From a basketball fan’s perspective, the boys title game of the Hi-Plains League tournament couldn’t have been any more exciting, especially down the stretch.
Meade scored four points in the final eight seconds to pull off a 68-65 win over Cimarron in Conestoga Arena before a boisterous crowd.
Garrett Gillum put in an acrobatic reverse layup with 8.5 seconds to play to give Meade a 66-65 lead, and Hunter Davis dropped in a pair of free throws with a second to play after Matt Mowry was called for an offensive foul on the other end as he attempted to drive for a go-ahead layup.
Cimarron took its first lead since midway in the opening period when Hunter Bailey converted an and-one at the 3:18 mark.
Davis got the lead back on Meade’s next possession, but Mowry buried a 3-pointer from the corner to put the 'Jays ahead by two.
Gillum tied it for the Buffs on their next possession and Grant Gillum put in a pair of free throws to give Meade a 63-61 lead. RJ Thomas tied the game on the ensuing possession, but Grayson Haynes put the Buffs up one with :27 to play.
With 18 seconds to play, Mowry hit a layup to give the Jays a 65-64 lead. Meade called a time out, setting up the Buffs’ final plays.
Cimarron coach Iric Mawhirter found it hard to pinpoint one specific moment that could have made the difference, but the second-half effort helped define his team.
“These guys have been through adversity and all I can do is trust that that will pay off when it really counts,” he said. “That’s life, dealing with things when they don’t go your way.”
Meade started the game with a Vance Shewey 3-pointer, but they didn’t score again for more than 3 minutes, by which time the Bluejays had scored six.The Buffaloes finished the quarter and then some with a 15-5 run, holding Cimarron goal-less for five minutes.
But the Jays fought back, using nine second-period points from RJ Thomas to keep them in the game.
Three times Cimarron cut the lead to five, with Meade holding a 31-26 lead at intermission. Five more times in the third quarter, Cimarron cut the lead to five, but could never get closer, trailing 51-46 going into the final period.
Thomas led Cimarron with 21 points and Mowry added 16.
Bailey pulled down five boards and scored 11 of his 12 points in the final quarter.
Meade was the more aggressive and crisp team in the first half, Mawhirter noted, and his team looked flat, contrasted to Friday’s win over Lakin where the Jays were aggressive from the start.
“Meade’s a good team, and they looked it early on,” he said. “They scored a lot of points on the pick and roll, and we practice defending the pick and roll all the time.”
That part of the game was disappointing, he added, but the way his team overcame that is something he wants them to carry forward.
Cimarron beat Meade in the finals in 2017 (56-48) and 2014 (50-47), losing to Lakin last year 58-36.
It was Meade’s third title in six appearances since they joined the HPL.
Shewey led the Buffs with 15 points. Woodruff had 13 and Garrett Gillum 12.
Meade (8-4) shot 23 of 45 from the floor (51 percent) and 17 of 23 from the line.
Cimarron (5-7) was 26 of 53 from the floor (49 percent) and 13 of 17 from the line.