Beavers overcome Collegiate press in 60-48 state title game
SCHS senior Sloan Baker signals to the Scott City fans that the Beavers had earned their fourth state basketball title in five years.
By Rod Haxton, editor
Even after playing the entire 32 minutes of the state title game, the last thing a sweat-soaked Sloan Baker wanted to do was come off the court.
The Scott Community High School senior was charged with emotion as he raced to the far end of the Hutchinson Sports Arena, holding up four fingers towards the Scott City fans that filled one side of the arena. Working his way to the other end of the floor, Baker kept shouting, “Four in five years! That’s four in five years!”
The SCHS fans were standing and applauding in appreciation of the Beavers who had just completed an incredible run of four state championships in the past five seasons with Saturday’s 60-48 win over Wichita Collegiate in the Class 3A finals.
“Defense wins championships, just like the banner says,” noted a more subdued Baker afterwards, pointing to the banner that hung over the Collegiate student section. “I guess we did it better than they did tonight.”
Baker, who finally got to play a full game after experiencing early foul trouble in his three previous games, going back to the sub-state finals - made the most of his opportunity.
In addition to a double-double - 12 points (6-of-7 FG) and 10 rebounds - Baker added four assists and three blocked shots.
The key to this game, however, was quickly adapting to Collegiate’s steady diet of full-court pressure that’s made possible by their two-platoon system.
“There’s no way you can fully prepare for that in a 40 or 45 minute practice session,” said senior guard Chantz Yager, referring to the Saturday morning walk-through. “Coach told us that it would probably take two or three minutes to adjust.”
Senior guard Trey O’Neil felt it may have taken most of the first half as the Beavers committed 10 turnovers that led to 11 points for the Spartans. However, six of those turnovers came in the first eight minutes with the Beavers committing just seven more turnovers the remainder of the night.
Head coach Glenn O’Neil acknowledged that Scott City’s preparation for the Spartans actually began a few weeks ago.
“You can’t prepare for that kind of pressure in an hour of practice. We’ve been working on it for three weeks basically, going five on eight in practice,” he said.
While adjusting to Collegiate’s defensive pressure, Scott City was able to keep pace during the first quarter with three-pointers from T. O’Neil and Yager along with four early free throws.
SCHS was 4-of-5 from the field in the opening period and weathered the defensive storm by taking a narrow 14-13 lead at the break.
The Beavers opened up a 20-15 lead following a pair of Brett Meyer free throws with 5:35 remaining in the first half. However, it appeared the Spartans’ defensive pressure was starting to have an effect when they put together a 13-2 scoring blitz during the next three minutes that gave Collegiate its biggest lead of the night, 28-22, with 2:29 on the clock.
The main goal at that point in the game, says T. O’Neil, was to cut into the lead as much as possible before the intermission.
Scott City answered with what was probably the most critical two minute stretch of the game.
Junior guard Dylan Hutchins, who had missed his first two attempts from beyond the arc, spotted up for a third time on the right side of the key and drilled a trey at the 2:01 mark.
That was only a warm-up for O’Neil who followed with two long-range bombs that were worthy of top 10 highlights on ESPN.
With a Collegiate defender in his face, O’Neil stepped back a couple of feet beyond the three-point line and hit nothing but the bottom of the net at the 1:13 mark, cutting the deficit to 30-28. Moments later, from nearly the same spot, but another foot farther back, O’Neil swished another three-pointer that brought an even more thunderous roar from the Scott City crowd as the Collegiate fans could only watch in silence.
Just when it appeared that Collegiate might be gaining some momentum, O’Neil and the Beavers had stolen it back, trailing only 32-31 at halftime.
“I just wanted to put my team in the best possible position to win,” O’Neil said. “If they were going to guard the three, then I was going to step out to the college three. If they were going to cover the college three, then I was going to step out even farther.
Second Half Surge
The game was tied three times in the first 3-1/2 minutes of the second half before Scott City seized control with an 11-2 scoring run to close out the third period.
Baker started the scoring surge with a basket that tied the game, 39-39, followed by three consecutive scores by Meyer. His putback at the 4:07 mark gave the Beavers a 41-39 lead which they would never again give up. Moments later, Meyer was on the receiving end of an assist from O’Neil.
Scott City had gone from the team just trying to survive against Collegiate’s pressure to being the aggressor.
“We were the attackers,” says T. O’Neil. “Dad said that once we get the one-on-one pressure we can beat them. We wanted to get two quick passes and then we were off to the races.”
Another basket from Meyer and a three-pointer by Hutchins opened up a 48-41 lead with :52 seconds left in the third period and had the Scott City crowd believing another state championship was within reach.
“I was pretty angry with myself and the way things had gone in the first half,” noted Meyer, a senior guard who scored eight of his game high 17 points in the third quarter. “I didn’t want this game to end the way it did last year. I was finally making my shots.”
One Final Surge
There were still eight minutes to play, however, and Collegiate quickly climbed back into the game by forcing two turnovers and scoring five points to cut the deficit to a lone basket, 48-46, with 6:04 left in the contest.
O’Neil, who was limited to just three of his 14 points in the second half, delivered with a momentum-killing three-pointer at the 5:12 mark that put SCHS back on top, 51-46.
Even Collegiate head coach Mitch Fiegel viewed that shot as the turning point of the game.
“That was the game changer. That’s what go-to guys do. They make big time shots,” said Fiegel.
Baker, who was unstoppable when driving to the basket, followed with back-to-back field goals that extended the lead to nine points, 55-46.
Collegiate added a bucket with just over four minutes remaining which would be their final score of the night.
Bo Hess laid in a shot off the glass that again put Scott City on top by nine and when O’Neil followed with a steal, the strategy was pretty simple . . . run clock and prepare to collect your state championship trophy.
The Spartans tried to force a turnover with their swarming pressure defense, but finally had to foul with 1:20 left in the game. That put Meyer on the line where he made two free throws. Baker would add the final point of his high school career and of the game at the charity stripe with 56.3 seconds to play.
It was a very efficient shooting night for the Beavers who were 20-of-33 from the field, including 7-of-15 from beyond the three point line.
Collegiate held a huge advantage in field goal attempts (18-of-53) and offensive rebounds (19 compared to six for SCHS), but were just 1-of-15 from three-point range.
After scoring 11 points from turnovers in the first half, Collegiate added just four more in the second half.
“We tried to make some (halftime) adjustments, but the main thing was to do the things that got us here. And we did,” says Coach O’Neil. “We made some shots and we passed the ball to the open guy. Unfortunately, we had some turnovers, but you aren’t going to go turnover free against Collegiate.
“It also helped that they weren’t scoring so they could get their pressure set,” he added.
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