Shooting for No. 3
Scott City rallies past Nemaha Valley, faces Humboldt for title.
By BRETT MARSHALL
HUTCHINSON — The Scott City-Nemaha Valley Class 3A boys' semifinal game Friday at the Sports Arena had no resemblance to the 2012 state championship game when the same two schools met.
But there was one thing that was the same — the outcome.
Scott City's 50-38 victory over the Raiders was a struggle, and it was not like the 61-47 defeat the Beavers handed them a year ago.
The victory for the Beavers (24-1) puts them in position to do what most everyone in western Kansas had thought possible all season — claim a third consecutive state crown.
That will come at 6:15 p.m. today against undefeated Humboldt (25-0), which staved off Silver Lake in the fourth quarter to win, 47-35, in the other semifinal late Friday. The Cubs compete in the Tri-Valley League, and the town is located west of Fort Scott on U.S. 54 in eastern Kansas.
"This is what we've played for and worked hard for all season," Scott City head coach Glenn O'Neil said. "You find a night where experience comes into play, and I think that's what happened tonight. We didn't panic at the start, got settled in and then played really strong defense."
With two teams returning many starters from the 2012 title game, this matchup had been anticipated for much of the season. And both didn't disappoint.
But there was little to recognize between the start of the two games.
Last year, playing what O'Neil said was perhaps as good a quarter of basketball as any team he had coached, the Beavers scored the first 15 points en route to an 18-3 lead and never had a lead of less than 12 points.
Friday was drastically different.
This time around, a fired-up Nemaha Valley provided the first shot by taking a 17-11 lead after one quarter.
"Sometimes when it's a struggle, there is something of value that you can take away from it," coach O'Neil said. "We knew it wouldn't be easy. That's what you expect when you come to the state tournament. They're not going to hand it over to you."
The biggest deficit early was eight points, 15-7.
But for the next three quarters, the Beavers turned up their defensive pressure and the result was giving up only 21 points in 24 minutes. "So much of what we do is all based upon the defense," said senior point guard Brett O'Neil, who scored 10 points and handed out 6 assists. "We knew they wanted revenge. I'm sure they had been thinking about us all season. They got their shot. They came out fired up. When we went on that run, I think it got us back into the kind of game we like."
A year ago, the Beavers trailed for just 42 seconds in the three games of the tournament. They had trailed only 17 seconds of Thursday's 61-48 win over Pittsburg-St. Mary's Colgan.
Friday, they fell behind for 6 minutes, 36 seconds before pulling even at 17-all with 3:01 left in the first half.
"They just played a little more aggressively than a year ago," said forward Drew Kite, who finished with a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds. "I think a couple of their guys got a little taller, but a lot stronger, too."
The biggest of that bunch was 6-6 senior Creighton Brinker, who had nearly had his own double-double with 9 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, with the Raiders narrowly winning the board battle, 28-27, something that has rarely happened over the past three seasons against the Beavers.
While they never led by less than 12 a year ago against Nemaha, this time they never led by more than a dozen, that on five different occasions in the fourth quarter.
"I think we had to just stay calm throughout," said senior Anthony Wilson, who played some key minutes early in the fourth while Tyler Hess sat with foul trouble. "This is what we've come to play for. We just tried to go out there and do what coach said. It was nice to be able to contribute."
Wilson got a key fastbreak layup on a nifty feed from Brett O'Neil, and then picked up an offensive rebound and a loose ball on another scramble under the Beavers' basket to preserve a possession.
"Sometimes it's a little slow to get into rhythm, but we like to play fast both ways so that helps," Wilson said. "Now we get to do what we came here to do."
The senior O'Neil said now that they have put themselves back into the title game once again, they are looking forward to the opportunity, and challenge.
"Honestly, I don't think any of us players have felt any pressure," Brett O'Neil said. "We just like getting out and playing and let things take care of themselves."
In the final analysis, one only has to look at the shooting statistics to understand the final outcome. The Raiders were held to just 32.6 percent shooting (14-of-43) and were only 3-of-12 from behind the arc while also struggling at the free throw line (7-of-13). The Beavers, meanwhile, hit 44.7 percent field goals (17-of-38), were 3-of-8 behind the 3-point line (37.5 percent) and just 7-of-13 from the free throw stripe. Scott City, meanwhile, hit 44.7 percent from the field (17-of-38), 3-of-8 3-pointers (37.5 percent) and 13-of-17 free throws (76.5 percent). The turnovers were nearly equal, 12 for Nemaha and 10 for Scott City.
The boys consolation game between Silver Lake (22-3) and Nemaha Valley (23-2) is at 2 p.m.
In the two girls semifinals, it was Garden Plain rolling past Russell 57-35 and Burlington getting a repeat berth in the championship game with a 55-45 triumph over Hillsboro, the team that had eliminated Holcomb in Wednesday's first round.
Those two winners will battle for the title at 4 p.m. while the girls' consolation game is at noon today.
Notes: Should the Beavers win today, it would make them the first Class 3A school to win three championships consecutively. Five schools have won three in a row in other classes (Topeka-Highland Park, 2007-2009; McPherson twice, 1972-74 and 1990-92; Salina-Sacred Heart, 1979-81, of which two were 3A and one 4A; and Winfield, 1927-29. Four schools have four consecutive titles (Kansas City Wyandotte, 1967-70; Wichita South 1978-81; Moundridge, 1990-93; and Wichita Heights, 2009-12). Only Wyandotte, from 1957-61, has won five in a row.
Nemaha Valley 17 5 7 9 — 38
Scott City 11 14 10 15 — 50
Nemaha Valley (23-2) — Rottinghaus 1-1 0-0 2, Meyer 2-6 3-5 7, Hermesch 0-1 1-2 1, McKernan 4-6 0-0 10, Olberding 2-13 0-0 5, Brinker 4-10 1-2 9, Steinlage 1-6 2-4 4. Totals 14-43 7-13 38.
Scott City (24-1) — B.O'Neil 2-6 6-6 10, T. O'Neil 3-6 4-4 12, Hess 1-2 0-1 2, Habiger 1-2 0-0 3, Wilson 1-2 0-0 2, J. Meyer 2-5 1-2 5, Kite 7-15 2-4 16. Totals 17-38 13-17 50.
3-point goals--Nemaha Valley 3-12 (Meyer 0-2, McKernan 2-4, Olberding 1-6), Scott City 3-8 (B. O'Neil 0-2, T. O'Neil 2-3, Habiger 1-2, Wilson 0-1). Rebounds--Nemaha Valley 28 (Brinker 14), Scott City 27 (Kite 10). Turnovers--Nemaha Valley 12, Scott City 10. Assists--Nemaha Valley 6 (Meyer, McKernan 2 each), Scott City 12 (B. O'Neil 6). Steals--Nemaha Valley 4 (Olberding 2), Scott City 10 (B. O'Neil, T. O'Neil, Kite 2 each). Fouls--Nemaha Valley 18, Scott City 10. Fouled out--none.