DODGE CITY — Jamie Wolters has no problem admitting his team overachieved this season.
The coach’s Osborne boys’ basketball team compiled an 18-6 record on its way to earning the No. 2 seed in the Class 1A Division I tournament. The team’s lone senior, Brice Befort, played just four minutes in the Bulldogs final matchup with Centralia at the Civic Center.
And the youth of Osborne and stalwart defense of Centralia showed Saturday in its fullest. A 38-27 result favored the Panthers, who completed a 1A Division I sweep with the girls’ team taking home the crown earlier in the day.
“If you woulda told any of us we were gonna get state at the beginning of the year, we would’ve taken it right then,” Wolters said, “or maybe even to make it. After what we lost, we had like seven points coming back from last year. We knew we had the chance to be fair. They’ve overachieved and just not satisfied. They were getting better every game.”
The Bulldogs (20-7) will return every starter and all but one player next season from a second-place team that entered the weekend with nothing to lose. The expectations entering the state tournament made Wolters’ postgame speech easy.
“Just remember the sting,” Wolters said to his team. “One game short. You’ve gotta stay hungry.”
Centralia, the fourth seed, set a new 1A record for fewest points scored by a winning team in a final. The team’s combined points (65) also is a state record for a championship.
“It stings,” Osborne junior Justin Burch said. “They play great, tremendous defense. They shut me and Cullen down, we couldn’t do hardly anything, and they made our younger players step up. They tried to, but it didn’t come out the way we wanted it to.”
Cullen Grabast and Burch — Osborne’s two primary scorers — made the Bulldogs’ first two shots, including a straightaway triple from Burch to lead early, 5-2. Centralia’s Braden Deters answered with one of his own, sparking a 9-0 run that pushed the No. 4 seed ahead, 11-2. It was Burch’s lone make of the night. Grabast finished with a team-high 10 points, but came up with just four makes on 15 attempts, including 0-for-6 from deep.
“It’s very easy to take a lot of positives,” Burch said. “We worked well together. In the summer, we play ball constantly, and we’ve just gotta keep working hard in the weight room, get faster and stronger and come back next year ready to go.”
After hunkering down on a long defensive possession, Osborne’s Tanner Conway fumbled the ball away in the final seconds of the period. Deters collected the loose ball and hit a leaning bank shot as the buzzer sounded for a 13-6 lead after one.
Centralia scored the first five points of the second quarter without big man Levi Koch, who left late in the first quarter with a left knee injury. A jumper from the free-throw line by Conway ended a 16-1 run by the Panthers.
Grabast added a three-point play with three minutes to go in the half, the final Bulldog basket of the half. Centralia took a 28-11 lead into the break on a putback buzzer-beater by Jonathan Johnson, his fifth basket of the opening half. He finished with a game-high 15.
“No. 23, he’s an animal in there,” Wolters said. “We didn’t have an answer for him.”
Centralia won the first-half battle for rebounds (15-8) and forced seven turnovers, five coming off steals. Osborne shot just 25 percent (4-for-16) in the first half and scored six points in the final 14 minutes.
The third quarter was dismal for each team. Both scored just one basket, Osborne’s coming three minutes into the quarter and Centralia’s coming with 1:40 remaining. The Bulldogs found a way to put up 12 points in the final quarter, but the celebration amongst the Centralia bench was already well underway.
The Bulldogs were outrebounded by 11 (32-21) and finished just 28.9 percent from the field (11 of 38).
The sting of a devastating loss is prevalent and is sure to remain in the coming days for Osborne. But before the Bulldogs are counted out once again, they still have something to prove.
“We’re really excited to get back to state next year,” Burch said. “We’re gonna try to achieve our goal, get back to where we were this year and hopefully come out on top.”
Class 1A Division I finals
Centralia 38, Osborne 27
Osborne 6 5 2 14 — 27
Centralia 13 15 2 9 — 38
Osborne — Grabast 10, Miller 3, Conway 9, Befort 2, Burch 3.
Centralia — Koch 4, Flentie 1, Talley 6, Deters 7, Duryea 5, Johnson 15.