As Conner Frankamp approached the free-throw line in a tied game with 10 seconds remaining in the North gymnasium, Gary Squires fiddled with his cell phone in Topeka, anxiously awaiting a text message from 150 miles away.
Squires, North's coach, was at Washburn University's fall graduation ceremony, watching his middle daughter of three, Ashley, graduate nursing school.
"I wasn't going to miss it for anything," Squires said afterward by phone. "She's my immediate family, and North High basketball is my second family. But I kept telling her to check that date and make sure it was on Dec. 16, or see if they could get it pushed back to Saturday."
Finally, Squires' phone buzzed and the message was clear: Frankamp made both, North held West at the end and won its second game, 54-52.
Minutes later, Squires was on speakerphone in the North locker room.
"We told him we did it for him," said North's Sean Bernard, who came up with the final steal to secure the win.
North was at its best in the first half when it had Frankamp bring the ball up the court. He made easy work of West's defenders pressuring him full-court and had 13 of his 27 points when the Redskins claimed the game's largest lead, 22-15, in the second quarter.
"I think it's better when I can bring the ball up because then I can drive and distribute," Frankamp said. "I feel like there's not many people that can guard me full-court."
A barrage of Frankamp jumpers surged North ahead in the third quarter. After that, West coach Phil Daignault switched his defense to a box-and-one on Frankamp in the fourth quarter.
"We all know he's a special player," said West's Jordon Kelly. "He's a really crafty guard. We wanted to keep the ball out of his hands because when it's in his hands, then there's a lot of things that he can do with it."
The strategy was effective, as Frankamp didn't get off a shot in the fourth quarter.
But when challenged, North's supporting cast came through. Beau Shockley and Jordan Kinder knocked down jumpers. Kaelen Elliott converted underneath, which gave him 12 points. Bernard finished a layup to give North a 52-50 lead.
"They stepped up and hit big shots," Frankamp said. "When it got to that moment, everybody stepped up when we needed them to."
West tied and had a chance to take the lead on a free throw from Jeremy Wilson, but he missed and North held for the final shot. Frankamp began to attack the rim, but was bumped and put on the line for a bonus free throw.
"I had my phone on my lap and I get this text that says Conner is on the line with 10 seconds to go," Squires said. "I felt pretty comfortable then."
Both of Frankamp's free throws fell through without touching the rim.
"I think he relishes that big moment," said his father, assistant coach Marty Frankamp. "It's all the practice that he puts in. He shoots so many of them that it becomes repetition."
West's final attempt ended when Wilson fumbled the ball on the wing, as Bernard knocked the ball out and North recovered.
Squires said he was in his car when he got the final text.
"I got to see my daughter graduate, which was excellent, and North wins," Squires said. "That's like 2-0 for me tonight."
West (1-4, 0-4) 10 20 12 10 — 52 North (2-3, 2-3) 15 10 17 12 — 54
WEST: Jones 0 0-0 0, Brown 6 2-3 14, Kelly 3 2-4 9, Wilson 5 1-3 12, Thomas 5 0-0 10, Clark 1 2-2 5, Moore 1 0-0 2, Hardy 0 0-2 0, Oberding 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 (3) 7-14 52.
NORTH: Beard 2 0-0 5, Williams 0 0-0 0, Frankamp 9 5-6 27, Bernard 1 0-0 2, Shockley 1 0-0 2, Elliott 5 2-2 12, Kinder 2 0-0 4, Henderson 1 0- 0 2, Urban 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 (5) 7-8 54.