HAYS — Dictating the pace and slowing down the tempo was a game plan that worked out pretty decently for St. Mary's-Colgan for most of the night against Hutchinson-Trinity.
But timely shots and defensive stops for Trinity down the stretch helped combat Colgan’s effective strategy well enough to send the Celtics into the Class 2A boys state championship game.
Colgan was within two with 4:45 left but Trinity created some breathing room with a 6-0 spurt and stayed in control in last couple minutes to earn a 36-31 on Friday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
“Big games like that at this point in time, you’ve just got to have players make plays,” Hutch-Trinity coach Joe Hammersmith said. “We had enough kids step and we made enough plays.”
The second-seeded Celtics (22-3) will meet either Inman or Ness City in Saturday’s 6:15 p.m. championship game.
Trinity led 9-4 at the end of the first quarter, 15-14 at halftime and 24-21 at the end of the third frame. Kaleb Hammeke and Lucas Hammeke hit key fourth-quarter 3-pointers, with Lucas’ trey giving the Celtics an eight-point lead with about three minutes remaining.
“We knew they did that (slow down the tempo),” Hammersmith said of the Panthers. “We talked about being efficient on both sides. Some times defensively we had pretty good stretches, sometimes we had a few breakdowns, especially in the first half. We made some adjustments and I thought the kids played pretty solid second half.
“Offensively, it was kind of the same way. You’ve have to be efficient. We tried to force a few things that just weren’t there. We made enough plays getting it to our guys inside where we felt like we had an advantage. It worked out for us.”
Trinity, which was 15 of 34 from the field, was led by Kaleb Hammeke’s 10 points.
Colgan coach Wayne Cichon was proud of the way the Panthers’ played but said they had too many empty possessions in crunch time.
“We needed to make a few more shots,” Cichon said. “We had some opportunities — wide open opportunities — and we didn’t knock them down. When we got into the second half, I felt like we couldn’t get the ball where we wanted to with timing. We got it there a few times, but it wasn’t with very good timing.
“It was just a matter of playing against a defense that was a little bit differently designed to stop Aaron Higginbotham. We were unable to get him the ball where we wanted to.”
Matthew Lomshek led Colgan with 10 points.
Cichon said the Panthers will be motivated to try and take third place Saturday against either Ness City or Inman.
“One team’s going to walk away from here with evidence that they were in the state tournament, and one’s not,” Cichon said. “That (plaque) will go in the cabinet in the school, and if we don’t play hard in that one, then somebody else is going to take it away from us.”