Salina Central was looking for its first state championship since the “Miracle Mustangs” of 1983.
The magical Mustangs of 2018 fell a tad bit short.
SC’s hot-shooting charge late in the game wasn’t enough as the No. 6 Mustangs lost to the No. 4 Bishop Carroll Golden Eagles, 43-41 in overtime. The 43 points on the scoreboard ended up being the lowest winning score in Class 5A state tournament history, edging the previous low of 45 back in 1975 when Salina Central nipped McPherson.
Getting to 40 points seemed impossible as both squads were frigid cold in the first half. Central scored the game’s first bucket on a three by senior Sam Shaffer with 3:28 remaining in the opening frame. Shaffer added one more triple for the final field goal of the period as Central went 2-of-12 from the floor. Bishop Carroll wasn’t much better, making 2-of-7 shots to settle with an 8-8 tie after one.
The second quarter didn’t get much better. Carroll made three more shots, but still was just 29 percent from the floor. Salina Central added two to its total, but stared at a box score that showed 4-of-18 from the floor, including 2-of-13 from deep.
Bishop Carroll ended the 14-all stalemate at the half by creating separation in the third period. The Golden Eagles pulled away for an 11-point cushion through three quarters, closing the frame on an 11-2 spurt, giving BC a 30-19 advantage.
After shooting 20 percent from the field in the first three quarters, Central removed the lid from the basket. Junior Harper Williams and senior Ethan Speer attacked the basket and started the final period with two strong finishes to trim the deficit down to seven. Junior Mark Grammer brought the Mustangs even closer, connecting on a three to nip the margin to 30-26 with 4:40 to play.
Following a bucket by Carroll junior Carson Pracht, Williams nailed back-to-back threes and senior Sam Shaffer locked up the score at 35-all with a triple of his own with 1:31 left. SC forced a BC miss at the rim with 1:08 to go and held on to the ball until 19 seconds were remaining. But with 10 seconds to play, Central turned the ball over, allowing Bishop Carroll to set up the game-winning shot. Senior Luke Evans missed the foul line jumper, spilling the game into overtime.
Only two field goals were made in the extra period, including Shaffer’s fourth three with 3:06 remaining. BC’s Evans answered right back with his only three-point make of the game. Salina Central had a chance to break the 38-all tie, but Grammer missed the front end of a one-and-one with 56 ticks on the clock.
That set up a Central foul, sending 84-percent shooter Tanner Manns to the charity stripe for Carroll. The junior hit both, pushing Carroll ahead 40-38 with 27 seconds to go.
The Mustangs used their final timeout to set up the potential game-tying bucket. Carroll deflected a pass in front of the Central bench and Grammer dove on the ball. Head coach Doug Finch called for a timeout, but didn’t have any left, handing the ball over to Carroll for the game-sealing free throws after a technical with 13 seconds left.
Central went 8-for-8 from the floor, including 6-for-6 from beyond the arc in the fourth and overtime frames, but had 16 turnovers. The Mustangs recorded 32 shot attempts with only seven coming from inside the arc.
Williams paced the Mustangs with 16 points and seven rebounds. Shaffer closed out his high school career with 15 points. Classmates Jack Atherton, Ethan Kickhaefer and Speer all led the Mustangs to their highest finish at state since 2001 when the Mustangs finished as state runner-ups. The quartet also ended a long losing streak at state, giving SC its first state tournament win since 2009.
The Mustangs end the campaign with an 18-7 mark.