Sun, 10 Mar 2013 05:44:57 GMT —
COLUMBIA --- When your record is 60-2 over a two-year span, you really deserve to win at least one state championship, don't you?
Some answers are easier than others.
For the Salisbury Panthers, mission accomplished.
After coming agonizingly close to the brass ring last year, the Panthers left no doubt about it this year as they steamrolled the West Platte Blue Jays 70-46 in the Class 2 title game Saturday at Mizzou Arena.
In front of thousands of its fans, Salisbury was simply super, as the home of Tigers turned into a Purple Haze.
No Black and Gold required, thanks.
"I'm really proud of these guys," Salisbury coach Kenny Wyatt said. "We practiced as long as we could and got the ultimate goal."
Last year, Salisbury finished 30-1 --- with that one being a four-point loss in the championship game to Billings.
"I think you appreciate it more," Wyatt said. "I just feel great about the accomplishment, to follow up a runner-up finish and get back down here and get a chance again.
"I just felt like they weren't going to let it slip away."
The deciding moment in Saturday's game came Thursday night --- perhaps not the end result, but certainly the final margin.
With just 90 seconds left in West Platte's nine-point semifinal win, leading scorer and team leader Adam Roe, a 6-5 junior, suffered an apparent ACL injury to his right knee.
Roe was averaging 20 points and seven rebounds for the top-ranked Blue Jays (30-1), but could only sit and watch Saturday.
"As a coach, it makes your stomach sick," Wyatt said. "To have something like that happen, that's terrible."
No Roe, no contest.
The Blue Jays did hold a 9-7 lead midway through the first quarter, but then the No. 2 Panthers (30-1) took charge and never looked back.
They finished the first quarter with an 8-1 run to take a 15-10 lead, before outscoring the Blue Jays 23-9 in the second to build a 38-19 lead at the break.
"I thought our pressure started getting to them and we shot the ball pretty well in the first half," Wyatt said. "Then, we just took care of business in the second half."
While winning its first state basketball title in its 13th appearance, Salisbury --- which held a whopping 54-25 lead after three quarters --- shot 52 percent from the field (26-of-50) and forced 24 turnovers.
Those turnovers led to a 14-0 advantage in fastbreak points.
"That's our game," Wyatt said. "We've got to get turnovers; we want an up-tempo game. If teams can handle it, they stick around with us.
"But when we can get turnovers and get into our transition offense, we can be pretty tough."
When you go 30-1 and win a state championship, you're obviously quite tough. But consider what the Panthers did down the stretch.
They trailed by two points midway through the third quarter of their sectional game against Russellville. From that point on, however --- including a 30-point win in that game --- Salisbury outscored its opponents by a staggering 262-156.
A margin of 106 points in three-plus games, including a 40-point spread in two games in Columbia. Against the best the state has to offer.
"I think we learned a lesson the first half of that (Russellville) game," Wyatt said. "It was kind of a wake-up call for us. It doesn't hurt to get woke up a little bit, it's how you respond."
This championship was certainly a family affair, as Wyatt's twin sons, 6-5 Austin and 6-3 Zachary, were a part of Salisbury's three-headed senior monster this season.
Saturday, Austin poured in 21 points and Zachary had eight.
"It's something, obviously, that any player works for," Austin said. "But with us being family, I think it means a little bit more."
This title means a lot more for 6-5 senior Austin Francis, as well, as his basketball and sports future were in doubt after suffering a foot injury last summer.
"It's really something to come back from an injury, where some doctors are telling you're never going to play sports again," said Francis, who totaled 20 points and nine rebounds Saturday.
"Then to come in here and win a state championship with all your friends and family, it's a great feeling. It's indescribable."
As for Austin and Zachary, this basketball run with their family has come to an end.
"It's a little depressing," Zachary said. "Coming off the floor, that's what we were talking about.
"But we just won a state championship, so at the same time," he said with a smile, "we're pretty happy."
A different Purple Haze hung around until about 11:20 p.m. Saturday night, as the Chamois Lady Pirates took their shot at the Class 1 state championship.
This was a heart-breaking end to an amazing season.
Heather Harman hit a free throw with one second left as the Walnut Groves Lady Tigers pulled out a 47-46 win over the Lady Pirates in a passionate title game.
This was a gut-wrenching setback to end a fabulous season for Chamois --- and an even better season for 5-11 senior Miranda Brandt.
When Brandt wasn't good, she was brilliant. Saturday night, she hit 14-of-21 shots and totaled 31 points and 13 rebounds.
Despite of nine first-quarter turnovers, the Lady Pirates (23-8) took a 13-12 on a 3-point play by Brandt with just 4-tenths of a second left in the frame.
Brandt also picked up two fouls in the quarter, but stayed on the floor and scored 16 points in the opening half to keep Chamois within 23-22 at the break. It was 36-36 entering the fourth, as this game was tighter than Scrooge --- no less than 13 ties and 13 lead-changes.
Brandt, who's headed to Southern Illinois, tied it at 46-46 on a short jumper with 35 seconds left. But a foul was called with just 1 second left, and Harman --- who had 20 points --- hit one of two free throws to win it.
Walnut Grove played only six players in the game, while Chamois' starting five played the entire game.
Much more on this game, and the great season for Chamois, will be appear on both Sunday's 10 p.m. KRCG sportscast and on Loeffler's Link.