It was something Cory Busse hadn’t seen before, let alone expected at a state tournament.
But the hot shooting by the Hanover boys’ basketball team happened, and the Wildcats put a cloud of gloom on St. Francis’ hopes of making the title game at the Class 1A Division I tourney in Hays with a 64-44 win in Friday's semifinals.
“They shot like crazy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that in a game like this,” Busse said. “They shot well. Congratulations to them.”
The Indians (22-3) battled Hanover (23-2) shot-for-shot in the first quarter while trailing only 16-10.
But the Wildcats outscored St. Francis by five in the second quarter to increase their lead to 35-24.
“Honestly, I thought our zone hung in there pretty well,” Busse said. “We count on them getting a few shots, but I don’t count on them making about 80 percent. I’m not taking any credit away from them. I’ve seen film where they don’t shoot that good. But it’s just how it goes. You have to be ready for that. I wish maybe we would have come out of it earlier, but it worked well. I didn’t think it worked bad today, and we got a few fouls on kids early on that we don’t normally get.”
The hot start fueled the Wildcats, who finished fourth in 1ADI last year.
“We’ve been fortunate to experience state success in football and basketball,” said senior Will Bruna, who scored 31 points and made 12 of 15 free throws. “I wouldn’t say we’re used to the big games, but we’ve had guys step up huge this year. That’s big for the entire team.”
Hanover kept the pressure on in the third quarter. St. Francis came as close as 10 points on two trips but trailed 50-36 entering the fourth quarter when Bruna converted a three-point play just eight seconds before the horn.
“We were within 10 or 11 most of the game until that third quarter, and they pulled up by 14,” Busse said. “We just could not get going. We had several chances where we got it down a bit. I just felt like we were going to get a shot and close it under 10, then we’d miss it. Same deal as (Thursday). If we shoot normal, although maybe I don’t know what normal is anymore, we’d be OK.”
Hanover scored five of the first seven points in the final quarter to pull away. The Wildcats’ largest lead of the game was the final margin.
“Halfway through the fourth quarter I told my assistant coaches that I wasn’t expecting a 20-point game at all,” said longtime Hanover coach Kim Lohse. “I saw St. Francis on film and saw them play (Thursday) night, and I thought we were going to have our hands full. They have shooters, and they have size. Our kids just hate to lose and go out and play hard every game.”
The Wildcats shot 44 percent from the field for the game, including 40 percent from 3-point range. They also out-rebounded the Indians 29-21 and had four fewer turnovers.
“None of us passed the ball,” Busse said. “We had a lot of indecisive passes from everybody. We just weren’t as strong with the ball and authoritative with it. The second half, it kind of felt like we were squeezing the air out of it a little bit too many times because we felt the pressure.”
Senior Brock Waters paced St. Francis with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and junior guard Tate Busse added 12 points but never could get on track offensively while facing solid defensive pressure.
“We knew he was going to shoot from anywhere,” Lohse said. “We put pressure on him when he got passed half court to make him make a decision early as to what he was going to do and not get comfortable out there at all. If he gets his feet set, he’s about as good of a shooter as there is in 1A. Our kids stepped up against him. Our post players stepped up and made them kind of change direction of what they wanted to do on offense.”
Senior Michael Jueneman added 18 points for Hanover, which reached its eighth title game under Lohse’s guidance — all coming since 1998. The Wildcats have won five state titles, the last in 2015.
“The boys are about as focused as I’ve ever seen a team out here,” Lohse said. “They’re playing about as well as we can. A few turnovers here and there, but other than that, our kids played exceptionally hard today against a good team in St. Francis.”
South Gray 58, Burlingame 56
The smallest starter for the Rebels came up big in the final seconds, propelling South Gray (24-1) into Saturday’s title game against Hanover.
South Gray trailed by 11 entering the fourth quarter but ratcheted up the defense and got on track offensively to rally.
“He said this wasn’t over with yet,” 5-foot-10 senior Lucas Skinner said about coach Mark Applegate. “He’s been in a lot of those situations like that. It’s just not over yet, and we all fought back. Clifton came out big for us with the 3’s.”
Sophomore Clifton Miller tied the game at 56 with a 3-pointer from the left wing with 1:22 remaining.
Burlingame (22-3) had a chance to take the lead later, but senior James Quaney missed the first of a one-and-one attempt.
The Rebels missed a few opportunities to pull ahead as well before the ball eventually went out of bounds to the Bearcats.
But as the team brought the ball up the floor, the Bearcats lost possession and South Gray junior Craig Griebel picked up the loose ball and saw Miller open down the floor.
Miller took one dribble and looked to his right, where Skinner was bolting down the floor. The pass hit him perfectly, and Skinner sunk the layup as time expired.
“I didn’t really have time to look,” Skinner said about knowing how much time was left. “I just focused on making the layup.
“Any shot like that to take you to the state championship is a big shot. We were in some foul trouble, so going into an overtime might have been a tough situation with us. Getting any game-winer is a big shot, especially getting us into a state championship game.”
Skinner — who credited his teammates with making the plays to win the game, saying, “I didn’t do anything” — finished with 10 points, four rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Senior Jackson Miller led the team with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Clifton Miller added 12 points, and junior Gilbert Peters had 11.
Junior Jacob Thompson led four Burlingame players in double figures with 16 points.
South Gray, which has won three state titles under Applegate, trailed 36-33 at halftime before being outscored 17-9 in the third quarter.
Hanover 58, Centralia 57
Riley Doebele wouldn’t let Hanover lose. Not this time.
The senior did enough down the stretch for the Wildcats to make sure that didn’t happen while propelling the team into the school’s first title game with the one-point win over rival Centralia.
“Riley Doebele, it comes down to her,” said Hanover coach Chris Beikmann. “Words can’t describe it. She took over for me, and she’s a coach on the floor. That’s all I can say. I never have to tell her what to do. She just knows. It was a helluva game I’ll never forget.”
Doebele scored 14 points and made nine of her 13 free throws to help Hanover (23-2) hold off a strong rally by the Panthers (23-2), the defending champs.
Hanover led 13-10 after the first quarter and 31-20 at halftime. Centralia struggled offensively, turning the ball over 13 times compared to only two by the Wildcats.
“You can’t turn it over,” said Centralia coach Roger Holthaus. “And they’re so athletic, they get layups at the other end. It was just turnovers and bad shots. I haven’t seen us play like that all year. I don’t know if we got rattled in the first half or what it was.”
The Wildcats led 46-37 entering the final quarter. But the Panthers, who trailed by as many as 17 in the third quarter, trimmed the margin to two twice in the fourth — the last time coming with 11 seconds to play.
Doebele hit one of two free throws at the other end, and Centralia raced back offensively.
“I wanted to get it right away and get the ball out and down the floor before they had time to set up their press,” Doebele said about Centralia’s pressure late. “I was just wanting to get it into my hands or my sister’s hands so we could get it out right away. And if it happened, then we’d knock them down.”
With just seconds remaining and Centralia trailing 58-55, the Panthers scored in the paint instead of looking for a potential 3-pointer to tie as the final buzzer sounded.
“Had a chance to tie it,” Holthaus said. “I knew the girls were fighters. That’s all you can ask. And Hanover is a really good team. We played them twice, and this is the third time. They’re very athletic.”
Doebele’s younger sister, sophomore Macy, added 14 points as well, and senior Ashton Jueneman scored 12.
Sophomore Madison Lueger paced Centralia with 16 points, and senior Cassidy Haufler finished with 14. Sophomore Maegan Koch (12) and junior Katie Glatczak (10) also scored in double figures.
Olpe 58, South Central 47
The Eagles controlled the game the duration as they reached Saturday’s title game against Hanover.
Olpe (24-1) led 19-8 after the first quarter and 32-19 at halftime.
“It’s always key to get off to a good start, whether you’re executing or having good things happen to you,” said Olpe coach Jesse Nelson. “During the game, we did a lot of things right, a lot of things well.”
Olpe once again was led by junior Brianna Vogts, who finished with 21 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore Emma Miller had 10 points and 10 rebounds, and freshman Neleh Davis sparked the team off the bench with 14 points — including four 3-pointers.
“These teams are so good out here right now,” Nelson said. “I think we came through two really good teams to get here, and Hanover is better than any of the other. They are really strong, and the thing they do the best is really bring it at you and make you stop down. They make it really tough.”
The Eagles were runner-up to Central Plains in last year’s Class 2A finale.
“Not being able to get first last year, that gave us fire to come back and play hard,” Vogts said. “We lost a lot of good players, but we also gained a lot of good players, too.”
Sophomore Bri Rutherford led South Central (23-2) with 29 points on 9-of-21 shooting. Sophomore Jordyn Jellison added 10 points and seven rebounds.