PARK CITY – There was a symbolic element to Jason Hermreck’s three-point play for Andale in the third quarter of the Indians’ 56-47 win over Iola, and there was a more tangible aspect.
To Andale coach Jeff Buchanan, Hermreck’s play was part of the Indians beginning to play with more self-assuredness following an unsteady start that Buchanan chalked up to nerves.
A renewed swagger helped top-seeded Andale win the Class 4A-Division II quarterfinal game at Hartman Arena and advance to Friday’s semifinals.
“It was confidence,” Buchanan said. “A game like this, you get sped up at different times. It was settling down and getting back to playing our way. That’s all it was, getting back to playing the right way.”
That confidence led to a more versatile approach for Andale, which was swarmed by an Iola post defense that immediately collapsed whenever the Indians fed the ball to the post to test Iola’s undersized interior players.
The pressure flustered Andale into five second-quarter turnovers after it committed two in the first, and it necessitated new ways to initiate offense, since Iola’s quickness enabled it to track Andale’s trademark skip passes around the perimeter.
With three-point shooting and post offense essentially nullified, the Indians began to drive. That discovery peaked with Hermreck and continued to allow Andale to shoot 10 free throws in the third quarter and make all 10.
“We’re a pretty good shooting team, and it’s different shooting in an arena,” Andale guard Hunter Knoblauch said. “People were missing, and we knew we had to get to the free-throw line. We just started driving, and that caused us get to the free throw line.
“Once some baskets went through, we all started clicking.”
Hermreck’s three-point play put Andale ahead 34-26 and initiated one of the Indians’ few scoring surges that wasn’t immediately followed by one from Iola, as Andale’s lead stretched to 49-28 early in the fourth quarter.
Andale’s offense for that stretch became multi-dimensional. When the Indians began getting to the basket, Iola was unable to account for that new dimension. Iola’s best efforts to do so, though, opened up the perimeter and allowed Andale’s big men to face one-on-one defense.
A Jordan Anderson three-pointer and Jeffery Ast’s three-point play after he scored from the left block were key in the 15-0 Andale run that covered parts of the third and fourth quarters.
Even though Iola got back within single digits in the fourth, Andale’s defense was basically a constant, with the Indians’ collective height making it difficult for Iola to match Andale’s drives and similarly create balance.
“We just got more comfortable as the game went on,” Buchanan said. “We were a little loose defensively in the first half and a little gun shy with the ball, a little loose with it where we weren’t real strong, but we had our spurts.”
Scott City shot 62 percent (24 for 39), and O’Neil made 5 of 7 three-pointers on his way to a game-high 21 points. Sloan Baker scored 18 for Scott City, teaming with O’Neil to score 29 of the Beavers’ 31 first-half points.
Pratt scored five straight in the third quarter to cut Scott City’s lead to 48-40 but could get no closer. Brett Meyer helped keep Pratt at a distance by making two three-pointers in the second half, and he joined O’Neil and Baker in double figures with 12 points. Scott City won the Class 3A championship the last three seasons.