HAYS — Clay Beutler doesn’t have to ask permission to constantly let it fly from beyond the arc.
Beutler, Ness City’s 3-point specialist, knows he has the green light.
“We call him, ‘Green Light Beut,’ ” Ness City coach Brandt Rogers said. “I give him the green light until he misses a few in a row.”
Beutler was in the zone early for the Eagles in Friday's Class 2A tournament semifinal against Inman, coming off the bench to drain four first-quarter 3-pointers to supply 12 of the Eagles’ 15 points in the first frame.
The Eagles kept the energy up throughout, seizing control with strong second and third quarters and holding off a late Inman rally to post a 71-66 victory at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
Ness City (21-4) will make its first state title game appearance when the Eagles meet Hutchinson-Trinity (22-3) at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday for the championship.
All of Beutler’s 15 points came off 3-pointers, which isn’t unusual for the senior.
“I’m confident in my shot,” Beutler said. “I work on it quite a bit with coach.”
“The kid can really shoot the ball,” Rogers said. “I’m so happy for him and I’m so proud of our team.”
Inman coach Brett Froese said the driving ability of Ness City senior standout John Pfannenstiel helped leave the Teutons vulnerable in defending the arc.
“Sure, it was big for them,” Froese said of Beutler’s 3-pointers. “We knew he could shoot it some, but the confidence they had in the Pfannenstiel kid to just let him stand there and shoot it showed how well he can shoot it. It hurt us early, for sure.
“We had to be in the gaps with the Pfannenstiel kid driving it, so we knew we were going to give up something. We wanted to play the gaps tight and then try to recover, and I think Pfannenstiel did a great job of finding (Beutler) high.”
Ness City held a nine-point lead at halftime and stayed in control in the third, taking a 12-point lead into the fourth.
“Inman threw out some defenses we weren’t prepared for, but the boys handled it and got some layups out of it in the third quarter to keep them from running those defenses,” Rogers said.
The fourth-seeded Eagles led by as much 16 in the fourth quarter but top-seeded Inman didn’t go down without a fight, forcing some turnovers and cutting the deficit down to five with 52.7 seconds left.
But the Eagles got the ball into the hands of Pfannenstiel down the stretch, who iced the game at the foul line, finishing 10 of 10 from the stripe for the game.
“We knew that we were just going to have to be able to shoot free throws down the stretch and absorb,” Rogers said. “Getting it to John -- I don’t want to jinx him -- but he’s a pretty sure thing at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.”
Pfannenstiel led Ness City with 20 points. Landon Reinhardt and Angel Guzman joined Pfannenstiel and Beutler in double figures with 13 and 11, respectively.
Froese said he thought the Teutons (21-3) looked tentative early.
“For us, the way we came out so tight was not typical for our team,” Froese said. “I did not expect that all. We were loose today. We had a couple guys dealing with some sickness, but that’s not an excuse. We were just tight. I didn’t quite understand that, and it cost us.”
Six-foot-8 Emporia State signee Mason Thiessen paced Inman with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
“That kid’s an animal,” Rogers said. “There’s a reason he signed with Emporia State. As a Fort Hays alum, I would have loved to see him come here and play. There was really nothing we were going to do once he caught it, we were just trying to keep him from catching it on the block.”
Payton Froese added 15 for Inman, while Jaxon Eddy scored 14 and Jordan Friesen 10.
The Central Prairie League will have three boys teams playing for state titles. Central Plains and St. John-Hudson will meet in the 1A title game while the Eagles go the 2A crown.
It’s been a wild ride for Ness City, with all five of the Eagles’ postseason wins coming by single digits, including an overtime win over Bishop Seabury in Wednesday’s quarterfinal.
“We just try to get through them one at a time, one possession at a time,” Rogers said. “… The boys really fight and fight and fight and push forward. They played well defensively down the stretch and that’s all I could ask for.”