HUTCHINSON — Norton fans nervously breathed into their hands as the No. 2 seed Bluejays saw their 15-point lead fall to one point in the fourth quarter against the No. 7 Scott City Beavers.
Down 46-45, the Beavers inbounded the ball with 12.3 seconds left in the opening round of the Class 3A state tournament on Wednesday at the Sports Arena. But the Beavers (17-7) turned over the ball. Norton (22-2) closed out the 48-45 win with a couple free throws, sending the Bluejays into Friday’s semifinals.
“I told the girls for 50.1 percent of the time they played lights out and for 49-whatever it is to get to 100 we didn’t,” Norton coach George Rossi said. “Fortunately, our good side was better than our bad side.”
Rossi said the 24 turnovers was a season-high. The Beavers finished with 17.
“Scott City is by far the fastest team we have played this year,” Rossi said.
The Bluejays opened up the game on a 11-1 run. Scott City coach Jamie Rumford screamed “pressure” to her team.
“I felt like that caused a lot of havoc for them, but it also got us in foul trouble,” Rumford said.
However, Norton failed to knock down free throws down the stretch. Norton shot 7 of 14 from the charity stripe in the final period and 19 of 30 (63 percent) for the game.
Freshman Amber Latta led the charge for the Beavers in the fourth quarter. She finished with 13 points, including eight in the final period.
“A little spark playing off the bench that was invaluable,” Rumford said.
Emily Weathers finished with a game-high 15 points for the Beavers.
The game ended on a Scott City Hail Mary down court that Norton’s 6-footer Hadley Hauser came down with.
Hauser scored six points in a 10-2 third-quarter run that put Norton up by a high of 15 points. Hauser and Taryn Kuhn, both seniors, tied for a team-high 12 points.
Norton saw its season end last year in the sub-state finals to Scott City, which doesn’t have a senior on its roster. Norton advances to the semifinals on Friday.