HUTCHINSON -- Girard boys coach Rod Wescott will be the first to admit.
His team's first-half performances at the Class 3A state tournament have been "so-so."
The second halves, however, have been something far better. Girard blitzed Kingman with a 44-point second half in Thursday's quarterfinal win, and followed with another second-half knockout of upset-minded TMP-Marian in Friday's semifinal.
Up 29-28 at halftime, Girard outscored the Monarchs 19-9 in the third quarter and pulled away for the 62-50 win.
The trip to the state title game will be the first since 2009 for the Trojans (21-3), who will take on Beloit (24-1) in Saturday's 6:15 title tilt. Both schools will be looking for the first state championship in program history.
"You'd rather finish strong obviously than the opposite," Wescott said. "The kids just battled all night and they really got after us and did some things we hadn't seen. But our kids just kept battling and getting the ball where it needed to be."
Where it needed to go was no secret. Caleb Muia has been the Trojans' driving force all season long and TMP-Marian absolutely no answer for the athletic senior wingman.
Muia hit shots from just about everywhere on the floor except beyond the arc and finished the game hitting 13 of his 23 field goal attempts. He also made 7 of 9 free throws and finished with 33 points, also grabbing 11 rebounds.
"They've got a really good and player and he did what he did," TMP coach Bill Meagher said. "He's one of the best we've seen this season and we tried different things and nothing seemed to work on him."
TMP rode light's-out shooting to a quarterfinal upset of Maur Hill on Thursday and then started the game hot with Jackson Schulte knocking down two quick threes to start the game.
But after going 22 of 33 overall in the upset win over Maur Hill, the Monarchs cooled off considerably and Thursday's shooting stars -- Ryan Karlin and Ryan Stoecklein -- went a combined 0 of 6 beyond the arc after combining for 7 of 9 3-pointers against Maur Hill.
"Last night they lit it up and tonight (Schulte) hits two right out of the gate and I'm thinking, 'Goodness, here we go again!'" Wescott said. "But the kids adjusted really well and got better close outs and stopping the drive and that made a difference in the second half."
Girard only led 36-34 midway through the third period before finally getting some separation. back-to-back baskets from Ryder Worrell and Muia pushed the lead to six and after TMP's Jared Mayers scored on a putback, the Trojans finished the quarter on an 8-1 run for a 48-37 lead going into the fourth.
With 22 points to that point, Muia took over in the fourth. He scored 11 in the final period and had a pair of three-point plays in a minute span that sealed the win late.
"I've dreamed about this since I was in the seventh grade," Muia said of making the title game. "That's always been my goal. We just got it going. I think the first half we're just jittery or nervous, but once we get settled down, we got it going."
TMP saw its fairy-tale run end a game short of an improbable shot at the state title, but Meagher said his team wasn't about to hang their heads.
"I'm really proud of our effort and energy and how we played," he said. "That's a good team and our guys played hard."
Schulte led TMP (14-12) with 15 points and Mayers added 11. The Monarchs will take on Perry-Lecompton in the 2 p.m. third-place game.