MANHATTAN — In a span of just more than one-and-a-half minutes, the game changed.
With it, any momentum the Plainville High School boys’ basketball team had earned vanished.
So did the Cardinals’ one-point advantage.
And that small stretch in a game of 32 minutes spelled doom for Plainville in a 54-47 loss to Pittsburg-St. Mary’s/Colgan on Thursday in the first round of the Class 2A state tournament at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan.
“That was a critical stretch for us,” said Plainville coach Chris Drees. “Unfortunately, we were on the wrong side of it. We had played such a good third quarter. Scoring 17 points against Pitt-Colgan is hard in a quarter. We just kind of played our game and didn’t try to do too much. I think they came out and scored the first six points of the fourth quarter. You just can’t get down to them the way they work offensively.”
Colgan (22-2) relied on a deliberate offensive approach all game, using nearly a minute per possession at times while working its offense to find an open shot or a player cutting to the hoop.
That approach led to a low-scoring first quarter, with the teams tied at only eight points apiece.
In the second quarter, the Panthers inched ahead slightly for a 21-19 lead at halftime.
“I don’t know if you heard our cheerleaders, but the fourth quarter kind of belongs to the Panthers,” said Colgan senior Jerimiah Buche, who finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and three steals. “That’s kind of our thing. If we’re down or up, we just come alive in the fourth quarter. Really, it starts in the second half because we always say in the locker room that we have to come out as a new team. We’re a typical high-school team that bickers and goes over stuff with coach. But we come out a new team, a new us, and we’re a better team in the second half.”
Plainville (17-7) hung tough in the third quarter behind the work of sophomore Jared Casey, who finished with a game-high 19 points, 12 rebounds and three steals.
That lifted the Cardinals to a 36-35 advantage entering the fourth quarter.
“The kid’s a great shooter,” Buche said about Casey. “Definitely a dynamic player. You don’t see too many like him. … He has a lot of skill on him. I think he’s a great opponent.”
Colgan’s offensive flash came at the start of the final period. Three different players scored in a 6-0 run over the first 1:39, giving the Panthers a 41-36 lead.
The margin grew to 44-37 with just more than three minutes to play.
“I knew when we got down six at the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter what they were going to do,” Drees said. “And we almost dug our way out of it. … We just couldn’t. Shooting percentage wasn’t good.”
Casey stopped Colgan’s momentum with a jumper from the free-throw line, then banked in a 3-pointer from the right wing on the Cardinals’ next possession to cut it to 44-42 with 2:32 to play.
But over the final 1:46 of the contest, the Panthers outscored the Cardinals 8-3 to make the semifinals against Howard-West Elk.
Drees knew if his team had beaten Colgan, it stood a good chance of making Saturday’s title game.
“Absolutely,” he said. “We drew the lesser of two evils on our bracket. Obviously, Central Plains we’ve played before, and I knew what Sacred Heart can do. I was looking forward to playing the people we don’t get to play and see very often. West Elk is a heck of a team, but I was feeling good about where we were. But we knew we had to take care of this game, but we just couldn’t find a way to get it done.”
The Cardinals out-rebounded the taller Panthers, 34-31, but shot only 35 percent from the field and 21 percent from 3-point range.
“What I will say is one of our main focuses is we wanted to rebound well, and we did against their size,” Drees said. “We out-rebounded them, and if you told me we would have done that, I would have said he would have won the game.”
Senior Chase Cellmer added 13 points for the Cardinals, and senior Bradley Beykirch finished with 12 for Colgan.
It was the first time the Cardinals had made the state tournament since 2014, when they finished second.