Gunner Lynch stepped to the free-throw line with a chance to ice the state semifinal and blew it; then he didn't.
Lynch missed three free throws with under 2:30 to go, but after his third miss, the junior stuck to his role and made perhaps the play of the game in Carroll's 58-47 victory against Mill Valley in the Class 5A boys semifinals.
Back on defense, Lynch jumped a pass headed to an open shooter. The ball was tipped to Carsen Pracht, who tossed up to Tanner Mans for an and-1 finish and an eight-point lead with 1:05 to play.
Lynch finished with one point.
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"I was gonna try to take a charge, get a block, steal or anything to help get their momentum," Lynch said. "And I thought that play was a really big momentum change."
The sequence epitomized Carroll's wild season. On Jan. 12, the Eagles were 4-4 and facing a losing record in the face. A buzzer-beater was waved off, and Carroll got above a .500 winning percentage.
Since that 56-53 victory against Arkansas City, Carroll has lost only once and will now play for a state championship. The players bought into their roles.
Pracht, Mans, Carson Lee and Luke Evans are the shooters. Lynch is the top defender. Clay Cundiff is the two-way post. And Luke Larkin uses his athleticism.
Coach Mike Domnick said Larkin made the play of the game.
With under two minutes to play and Carroll up only two, Mill Valley's Logan Talley caught a pass in the corner. No defender was within 10 feet .
Larkin read the pass, tracked it and leaped to block the shot that would have given the Jaguars the lead.
The ball was gathered and tossed ahead to Mans who finished another and-1 bucket.
Larkin finished with zero points.
"We told the kids at halftime, 'What skillset do you bring to the table that can help us win this second half?' " Domnick said. Larkin showed it.
Carroll hasn't lost since Jan. 20 at McPherson, but is still playing as an underdog. The Eagles were the higher-seeded team, but Mill Valley was coming off an upset of No. 1 Eisenhower in the first round.
Evans said playing with that upset mentality has helped spur the magic.
"An underdog is a hungry dog," he said, quoting the Philadelphia Eagles' Jason Kelce. "And hungry dogs run faster."
Evans didn't make the big plays down the stretch, but he orchestrated them.
Evans hasn't led the team in scoring since Carroll's victory in the midseason tournament against Derby. He nearly finished with a triple-double that day.
Friday, he led the team in scoring and nearly finished with a triple-double. He had 14 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Evans said his shot hasn't felt right since the midseason tournament, but it did against Mill Valley.
Late in the first quarter, Mill Valley's Brody Flaming gave Evans space to shoot from three. He dared Evans to hit the shot, and Evans did.
"That was a nice shot," Flaming said. Evans tapped him on the butt as the first quarter buzzer rang.
Domnick said he has been asked a lot about how Carroll has gone on the run it has. His answer is the same every time.
"We have probably the best senior in the state when it comes to leadership," he said. "Luke is never last on a sprint. That's gonna be his legacy. ... Next year when I come back to practice, I'll be talking about 'How come you're not first? Luke would have been first.'"
Evans, Lynch and other Eagles were on the Class 5A championship-winning football team in the fall. Lynch said the heart and the vibe is the same between that team and this one on the court. Evans said much of the same, and that's how they have gotten a chance to play for another ring, the school's first in boys basketball, at 6:15 p.m. Saturday.
Domnick will play for his first state championship as a coach, and he said even if the Eagles lose, that will be more than OK.
"I'm gonna go home with a smile on my face and say 'What a heck of a year,'" Domnick said.
Evans said he is confident that won't have to happen.
"Unfortunately it's taken until the state championship for people to realize we're the real deal," Evans said. "And we are the real deal. I'm very confident that we can go get that ring tomorrow."