By BRETT MARSHALL
HUTCHINSON — After watching his two-time defending state champion Scott City boys basketball team struggle in its opening quarterfinal victory on Thursday over Pittsburg-St. Mary's Colgan, followed by a Friday semifinal triumph over Nemaha Valley in which his team had to turn up the defensive screws after falling behind early, Beaver coach Glenn O'Neil was ready to see his team play the way it played for much of the 2012-2013 season.
"We really never talked much about winning the third one," O'Neil said late Saturday night after watching his veteran team put an old-fashioned whipping on the Humboldt Cubs, 74-55, earning their third straight Class 3A championship and hearing the chants of 'three-peat, three-peat, three-peat.' "I don't know if I'd call it the monkey on your back, but certainly I wanted the kids to play well."
So what did the stoic O'Neil say to his team prior to heading back out to the Sports Arena floor for the opening tipoff?
"I told them that we are where we want to be and now is the time to take advantage of it," said the 17-year coach, who has guided the Beavers to four of the school's five state championships. "We wanted to come out and trap on defense, get the tempo up and play the game like we're known for. I didn't want a grind-it-out type of game. We got from them what we wanted."
Yes, the Beavers did just about everything their veteran coach asked of them.
Four of the Scott City starters scored in the game's first five minutes, helping them break out to a 13-2 lead, yet saw the previously unbeaten Cubs (25-1) mount a mini-rally to close the gap to 20-14 at the end of the first period.
"They were 25-0 for a reason," O'Neil said of Humboldt, making its first title game appearance since they won it in 1969. "We really stressed to them to do the things that we do well, and tried not to focus too much on them (Humboldt). We share the ball very well, we spread it around, and the guys really did their part."
A 24-18 second period scoring spree provided the Beavers with a 44-32 halftime bulge, thanks to a buzzer-beater baseline jumper by senior Brett O'Neil. That came on the heels of a 3-pointer from Humboldt's Tanner McNutt with 11 seconds left before intermission.
"I just happened to be in the right place to get the rebound (Austin Habiger had just missed a 3-pointer with the long rebound ending up in Brett O'Neil's hands for the jumper)," Brett O'Neil said. "It gave us a little extra lift to be up by more than 10."
During that first-half offensive explosion, the Beavers had four players in double figures. That statistic was not lost on the players and their coach when informed of the feat.
"Wow, that's pretty amazing," said 6-3 senior Joey Meyer, who had 11 of those at the break. Drew Kite led the double-digit attack with 12 points, while Brett O'Neil matched Meyer with 11 and Trey O'Neil chipped in with 10. "We've been together so long and we've worked so hard and come together. It's just the chemistry of this group. We hang out, have fun and we don't care who scores points."
Those four eventually accounted for all but one of the Scott City points, as Colten Yager's free throw with 1:27 left in the game snapped the four-player scoring spree.
Kite finished as the leading scorer, netting 23, all coming on tough layups around the basket, as well as a combination of soft hooks and short turnaround jumpers. He was 10-of-14 from the field and grabbed nine rebounds. Meyer, who was red-hot with an 8-of-9 shooting effort, scored a career-high 20 points. Trey O'Neil, who knocked down three 3-pointers, finished with 17 points, and Brett O'Neil, who did a little bit of everything (drives, short jumpers and one trey) finished with 13.
"Our goal was to come out strong, and we just kept our heads down and kept going," Brett O'Neil said. "We wanted to play our kind of game where we can do a little of everything. I think we did that. We wanted to play like champions, and I think we accomplished our goal."
The older O'Neil, in fact, came close to recording a triple-double, finishing with 10 assists and nine rebounds to go with his 13 points.
"Spreading the ball around has been our story," Brett O'Neil said. "Right now, I just don't really have words to describe the feeling. I'm sure when I'm older, I'll look back and see how special this was."
Despite a second-half 3-point outburst by Humboldt's McNutt (he scored 19 second-half points to finish with 28, on 5-of-10 threes), the Cubs never were closer than 14 in the final 16 minutes. The Beavers' biggest lead came with 3:01 left at 26 points, 73-47. Then, it was time to clear the bench and begin inserting the remaining Scott City players to ensure all got on the court in what was the final high school game for nine seniors.
Defense played a big role once again for the Beavers, as they limited the Cubs to 36.4 percent field goal shooting (20-of-55), while hitting a torrid 55.4 percent (31-of-56) of their own. They were 8-of-11 at the free throw line (Humboldt was 10-of-19), and the Beavers dominated the boards by a 40-28 count, that after trailing on the boards 17-15 at halftime.
The overall thumping of the Cubs was not lost on Humboldt coach David Taylor.
"I knew if we didn't get stops that it could get out of hand, and that's just what happened," Taylor said. "You cannot let down against them. They're tenacious, and they came out like gangbusters. We put a band-aid on things at times, but it kept coming off. Scott City played well. Heck, they may be among the top three to five teams in Kansas, no matter what the class."
That, in a nutshell, summarized what it's been like for three years in Class 3A. In that stretch, the Beavers have been a perfect 9-0 at the Arena and have gone 75-3 (25-1 three years running).
Scott City 20 24 16 14 -- 74
Humboldt 14 18 9 14 -- 55
Scott City (25-1) — B. O'Neil 6-10 0-1 13, Pounds 0-0 0-0 0, Wells 0-0 0-0 0, T. O'Neil 7-15 0-0 17, Yager 0-1 1-2 1, B. Meyer 0-0 0-0 0, Hess 0-1 0-0 0, Habiger 0-3 0-0 0, Wilson 0-3 0-0 0, J. Meyer 8-9 4-4 20, Kite 10-14 3-4 23, Ratzlaff 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-56 8-11 74.
Humboldt (25-1) — Vanatta 0-0 0-0 0, McNutt 10-19 3-6 28, Murrow 0-2 0-1 0, Whitcomb 5-11 2-4 12, Sellman 0-0 0-0 0, Aguirre 0-0 0-0 0, D'Armond 0-0 0-1 0, Crawford 0-1 0-0 0, Johnson 0-3 2-3 2, Meins 0-0 0-0 0, Thornbrugh 5-19 2-2 12, Siemens 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 20-55 10-19 55.
3-point goals--Scott City 4-16 (B. O'Neil 1-3, T. O'Neil 3-8, Habiger 0-3, Wilson 0-2), Humboldt 5-17 (McNutt 5-10, Murrow 0-1, Whitcomb 0-1, Johnson 0-3, Thornbrugh 0-2). Rebounds--Scott City 40 (Kite, B. O'Neil 9 each), Humboldt (28 (Thornbrugh 9). Assists--Scott City 18 (B. O'Neil 10), Humboldt 9 (Murrow 3). Turnovers--Scott City 16, Humboldt 15. Steals--Scott City 8 (Habiger 3), Humboldt 8 (McNutt 5). Fouls--Scott City 20, Humboldt 16. Fouled out--Humboldt (McNutt).