Last year’s run at the Class 1A Division I state tournament might have came as a surprise for the Osborne boys’ basketball team.
The Bulldogs made it all the way to the finals before falling just short in a low-scoring contest against Centralia.
This year, it’s no surprise the team is back in the season finale — although it might have been a tougher road to get there.
Osborne had lost three times to St. John’s-Tipton prior to Saturday night’s sub-state finals. But the Bulldogs, playing on their home floor, pulled off the upset of the unbeaten, top-seeded team to reach state.
“We beat a good team Saturday,” said head coach Jamie Wolters. “We changed things up defensively more than we did the previous three times. … Defense was a big part of it.”
And the victory over St. John’s-Tipton eclipsed a mental hurdle as well for the Bulldogs.
“We were excited about the year, to start with,” Wolters said. “But a lot of times in volleyball or basketball, it would come to sub-state time and St. John’s was in with us and they’d be loaded. That had us discouraged, but we knew we could beat them. As a coach, I’d never beaten them. They were in our heads a bit, had won something like 85 straight league games.”
The Bulldogs used a solid team effort to win by eight points — reaching the 1ADI finale for the second straight season. It’s the 10th time the boys’ team has qualified for a state tourney.
Last year’s runner-up finish matched the school’s best season when the Bulldogs finished second in 2A in 1976.
Osborne (19-4) will play Burlingame (21-2) in the 8:15 p.m. first-round game Thursday at Fort Hays State University’s Gross Memorial Coliseum.
This year, Osborne finished the regular season strong and is riding a four-game winning streak. A year ago entering postseason, the Bulldogs hadn’t had the best of luck.
“Last year was just a different year,” Wolters said. “We weren’t playing well at the end. We had lost something like our last two regular-season games. We struggled down the stretch.”
This year, players were riding high entering the basketball season after coming off a state title in Eight-Man Division I in football.
Wolters returned all five starters from 2016, and the coach has been aided by sophomore Darnell Holloway, a transfer.
The coach knows the road back to a title game won’t be easy, especially as the No. 5 seed.
“This year, several 2A teams dropped down,” Wolters said. “Burlingame was good last year and got everybody back. It should be a good tournament.”
Burlingame will be without junior standout Dalton Sporing, who a few weeks ago suffered a season-ending injury.
The first-round game at state basketball also showcases two teams that played in the sub-state game of football this season. Osborne won that game 62-16 before beating St. Francis — another 1ADI qualifier — 38-24 in the title game.