Pittsburg-Colgan coach Wayne Cichon is a firm believer that the first round of the state tournament is often the most challenging, and Wednesday's battle with McLouth supported that theory.
McLouth, which was making its first state tournament appearance since 1960, gave the Panthers everything they wanted, but Colgan held off the Bulldogs down the stretch, pulling out a 48-41 win at Gross Memorial Coliseum to advance to the 2A state semis.
"Probably the hardest game to play is the first round of the state tournament," Cichon said. "Everybody's worried about going home and all the nerves and everything that you have from that situation. I believed that our kids were mature enough to handle it, and I thought their kids handled it very well, too.
"They (Bulldogs) were really a senior-laden team and handled all the pressure that they could. It just didn't work out for them in the end."
The game was tied at 35 early in the fourth before a bucket from Cal Marquardt gave the Panthers the lead for good.
Colgan went up six with just under two minutes left on a 3-point play from Matthew Lomshek, and the Panthers came up with several stops down the stretch to keep McLouth at bay.
The No. 3-seeded Panthers (20-3) will meet No. 2-seed Hutchinson-Trinity in Friday's 4:45 p.m. semifinal.
"We got some key stops. We made them in a hurry to shoot and caused them to miss opportunities they would have normally had," Cichon said. "They're a good team and I was real proud of our defense and the way we were making them burn clock in the end."
Marquardt led Colgan with 16 points while Aaron Higginbothman added 15 and Lomshek finished with 10.
Garrison Pope led McLouth with 11 points while Jaxson Pope contributed 10.
McLouth (18-6) shot 45.9 percent from the field but went just 0 of 11 from 3-point range.
"We told the kids in the locker room we certainly did not have our best game today," McLouth coach Steve Lilly said. "I was proud of their effort, but I've been proud of their effort all year. We've got great kids.
"You got to give Colgan a lot of credit for the way that we played, too. They're so disciplined that they can run their stuff and keep running it. They're a tough team to play. Sometimes they make it so you don't play your best game."
Lilly said he knew his players would be unfazed by the moment in their first state tournament experience.
"We told the guys that this moment is not bigger than they are, and that's kind of the way they came out and played," Lilly said. "That didn't surprise me. I thought we would come out and play that way."