal. The two winners will tipoff at 6:15 p.m. Saturday for the championship, with the Beavers seeking that proverbial three-peat.
Humboldt escaped a near-upset by No. 8 seeded Salina-Sacred Heart, surviving the Knights, 41-37, while Silver Lake held off a late rally by Beloit to advance with a 52-50 triumph.
The Beloit-Silver Lake matchup pitted the last two teams to have played Scott City in the 2012 Class 3A football playoffs. If the Beavers and Silver Lake win today, it would be the rematch of the football title game, which the Beavers won 28-21, in late November.
"We wanted to make a good opening round game, and some of us played well, and others not so well," Trey O'Neil said. "You know you're going to see good competition at the state, and they're a solid team. They fought us all the way."
With a 13-3 run to finish out the first half, the Beavers found themselves up by a 35-22 count, and seemingly in control.
It looked even more secure midway through the third with Scott City on top by 15, 41-26, with 4:04 to play. That's when, uncharacteristically, the Beavers quit looking — and playing — like the Beavers.
Some turnovers and occasional lapses on defense, which gave Colgan numerous driving layups, and the Panthers had narrowed the gap to six by quarter's end, when Conner Dayton drilled a 3-pointer from the far right wing just before the buzzer to make it 43-37 headed to the fourth.
"We had the effort, but we made some not so good choices," coach Glenn O'Neil said. "We were a little off-balance, missed some layups ourselves that were contested. It wasn't what we'd typically do, but in the end we got the W, and now we can move on."
Things didn't ever get comfortable, though, for the Beavers, as Colgan made it a four-point game right at the start of the fourth when Luke Marquardt drove in for a bank shot with 7:40 to play.
That's when Scott City got its most important run of the game, an 8-0 blitz in a minute that made it 53-39 with 5:19 to play. Colgan cut it to 10, but then the Beavers had another mini 5-0 run to extend their advantage to 58-43 with 2:30 remaining.
"When you make the kind of mistakes we were making, a team like Colgan will get some points," coach O'Neil said. "We're better than that, but give Colgan credit. They fought to the end. I'm disappointed in the choices we made, but not the effort."
Colgan could draw no closer than 11 the rest of the way, and Scott City had its seventh consecutive win at the Arena over the span of three tournaments.
Joey Meyer, one of three players in double figures with 14 points, said the team was perhaps showing signs of a little nerves at the game's outset.
"We didn't get off to a fast start, and I think we got into our normal rhythm," Meyer said. "We usually don't have that many turnovers, and I never felt like we had that much breathing room."
Trey O'Neil came up huge for the Beavers, scoring a game-high 17 points, but was just 6-of-16 from the field.
"They did a lot of focusing down low on Drew (Kite) so that opened some shots for the guards," Trey said. "This is probably the hardest opening game we've had. We can catch our breath, survive, and move on."
In addition to Trey O'Neil and Meyer's scoring, Kite had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, as the Beavers won the board battle, 32-24. Scott City had nine offensive rebounds to just one for Colgan.
The Scott City defense forced 24 Colgan turnovers, but committed 15 of its own. The Beavers were off in their shooting, making just 23-of-53 attempts (43.4 percent) while allowing Colgan to shoot 51.4 percent (19-of-37). The Beavers did well at the free throw line, making 14-of-17 (82.4 percent) to 6-of-12 for Colgan. The Panthers hurt themselves by missing four of those charities in the first half.
Colgan coach Wayne Cichon bemoaned the fact that his team struggled in many ways against the Beavers, some of which alluded to the way the game was called.
"There are a lot of critical things from the game that I can't comment on," Cichon said. "Our effort to cut the lead to four in the second half was great, and I'm proud of our kids for the way they played."
But the 30-year coach further went on about the game, without being specific.
"When kids play the way they did tonight and overcome those adversities, you're proud of them," Cichon said. "It was a tough time out there. The surroundings were not friendly. It's tough to draw the two-time defending champions in the first round."
But as they have so many times over the past three seasons, even in a game where they all admitted they weren't at their best, the Beavers were still just good enough to get that critical first win and ensure themselves a chance at the second step in their latest journey.
It didn't help matters for the start of the game for the Beavers when Brett O'Neil picked up his second fouled just 2 minutes, 45 seconds into the first quarter.
While the Beavers were able to force the Panthers into seven turnovers in that opening stanza, the Beavers sputtered as well, turning it over four times in taking a 15-10 lead.
The second quarter saw both teams get some of their key personnel into foul troubles, as Kite and Hess each picked up their second, while Colgan's Dechant (2nd) and CJ Russell (3rd at 1:00) also proved to be factors.
Scott City, which managed to take advantage of Colgan's fullcourt press with several layups off the expand its lead by going on a 13-6 run to close out the half, going into the locker room up 35-22.
Trey O'Neil led the first-half scoring for the Beavers with 11 while Kite added eight. Colgan was led by Dechant's seven points.
In today's girls semifinals, the matchups have Garden Plain (23-1) taking on Russell (19-5) at 3 p.m. while undefeated Burlington (24-0) faces Hillsboro (22-2) at 6:30 p.m. The girls consolation and championship games on Saturday will be played at noon and 4 p.m.
PSMC 10 12 15 11 -- 48
Scott City 15 20 8 18 -- 61
PSMC (17-6) — Normand 0-1 0-0 0, A. Commons 3-8 1-2 8, Marquardt 5-10 2-2 13, Cedeno 2-2 0-2 4, VanBecelaere 1-2 0-0 2, Dayton 2-4 0-0 6, T. Commons 0-1 0-0 0, Dechant 6-9 3-6 15. Totals 19-37 6-12 48.
Scott City (23-1) — B. O'Neil 2-8 4-4 8, T. O'Neil 6-16 5-6 17, B. Meyer 0-1 0-0 0, Hess 2-3 0-1 4, Habiger 1-2 0-0 3, J. Meyer 6-11 2-2 14, Kite 6-12 3-4 15. Totals 23-53 14-17 61.
3-Point goals--Colgan 4-11 (A. Commons 1-5, Marquardt 1-3, Dayton 2-2), Scott City 1-8 (B. O'Neil 0-1, T. O'Neil 0-4, B. Meyer 0-1, Habiger 1-2). Rebounds--Colgan 24 (Marquardt 7), Scott City 32 (Kite 10). Turnovers--Colgan 24, Scott City 15. Assits--Colgan 9 (A. Commons 3), Scott City 12 (B. O'Neil 5). Steals--Colgan 10 (Dechant 3), Scott City 11 (Hess 3). Fouls--Colgan 19, Scott City 16. Fouled out--Scott City (Kite).