While Andale was lining up potential heroes, practically any Eudora player could have started a sentence the way Austin Downing did Friday night.
“I’d been struggling all game at the offensive end…,” Downing said.
Eudora answered Andale’s big plays down the stretch with plenty of its own and, most important, the last one. Downing drove the baseline for a layup with seven seconds to go to give Eudora a 44-43 win in the Class 4A-Division II semifinals at Hartman Arena.
Downing and the Cardinals collectively made 1 of 17 first-quarter shots but hung firm when the game evolved into a defensive struggle in the third and were ready when it became a shootout in the fourth.
Eudora withstood potential difference-making points by Jason Hermreck, Jeffery Ast and Jordan Anderson to stay in position for a shot such as Downing’s. Attempts near the basket by Andale’s Hunter Knoblauch and Lane Macari were unsuccessful.
“There were a lot of things that contributed to us having a lead throughout most of the game,” Andale coach Jeff Buchanan said. “There were a lot of guys who contributed offensively and defensively. There were a lot of guys who had a chance to make that next play, it wasn’t just one play that took it away.
“Just enough. Just that one play, we’d love to have back, whatever one it may be.”
The final margin was Eudora’s third lead, all in the fourth quarter and all by two or fewer points. Andale’s biggest lead was 18-6; after Eudora scored nine straight points spanning two quarters to tie it 22-22 in the third, the most crucial determination seemed to be leading toward who could respond the best.
It turned out all that mattered was which team responded last.
“Sticking together as a team,” Downing said of the key to Eudora’s early- and late-game rallies. “We’re all close outside the court. Andrew (Ballock) is a senior leader on this team, and he pulled us all together: ‘This is our game. I’m not going to lose. I’m not going out my senior year with a loss.’ So I thank God for Andrew.”
Eudora missed 24 of 31 shots in the first half, but Andale’s defense was more noticeable in the second. The Indians began limiting Eudora to one shot after the Cardinals grabbed 10 offensive rebounds before halftime. Andale played more physically, taking two charges, and pressured the ball more effectively.
That aggressiveness transferred to the other end, where Anderson made consecutive three-pointers to put Andale ahead 32-24 late in the third quarter; when Ast’s three-point play made it 40-38 Andale with 1:47 to go, or when Hermreck drilled a three-pointer from the left wing to break a 40-40 tie with a minute to play.
Eudora settled, it seemed, for one hero, but Downing wasn’t alone. Ballock quickly scored following Hermreck’s three then, following a missed free throw by Knoblauch, Mitchell Ballock, Andrew’s freshman brother, found Downing for his second key late assist.
“There’s a lot of things we could have changed, a lot of things we could have changed, a lot of plays we’d like to have back,” Buchanan said. “Even right to the end, guys battled. Hunter going to the rim there in the final seconds, it wouldn’t mattered if we had called time out — him at the rim, I’d take his chances a lot.”
Brett Meyer made two late free throws in overtime to send Scott City and another WSU relative to the championship game. Beavers junior Sloan Baker is the brother of current Shocker star Ron Baker, and Sloan scored 11 points in Friday's win.