Ell-Saline trailed the Wichita Classical Saints following each of the first three quarters Wednesday night in the opening round of the 44th Annual Canton-Galva Boys’ Basketball Tournament. Fortunately for the Cardinals, high school basketball is a four-quarter affair.
Ell-Saline outscored Wichita Classical 18-12 over the final eight minutes for a come-from-behind 63-60 victory to stun the third-seeded Saints, propelling the sixth-seeded Cardinals into semifinal round action Thursday evening.
Early on, Wichita Classical (7-3) looked primed to collect its second win in as many seasons against the Cardinals. Senior Micah Dolloff, son of Classical head coach (and former Bennington High boys’ coach) Tim Dolloff, poured in 14 first-quarter points, helping the Saints out to a 20-14 lead after one. Dolloff added seven more in the second quarter to give him 21 at the halftime break.
While Dolloff was dealing, Ell-Saline (4-7) was able to hold the rest of the Saints’ squad to just 13 first-half points. Coupled with a stellar 13-point first-half effort off the bench from sophomore Kaden Griffin, the Cardinals trimmed the Saints’ advantage to the slimmest of margins at the break, 34-33.
Following a back-and-forth third quarter, Ell-Saline trailed 48-45 entering the fourth. Trailing by five midway through the final frame, a pair of Cardinal guards took over, as sophomore Sawyer Kramer hit three big fourth quarter buckets while senior Hunter Kindlesparger scored all seven of his points on the night in the final eight minutes. With Ell-Saline trailing by two in the game’s final seconds, Kindlesparger took it coast-to-coast, peeling off a high screen from Griffin to knock down a five-foot runner while drawing a foul with 9.2 seconds to play to tie the game 60-60, then canning the free throw for the three-point play, giving Ell-Saline the 61-60 advantage.
Griffin came up with a steal on the Saints’ ensuing possession, then buried both free throws with 5.0 seconds left. A contested Dolloff 3-point attempt from the right wing came up short at the buzzer, finishing off the Ell-Saline upset.
Griffin finished with 19 points to claim game-high scoring honors for the Cardinals. Kramer added 12 points off the Ell-Saline bench, while senior starters Mason Farrell and Nathan Parks chipped in with nine and eight points, respectively.
Dolloff led all Saints’ scorers on the night with 25 points, while junior Cole Buckingham contributed 17 points to the Classical effort. Senior Louis Riddle and junior Shawn Willhite added eight a piece.
Ell-Saline awaits the winner of second-seeded Wichita Home School and seventh-seeded Canton-Galva. On the other half of the bracket, both favorites held serve as Moundridge took down Sedgwick in the 4 vs. 5 matchup to move into a semifinal round tangle with the tournament’s top seed, Bennington. The Bulldogs advanced into the semis with a resounding 76-21 victory over St. John’s Military School to open tournament action Wednesday afternoon.