There was a slight smile on Cory Busse’s face as he exited the locker room.

The St. Francis boys’ basketball coach knew his team didn’t play great.

But the Indians played good enough to get a win, and that was all that was important to a team that hadn’t been to the state tournament in two decades.

“I just told the boys that it was one of those that you just win and advance and be happy you did,” Busse said. “It was kind of like last week when we didn’t play near as well as we wanted but advanced. Hopefully (Friday) is like last week too and we show up and it’s a better played game.”

St. Francis used another workman-like effort to get by Kiowa-South Barber on Thursday in the first round of the Class 1A Division I state tournament at Gross Memorial Coliseum.

The 49-36 victory in a physical game was important for many reasons, including that it was the school’s first win at a state tournament. More importantly, though, it put the Indians (22-2) into today’s 4:45 p.m. semifinal against perennial power Hanover (22-2).

“It’s actually our first state tournament win, so that’s really cool,” said junior point guard Tate Busse, the coach’s son. “Just getting a chance to play two more games is pretty cool, too. That’s big.”

The victory assured St. Francis of its best finish in school history. But it didn’t come without a lot of tough work.

Senior Brock Waters paced the Indians early, scoring 13 of his 14 points in the first half as St. Francis led 13-8 after the first quarter and 23-19 at halftime.

“He did, and that’s kind of what he does,” the St. Francis coach said about the senior. “That’s Brock. Tate or Brock, one of them, usually in the first half gets it going and feels it. Brock did, and Tate wasn’t getting very good looks and we weren’t moving very well on offense. We were kind of getting stagnant a lot.”

While Tate Busse was hounded by the Chieftains’ defense early, he got rolling in the third quarter.

With 4:38 to play in the period, Busse hit a 3-pointer and was fouled, converting the four-point play to give St. Francis a 32-22 lead.

“I was having a tough time shooting, and it was frustrating,” said the junior, who finished with 19 points. “I think that helped a lot, got my confidence going again.”

Busse would score all but four of his points in the final two quarters. His deep 3-pointer as time ran down in the third gave the Indians a 39-32 lead entering the final period.

“Tate had tremendous pressure on him today, brought the ball up against crazy, tremendous physical pressure,” the St. Francis coach said. “I thought it was very physical pressure. I was super proud of our kids. It was a good game to win.”

After South Barber (19-5) pulled within 41-34, the Indians got a big bucket from a freshman. Waters got an offensive rebound and found Brady Dinkel open on the right wing, and the freshman delivered with a 3-pointer to push the lead to 44-34 with 5:34 remaining.

From that point on, the Chieftains would come no closer than eight points as Busse iced the game at the line.

“He just said to keep playing hard and things will fall into place,” Tate Busse said about his father’s words of wisdom at the break. “I think after halftime, our nerves weren’t quite as bad and that helped.”

St. Francis also got 10 points from senior Quinton Cravens, and Waters finished with a double-double after grabbing 10 rebounds to go with his 14 points.

“I have to give it to South Barber,” Busse said. “Those boys played lights out. They shot their butts off in the first half. I’ve been through a bunch of their games and all their stats, and I haven’t seen them shoot like that ever. But that’s part of the tournament. We were the exact opposite. We couldn’t find the bucket with a map. It was a hard-played game more than anything.”

Senior Grant Cantrell led South Barber with 12 points but made only four of his 15 attempts from the field.

Now the Indians will face an even tougher test in Hanover, which walked through it’s first-round game and was able to rest its starters a large portion of the fourth quarter.

“We just need to get back playing like we do,” Tate Busse said. “If we do, I think we can beat them.”

Hanover 68 Rural Vista 46The Wildcats (22-2) were hitting on all cylinders early against the Heat. Hanover, fourth last year in 1ADI, used an array of inside and outside shots to sink Rural Vista (17-7) in the school’s first state appearance as a cooperative of Hope and White City.

“You don’t want to start out slow against good, quality teams,” said senior Will Bruna. “Starting out with a big lead can be pretty demoralizing for a team, and it worked out in our favor — especially since we didn’t play well in the second half.”

Hanover didn’t really need to play well in the second half. The Wildcats already had the game won, leading 20-11 after the first quarter and 46-21 at halftime.

Bruna and senior Michael Jueneman combined for 34 points in the first half. Bruna finished with 21, and Jueneman had 19.

The Wildcats scored 21 points off 16 Rural Vista turnovers in the game, and scored 22 points in the paint while out-rebounding their opponent by five.

“We had a great first half on both ends of the court — offensively and defensively,” said Hanover coach Kim Lohse, whose team is seeking the school’s sixth state crown. “We really put them in a big hole. We knew the second half we were going through the motions. As long as we maintained the lead, we’d be all right.”

Seniors Mason Hinkle and Seppe VanHulten each scored 12 points for Rural Vista.

Hanover’s defense was tough in the first round, limiting Rural Vista to only 11, 10 and nine points through the first three quarters. It’s the 62nd quarter this season the Wildcats have held an opponent to fewer than 12 points in a quarter.

“My main goal for this bunch was to improve on last year,” Lohse said. “You can’t get first or second if we lose (Friday). We’ve been a very focused team the last 15 games so far and playing really good basketball. It’s shown with our seniors, who go out there and play their hearts out every single night. They don’t want to finish like we did last year.”

Hanover led by as many as 33 points in the fourth quarter.

Burlingame 64

Osborne 53 (OT)

The eyes of Justin Burch were red with tears. That told the whole story for Osborne following the team’s first-round game against Burlingame at the 1ADI tourney Thursday.

Osborne (19-5) squandered a seven-point lead early in the fourth quarter as the Bearcats rallied to force overtime, then pulled away in the extra frame.

“It’s horrible,” said the senior, who finished with 13 points. “We let it get out of our hands. We missed a couple shots, missed a couple layups. Then they came back down on the other side and converted when we didn’t on our side. That brought them back into the game. They got rolling, and we couldn’t get them stopped.”

The Bulldogs led 14-8 after the first quarter and 22-16 at halftime in a game that featured 51 total fouls and six players foul out.

Osborne led 36-32 entering the final quarter and pushed the lead to seven twice in the period — the last time when Burch hit two free throws with 4:44 to play.

But Burlingame junior Jacob Thompson scored seven points down the stretch, the final two coming off free throws to tie the game at 47 with 5.4 seconds remaining.

“We kept chipping away, and every time we got close, Osborne would make a shot,” said Burlingame coach Creighton Winters. “We just kept playing and playing and hit two big free throws there at the end.”

Senior Pierce Wolters’ attempt at a game-winning 3-pointer was blocked, and the ball careened out of bounds as the horn sounded.

“It’s tough,” said Osborne coach Jamie Wolters. “We just didn’t make enough plays down the stretch. They made the plays down there. Offensively, we had to get some other guys involved. Obviously Justin and Cullen played well. They didn’t play well, they played great. We had to have somebody else step up, and we didn’t really get that. There were some spots where somebody could have cut and there were some openings, but we got to standing and watching too much. It’s my fault. We should have got everyone involved a little more. It just seemed like we relied on them two too much.

“But you have to give them credit. They played great defense. They have great athletes on their team. They made us take tough shots. The first half, we made some plays, made tough shots. I said at half they had 14 points in the paint and we had two. That’s what we’ve been all year, kind of a jump-shooting team rather than taking it to the hole. Justin did a pretty good job of taking it to the hole tonight, but that’s kind of been our weakness all year. … We just settled for shots more than we needed to do, especially since the refs were calling it close. They did a good job driving it to the hole, and we didn’t take advantage of driving it to the hole. Just a play or two here or there.”

Sophomore Seth Greenwood would score off the glass with 2:55 to play in overtime, and Burlingame (22-2) would never relinquish the lead.

The Bulldogs struggled offensively without senior Cullen Grabast in overtime. He finished with 15 points but fouled out when Thompson tied the game at the end of regulation with his free throws.

“We weren’t done, but he’s our best player. He willed us to where we are right now,” the Osborne coach said about Grabast. “He played an unbelievable game against St. John’s, and obviously they knew that. He couldn’t hardly even move. There was somebody draped on him all night. If you were going to call a touch, you could have called every one. They were just hanging on him. But I’m not going to blame the refs. Both sides played that way.”

Thompson finished with 30 points and 12 rebounds to lead Burlingame, a team that had lost in the sub-state game to Osborne in the Eight-Man Division I football playoffs. The Bulldogs went on to win the title.

“We lost to Osborne in the football playoffs, and it was kind of nice for the kids to get a little redemption,” Winters said.

The Bearcats also got 11 points from sophomore Montana Giffin to reach the semifinals today against South Gray.

South Gray 73

Onaga 46

The Rebels’ size inside and outside was too much for Onaga to compete with, and South Gray (23-1) took all the suspense out of its first-round game early.

The Rebels led 22-13 after the first quarter and 34-20 at halftime. It only got worse in the second half for Onaga (17-7).

South Gray has four starters 6-foot or taller, including two reaching 6-6. That helped the Rebels score 40 points in the paint and shoot 61 percent from the field.

The Rebels also shot 50 percent from 3-point range.

Junior Gilbert Peters scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half for South Gray.

Senior Jackson Miller was the team’s top scorer with 17 points, five rebounds and four blocks. Senior point guard Lucas Skinner added 13 points, seven assists and eight steals as the Rebels ran their win streak to 17 games.

Senior Ben Kufahl had 23 points for the Buffaloes, who were outscored 19-12 in the third quarter and 20-14 in the fourth.