In an emotional roller coaster of a game during the first round at the state tournament, the Cardinals had only one feeling after coming away with the win: relief.
“Anything can happen at state, and you saw that tonight,” senior Cole Parker said. “A lot of things happen, but I’m glad we got the ‘W.’ It’s so relieving.”
The Cardinals defeated Baldwin 46-42 in overtime Wednesday night to advance to the semifinal round of the state tournament.
The Cardinals trailed by as much as seven in the game, and the lead changed hands four times in the second half and overtime.
The intensity in the gym was at its peak, however, at the end of the fourth quarter.
The Cardinals had the ball with 4.7 seconds left, and head coach Kyle Deterding drew up a play for junior Logan Sullivan to drive and create a play off of an inbounds pass.
Sullivan found Parker in the corner who gave his defender a pump fake to create space and then put up a shot as everybody in the arena held their breath. But the shot was just a touch long, which forced overtime.
“We couldn’t ask for a better look,” Deterding said. “I told Cole, I said, ‘Man, I thought that thing was in. It was dead center, looked great.’ So we couldn’t get a better look in that situation right there.”
Heading into overtime with the game tied at 37, Deterding said the strategy was to just find a way to score more points than Baldwin.
Parker took control late in the period as he made a 2-point shot with about 1:30 left to give the Cardinals a one-point lead. Then, Parker made two free throws to increase the lead to three.
“As a senior, you got to be a leader, especially for everyone else on the floor,” Parker said. “So you got do everything you can to lead your team. Got to make free throws and play defense. So, I mean, just do whatever it takes to win.”
Parker had eight of the Cardinals’ nine points in overtime. He finished the game with 17 points.
Baldwin would hang around though as they scored while drawing a foul and then, after two more Parker free throws, drew a foul on a 3-point shot to cut the Cardinals’ lead back down to one.
However, the game really came down to who could make the most free throws. The Cardinals made seven out of eight while Baldwin went three for six in overtime.
“It feels good because last year we got knocked out in the first round,” senior Micah Barron said about the win. “It feels good to beat Baldwin at the same time.”
The win sets the Cardinals up with a date with No. 1 seed Hugoton. Hugoton defeated Clay Center Community High School 80-63 in their first-round matchup.
The team knows in order to beat Hugoton they will have to play better than they did against Baldwin.
“We’re going to have to show up to play,” Parker said. “More than today, we’re going to have to show up to play, and it should be a fun matchup.”
Turnovers were an issue throughout the game as the Cardinals lost the ball 15 times. Deterding said what led to the turnovers was kind of a mixture of things.
“It might have been a little bit of nerves, but give credit to Baldwin,” Deterding said. “When they were guarding, they were physical with the guards and they got after us. And we just didn’t play very well offensively.”
Despite the offensive struggles, the team can count on the defense to pick up any slack.
“I think our kids know that if we’re going to have a chance in games like this that we’ve got to lock in on the defensive end,” Deterding said. “We have done a decent job locking in on the defensive end and at least making it tough on opponents to score.”
Baldwin was held to 36% shooting from the field.
The Cardinals can also count on solid rebounding. The team out-rebounded Baldwin 28-17. Senior Conor Dunback led the way in the rebounding category as he finished with seven boards. Dunback also had 12 points on the night.
Deterding said the day in between games will be important for the team to focus up after the wild game against Baldwin and prepare for Hugoton.
“Tomorrow (today) is just kind of a recovery day, so that does help,” Deterding said. “But Hugoton can play, man. They got some firepower. That’s a whole different animal. So we’ll see what happens, it’ll be fun.”
The Cardinals will be back at the Tony’s Pizza Event Center in Salina at 2 p.m. Friday to take on Hugoton.
Here is the updated 4A state tournament bracket.
Reach reporter Jack Denebeim at email@example.com.
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