By BRETT MARSHALL
HAYS — In his nine trips to the Class 1A state tournament, South Gray boys basketball coach Mark Applegate has never had a team play in the third-place game.
He kept that record intact after the Rebels toppled unbeaten and top-ranked Quinter 49-46 in Thursday's semifinal at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
South Gray had its two-year reign as state champion ended a year ago in the tournament's first round when Quinter dropped the Rebels 65-55.
The Rebels (26-1) now face defending champion Hanover for the title tonight at 7:30 p.m. Applegate guided the Rebels to state championships in 1997, 2007 and 2008.
"We really had people support Chase (Clancy) tonight and it took a lot of pressure off him," Applegate said of his leading scorer. "(Quinter) got us last year and they are big inside, but I thought we did a good job of both keeping them in check inside as well as limiting their 3-point shooting."
The Rebels had Quinter's taller players in early foul trouble. Scott Ochs (6-foot-7) and Zach Nemechek (6-4) both set on the bench for periods of time in the first half, Nemechek getting his third foul with 5:51 left in the second quarter. Ochs picked up his third foul at the 5:44 mark of the third period.
"It certainly made a difference for us," Applegate said. "I just thought our kids did a great job of weakside help on the interior defense."
While Clancy was the primary offensive force in Tuesday's opening round victory (31 points), it didn't take his teammates long to provide the scoring help in Thursday's semifinal.
Ricky Friesen, Austin Love and Garrison Hendricks all scored before Clancy hit a 3-pointer to close out the Rebels' scoring for a 15-8 lead at the end of the first quarter.
"We knew we had to help Chase out with the scoring more tonight," Friesen said. "There was no pressure on us. We just wanted to get to the hole, make good shots and do what we've been doing all year."
The Rebels led through the second quarter, extending their lead to 11 on three different occasions before Quinter made a short run at the end of the half to cut the lead to 28-23 at intermission. Joe Simon knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer from deep on the baseline on an inbounds play.
While South Gray held the lead most of the third quarter, the Bulldogs pulled even with no time left on the clock to end the period when Nemechek cashed in two free throws.
Three free throws by Friesen when he was fouled on a 3-point attempt put the Rebels up 43-40, but Quinter went on a 6-0 run to have its first lead since 4-2 in the game's early moments.
A drive to the basket by Friesen and another by Clancy put the Rebels back on top for good at 47-46 with 42 seconds remaining. After a timeout with 22 seconds left, Quinter lost the ball when Hendricks stole an errant pass with 14 seconds showing.
Clancy was fouled and sank both free throws with nine seconds to for a 49-46 lead.
"We just had everybody step up to the stage today," Clancy said. "Quinter's a good team but I thought we did a good job of containing their post play."
For Clancy, the appearance in the championship game will be his third in four years, but is his first as a starter.
"It's different now than before," Clancy said. "It's a lot of fun and exciting and we're looking forward to tomorrow. Whoever we play is a good team and it will be tough. But we've waited for this all year and now we have our chance."
South Gray 49, Quinter 46
SOUTH GRAY (26-1) — Clancy 3-10 7-8 14, Love 3-8 0-0 7, Hendricks 4-4 0-0 8, Schulte 2-3 0-0 4, Friesen 4-7 6-7 16, Martens 0-0 0-0 0, Mosher 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-32 13-15 49.
QUINTER (26-1) — Bird 7-13 1-2 15, Reed 1-6 0-2 2, Hargitt 0-1 0-0 0, Ochs 7-10 2-3 16, Nemechek 1-1 2-2 4, Smith 0-2 0-0 0, Simon 3-6 2-2 9, Wittman 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 19-40 7-11 46.
South Gray 15 13 12 9 -- 49
Quinter 8 15 17 6 -- 46
3-point goals — So. Gray 4-12 (Clancy 1-5, Love 1-2, Schulte 0-1, Friesen 2-4), Quinter 1-8 (Bird 0-3, Reed 0-2, Smith 0-1, Simon 1-2). Rebounds — So. Gray 23 (Love 7), Quinter 20 (Bird 4, Ochs 4, Simon 4). Turnovers — So. Gray 15, Quinter 14. Assists — So. Gray 9 (Hendricks 4), Quinter 7 (Nemechek 3). Blocked shots — So. Gray 4 (Love 1, Schulte 1, Friesen 1, Martens 1), Quinter 0. Steals — So. Gray 8 (Clancy 4), Quinter 9 (Bird 3). Fouls — So. Gray 12, Quinter 17. Fouled out — Quinter (Reed).