DODGE CITY — When Quinter coach Matt Havlas watched his daughter, Peyton, step to the free throw line with 22 seconds left in the game, he half covered his eyes.
There she stood, right in front of him. The score was 44-44 with Hartford, both teams looking for their school’s first-ever state title.
And when the senior buried the first free throw, Dad raised his hands in jubilation. Daughter sank the next shot, the final scoring in the game.
Twenty-two seconds later, the Bulldogs were leaping onto the court with the Class 1A Division II title all theirs.
What was that like, coach?
“I was fighting back tears,” he said of the timeout he took immediately after the free throws. “I couldn’t talk in the huddle. For her to be there — she had a rough game (Friday)— but she came back and played hard today.”
Quinter started five seniors every game this year.
“Those seniors have been together for so long, and they did it for each other,” coach Havlas said. “This is just an unbelievable feeling.”
The final quarter featured four ties and eight lead changes, the final change coming with Peyton Havlas stepping to the line.
Before that, it was just a tight, wild quarter, indicative of the entire game.
The entire 32 minutes had eight ties and 13 lead changes, with Quinter holding the largest lead at 12-5 at 2:24 in the first.
Hartford got out to a 4-0 lead two minutes into the game before Quinter took off on a 9-0 run with 3:02 to play in the quarter that included four Eagle turnovers.
Quinter extended its lead to 16-11 early in the second period, but Hartford regained the lead on a pair of Maisie Schroeder free throws.
The lead switched four more times before the Bulldogs went up 24-22 on Brittney Walt’s field goal near the buzzer.
Quinter was just 6 of 20 from the floor in that half, but 9 of 13 from the line.
Hartford was 9 of 24 (3 of 6).
The third quarter featured three ties, with Hartford taking a 32-28 lead on Brooke Finnerty’s running jump shot with 27 seconds to play.
Quinter’s Abria Fisher whittled that to 32-31 on a traditional 3-point play with two seconds remaining on the clock.
Evie Gruenbacher shot Quinter back into the lead with a trey to open the fourth, the quarter that will be etched into Quinter memory for a long time.
Brittney Walt was (almost) at a loss for words moments after the game.
“Free throws were key,” she said. “That’s what won us the game (Quinter was 5 of 6 in the final period). Peyton made two key free throws right at the end. It was amazing.”
The five starters have been together since third grade with coach Havlas at the helm.
“This had been a dream for us for years,” said Walt, who led the Bulldogs with 15 points. “It’s just crazy.”
Knocking off top-seed Cunningham in Friday’s semifinals was the final hurdle to get to the game, Walt said. Saturday’s preparation to get a sense for what they needed to do was the other.
“We got to (the United Wireless Arena) about 1, 1:30, preparing as a team, getting all pumped up,” she said. “It’s really important for us to just come together. You can’t play basketball with just one person. It’s a team effort.”
What does that for the players?
Walt said her school’s athletic director and boys coach John Crist sent a video of the wall of state title photos, minus any girls’ team.
“It’s the first girls' team picture that’s going to be up there, and I’m really excited,” Walt said.
Kylie Crist and Peyton Havlas both had 10 points to go with Walt’s 15.
Quinter (21-5) also had a 14-7 edge on points off turnovers.
Hartford (21-5) got 14 points from sophomore Bailey Darbyshire and 13 from Morgan Bolen.
Coach Havlas said this title, the first for any Quinter girls' team, means so, so much.
“As a kid, I dreamed of hitting game-winning 3s and free throws,” he said. “Last year was the girls’ first trip to state in a long, long time, and we didn’t do too well. To win it is something you always dream of as a coach.”
Havlas gives Quinter boys coach Crist, whose boys have won a state title, thanks with helping him through to this moment.
“Every time I ride the bus with him, I pick his brain,” he said. “And every time I ride the bus with him, I look at that championship ring he wears. It’s a motivation.”
Now, what to do with the state championship plaque, bracket and nets?
“I’m going to hang this trophy on my mantle until they make me take it to the school,” Havlas said. “There is a case, but not one trophy in it.”
Not until after Monday, when the school will celebrate the win before heading into spring break.