By BRETT MARSHALL
PARK CITY — Where would one begin to explain the Class 4A-II boys semifinal shootout between the Scott City Beavers and the Concordia Panthers on Friday night at Hartman Arena.
First, the Beavers survived the dynamic brother tandem of the Panthers' Grant and Cooper Holmes to win one of the dramatic games in recent memory, 77-75 in overtime.
Now the Beavers get a chance to do what only four other schools in Kansas history have done — win a fourth-straight state title. After claiming three straight in Class 3A, the Beavers have moved up one class and now will face Eudora, a 44-43 winner over Andale, in today's 6:15 p.m. championship game.
And it took a monumental performance by the Beavers' Trey O'Neil, who dumped in a career-high 31 points, which included eight 3-pointers, to offset the Holmes' combined 57 points, with senior Grant getting 30 and freshman Cooper pouring in 27.
"Oh my God, it was fun and nervewracking all at the same time," said 6-3 junior Brett Meyer, who added 18 points for the Beavers as they improved to 21-3. "It was free throws and defense at the end that made the difference."
It was Meyer who cashed in the game-winning points, knocking down two free throws with 19 seconds left on a call that might have gone the other way. That broke the 75-all tie that occurred when Grant Holmes got a driving bucket in the lane with 1:26 left in OT.
The biggest defensive play of the night came at the end, when the Panthers went for the game-winning shot after calling timeout with 16 seconds left. Grant Holmes, though, got caught by a double-team by the Beavers and never got a shot off, being sandwiched about 25 feet from the basket as time elapsed.
The Beavers celebrated while the Panthers were left with that empty feeling that comes when a hotly-contested, well-played game is decided right at the end with so much riding on the outcome.
Ironically, the game-ending defensive stop was exactly what the Beavers did to Cooper Holmes at the end of regulation, when he attempted a 25-foot off-balance 3-pointer with :02 left that rimmed off for Scott City to get the board as the clock ran out.
"We were setting up three playing man-to-man and two floating behind to help with any dribble-drive," said coach Glenn O'Neil. "We did the same thing at the end of regulation. Fortunately, it worked out just the way we hoped."
Sloan Baker contributed 11 points for the Beavers, giving their three top scorers 60 of the team's total, while the Holmes and Kaleb Pounds, who had 15, accounted for 72 of the Panthers' points.
Meyer, who played a reserve role on the Beavers' 2013 state title team, said it was important for this team to get back to another title game.
"Everybody has said that we wouldn't have a chance, and we wanted to prove them wrong," Meyer said. "Now we get a chance to go out and do just that."
For O'Neil, who has guided the Beavers to four of the school's five state titles, this will be another opportunity to add to his impressive resume. But he's more concerned about being able to just play for the championship trophy.
"This one is for this group of kids who have worked hard to get here," coach O'Neil said. "When you get to the semifinals, you know you're going to play a good team. And I'm telling you, Concordia is a very, very good team. I don't think the teams were playing bad defense, it was just great shooting with a lot of different players making big plays."
The Beavers had taken a 39-36 lead at halftime, and in the third built the lead to as many as eight, 54-46, before Concordia rallied once again with a flurry of six-straight points to close out the period, trailing just 54-52.
That set up the wild-and-wooly fourth.
The game had 22 lead changes, 12 of those in the fourth quarter alone. Neither team had more than a three-point advantage in the final eight minutes of regulation, and it was a slick handoff pass from O'Neil to Chris Pounds for a layup at the 1:15 mark that knotted the score at 71.
Concordia had grabbed a 71-69 lead with 1:30 left on a traditional three-point play by Cooper Holmes. O'Neil, who was 8 of 15 behind the arc, knocked down three of them in the early going of the fourth to keep the Beavers on track. Grant Holmes and Pounds countered with treys of their own.
Both teams blistered the nets, with Concordia hitting 25 of 48 for 52.1 percent, and the Beavers making 27 of 48 for 56.3 percent. The Panthers were 19 of 23 at the free-throw line compared to 14 of 19 for the Beavers.
For one of the few times in recent memory at a state tournament, the Beavers found themselves looking up at the scoreboard on the short end in the early minutes of the game.
Concordia came out firing after an early Scott City 6-5 lead. Then, the Panthers rattled off 10-straight points and eventually built the lead to 10, 23-13, and finished with a 23-15 advantage.
"Coach told us to get out there and play better defense," Meyer said of the huddle talk between quarters. "They were eating us up."
For whatever was said in the huddle at the quarter stop, the Beavers came out hitting on all cylinders themselves, going on a 15-0 run over the first 3:36 to take hold of a 29-23 margin.
From there, the finish of the second quarter was a frenzy, Concordia winning that brief battle 13-10 to see the half end with the Beavers on the top side of a 39-36 score.
O'Neil once again was the scoring ringleader for the Beavers in the half, getting 16, while Baker had nine. The Holmes brothers were just about as good, the senior Grant cashing in 15 points and his younger brother Cooper right behind with 14.
The whistles were aplenty with neither team favored, each being handed 12 fouls. Scott City converted 10 of 12 at the stripe, while Concordia was 9 of 13. Both teams shot well from the field in the first 16 minutes, the Beavers 13 of 25 for 52 percent and the Panthers 12 of 22 for 54.5 percent.
In the early semifinal boys game, Eudora got a driving layup with seven seconds remaining by Austin Downing to provide the Cardinals with a dramatic 44-43 victory over top-seeded Andale.
Eudora got 14 points from its standout 6-4 freshman Mitchell Ballock, and 12 points from his senior brother Andrew to pace the triumph. Eudora trailed 14-4, 22-17 and 32-26 at the quarter stops, but outscored the Indians 18-11 in the closing quarter to grab the victory. Clint Walstad scored 12 points for Andale.
Andale and Concordia will play in the boys consolation game at 2 p.m. today.
Girls semifinals: In the opening game, Santa Fe Trail upended top-seeded Burlington 46-31 to advance to the title game. They will play Frontenac, which downed Holton, 38-35, in the second semifinal. The consolation girls game between Burlington and Holton will be played at noon today. The girls title game is set for 4 p.m.
Notes: Wichita Heights, with Perry Ellis leading the way, was the most recent team to win four consecutive state championships. The Falcons won Class 6A from 2009 to 2012. Ellis, of course, is now starring at the University of Kansas. Current Garden City High School boys basketball coach, Jacy Holloway accomplished the same feat at Moundridge High School from 1990 to 1993 in Class 2A. Wichita South (1978-81) and Kansas City-Wyandotte (1967-70) also won four-straight state championships.
Concordia 23 13 16 19 4 -- 75
Scott City 15 24 15 17 6 -- 77
Concordia (19-5) — Pounds 6-15 0-1 15, Garcia 0-1 0-0 0, Bechard 0-0 0-0 0, G. Holmes 10-14 9-10 30, C. Holmes 8-16 10-10 27, Coppoc 1-1 0-0 2, Wetter 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-48 19-23 75.
Scott City (21-3) — Strine 4-5 0-0 8, Pounds 2-6 0-0 4, O'Neil 10-17 3-4 31, Meyer 6-11 5-5 18, Baker 4-5 3-4 11, Yager 1-2 3-4 5, Hutchins 0-2 0-0 0, Wells 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-48 14-19 77.
3-point goals--Concordia 6-17 (Pounds 3-8, Garcia 0-1, G. Holmes 1-2, C. Holmes 1-4, Coppoc 1-1, Wetter 0-1), Scott City 9-24 (Pounds 0-1, O'Neil 8-15, Meyer 1-5, Yager 0-1, Hutchins 0-2). Rebounds--Concordia 26 (G. Holmes 12), Scott City 21 (O'Neil 5). Turnovers--Concordia 10, Scott City 10. Fouls--Concordia 22, Scott City 21. Fouled out--Concordia (Bechard), Scott City (Strine). Technical fouls--none.