By BRETT MARSHALL
HUTCHINSON — For the Scott City boys basketball team, the one thing the team had failed to accomplish in recen years was make it to a state championship game and win it all.
On Friday, the Beavers (24-1) finally beat Wichita Collegiate, 62-59, and will now play Minneapolis for the Class 3A state championship trophy at 6:15 p.m. today at the Sports Arena.
The Beavers refused to wilt against the Spartans' frenetic defense and wave after wave of substitutions that have caused other teams to wither away under the pressure.
In this game, the Beavers also came up big at the free throw line, making 21-of-30, including the final 14 points they put up on the scoreboard.
"We've worked so hard on the free throws since the (Dodge City) loss," junior guard Braeden Robinson said. "To win championships, you've got to step up and knock those down. Tonight we did. But it won't mean as much if we don't come back (today), and beat Minneapolis and bring the championship trophy home to Scott City."
And to take down Collegiate made it all the more gratifying. After all, it was the Spartans that kept the Beavers from claiming the state title in 2007. It was also the Spartans that knocked the Beavers out of the 2009 state football playoffs in the quarterfinals with a last minute touchdown drive.
Four straight years, the private schools of Collegiate and Wichita Trinity have owned the 3A basketball title. But this year, a different winner will be crowned.
"We didn't want Collegiate in the second round, but life deals you those things and we wanted to knock them out," said Robinson, who scored 13 points in providing Baker scoring support. "We've built up a kind of rivalry in the playoffs and it's a game like this that tells us we can compete."
It was a game that the Beavers led from start to finish. For 32 minutes, the Spartans were trailing.
After building a 10-point halftime lead, the Beavers withstood everything Collegiate could throw at them.
Every time the Spartans looked to be ready to go on one of their patented runs, Scott City responded.
"That's an incredibly good team and they defend so well," Baker said of Collegiate. "I think the loss (62-58 to Dodge City during the finals of the Tournament of Champions in late January) was good for us. It re-focused us and told us that we still had work to do to get better."
Scott City fought through the defensive pressure in the third quarter and came out with a 46-38 lead heading to the final eight minutes.
Collegiate closed the gap to four, 48-44, with 6:56 remaining on a steal and layup by Markus Phox. Six free throws and more than four minutes later they were still up by seven, 54-47. Doug Burton got a close-in bucket and Kevin Richardson had a steal and another layup to close to 54-51 with 1:41 left.
Turner then hit the first of two free throws before Phox drained a deep three, slicing the lead to 59-56 with 25 seconds remaining. Baker made two more free throws at the 20-second mark and Drew Kite hit the first of two with 13.9 seconds left to close out the Beavers' scoring.
Richardson then drilled another 3-pointer from the baseline corner with six seconds to play, but the Spartans were out of timeouts and Baker simply held the ball as the clock expired.
"I told the kids that if they scored with just a few seconds left, to take their time getting to the ball," Scott City coach Glenn O'Neil said. "This feels awfully good at the moment. But we've got one more game to go, and if we don't come out ready to play (today) then this won't mean as much."
This will be the sixth time the Beavers will play for a state championship, and they own two titles, the first back in 1958 when Kansas had four classes and in 2006 when they won the 4A crown in Salina. They last appeared in the title game in '07 when Collegiate won 52-44, on the same floor.
"This is like getting the elephant off our back," Baker said. "This one goes into the 'best' category but we've still got one more to go. It's all about taking care of winning the last game."
In the first semifinal game, it was the surprising Minneapolis Lions, the No. 5 seed, knocking off top-seeded and previously unbeaten Atchison Community High School, 56-55, in overtime.
Minneapolis got the winning point on a free throw by senior Garrett Daugherty with just one second remaining in the extra quarter.
Minneapolis will bring a 23-2 record into the title game while Atchison County drops to 24-1.
The consolation game between Collegiate and Atchison Community will tipoff at 2 p.m.
In the first half, the Beavers got off to a strong start, taking a 13-7 lead after a frenetic first eight minutes of action. Brett O'Neil and Braeden Robinson each hit big 3-pointers for Scott City.
In the second quarter, the Beavers continued to let their defense set the table for their offense. Their biggest lead was 13, 28-15, with 2:36 remaining before Collegiate made a run to end the half with an 8-5 mini-rally.
It was Kevin Richardson's baseline 3-pointer with two seconds remaining that cut the Spartans' deficit to the 10 at the break.
Baker and Tyler Hess each had seven to lead that first half effort. Neither team shot well, the Beavers 11-of-25 and the Spartans 9-of-23.
Wichita Collegiate 7 16 15 21 -- 59
Scott City 13 20 13 16 -- 62
Wichita Collegiate (22-3) — Atnip 1-1 0-0 2, Tisdale 1-3 0-0 2, Richardson 5-8 2-2 15, Taylor 0-1 2-2 2, Morris 0-1 0-0 0, Phox 2-6 0-0 5, Adams 1-2 0-0 2, Kemmer 3-7 2-2 10, Burton 4-10 0-0 8, Clark 5-8 3-6 13. Totals 22-47 9-12 59.
Scott City (24-1) — O'Neil 3-7 0-0 7, Turner 3-7 2-3 8, Roemer 0-2 0-0 0, Baker 4-11 11-13 20, Robinson 3-4 4-6 13, Hess 2-2 3-4 7, Meyer 3-4 0-2 6, Kite 0-3 1-2 1. Totals 18-40 21-30 62.
3-point goals — Collegiate 6-12 (Richardson 3-4, Morris 0-1, Phox 1-4, Kemmer 2-3), Scott City 5-14 (O'Neil 1-3, Roemer 0-1, Baker 1-6, Robinson 3-4). Rebounds — Collegiate 27 (Burton 8), Scott City 30 (Baker 9). Turnovers — Collegiate 12, Scott City 10. Assists — Collegiate 18 (Taylor 7), Scott City 11 (O'Neil 5). Steals — Collegiate 6 (Richardson 3), Scott City 8 (Baker 4). Fouls — Collegiate 25, Scott City 15. Fouled out — None.