As the Carroll boys basketball players celebrated with their classmates in the student section, the Eagles' leader jumped the wall.
Senior Luke Evans ran up the steps of the Kansas Expocentre and hugged his grandpa, Larry Evans. That hug meant as much as the Class 5A championship Carroll had just won.
Larry, 79, has battled health problems since early January. He was hospitalized a couple of days before Carroll's game against Arkansas City in the City League/AV-CTL Challenge at Koch Arena.
Carroll won that day after an Ark City buzzer-beater was waved off because of a timeout. After the game, Evans came out of the locker room crying. He said he was playing for his grandpa.
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Larry hadn't seen Evans play a game since, living more than 400 miles away in Ames, Iowa. He didn't see Carroll's surge, winning 18 of 19 through the state semifinal.
But he was there Saturday for Evans' last game in an Eagle uniform.
"That's one of my biggest role models, and that was my goal was to make him proud," Evans said.
Carroll rallied around Evans, the team's only senior. After the final buzzer went off, Evans dropped to his knees to celebrate the Eagles' first boys basketball state championship, a 43-41 overtime win over Salina Central. Every Eagle surrounded him, and every Eagle hugged him.
"I'm just glad Luke could win it for us," junior guard Carsen Pracht said. "I knew we just had to get the ball in his hands there late, and when we did, I knew we had it."
Evans was the player of the Class 5A tournament . He averaged 12.7 point , 6.7 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals . Through the semifinals, he had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 14:1, and the next highest player was at half that.
He has shown leadership qualities all season, so at the end of regulation Saturday, Evans got Carroll's final shot. And at the end of overtime, coach Mike Domnick turned to him again.
Salina Central was called for a technical foul with 6.7 seconds left as coach Doug Finch tried to call a timeout he didn't have. Carroll was up two and could have sent any player to the line to ice the title.
"We've had kids play at better free throw percentages, but there's no one else I'd rather have on the free throw line to win or lose a ball game," Domnick said. "I was gonna give him every opportunity to win this thing because he's earned that respect and consideration from me."
Larry Evans saw it all from the lower bowl of the Expocentre . There were times this winter when that seemed unlikely.
Luke Evans knew the situation was serious a few days before Larry was admitted to the hospital in January. His dad, Shawn, told him about how Larry was complaining of sharp abdominal pains. Luke said that was strange because Larry was never one to even mention illness, especially not to talk about going to receive treatment.
When Luke awakened the next morning, his dad was gone. He left Wichita during the night to drive to Ames.
When Larry entered the hospital, he was almost immediately put on blood thinners among other treatments to contain an infection, but nothing worked.
The doctors told Shawn that Larry would die unless they tried a kidney dialysis, which was a huge risk.
Doctors would have to make an incision to insert an IV, but because Larry was on blood thinners, he could bleed out. Shawn talked with his brothers but wanted the doctor's advice.
"If this was your dad, would you do it?" he asked.
"No," the doctor said. "But I don't know your dad."
Shawn said Larry is a fighter, and they continued with the dialysis. It worked, and Larry is still on weekly kidney dialysis.
Luke had a lot of motivation coming into the state final Saturday. Each teammate looked up to him. His coach looked to him. Carroll had never won a boys basketball title. And he got a gift ahead of tipoff.
"This was the first time I've seen him since he was sick, and he's pretty much fully recovered," Evans said. "I saw him here about 21 minutes before the game. I ran up and gave him a big hug.
"I told him I was gonna be playing for him today."