Southeast junior Hayden Harris gathered himself to discuss the heartbreak of 15 minutes earlier, when he missed a free throw to give the Manhattan boys a 56-55 win in a Class 6A sub-state basketball championship.
Harris was calm after getting encouragement from two friends outside the East gymnasium, but the emotion was clear as soon as he began to speak.
"I feel like I still let my team down," Harris said. "I practice free throws all the time. I should have made that one."
Manhattan advances to the 6A tournament this week in Emporia.
Harris was driving the baseline, ready to take a shot from outside the lane when the whistle blew for a foul. Time ran out, but the horn didn't sound, prompting officials to conclude that a tip-in was still possible.
Time spent sorting that out was as good as a time-out to ice the shooter, but Harris wasn't as frazzled as the situation surrounding him when he approached the line for a one-and-one. He took a deep breath and let go of a shot that could have made the Buffaloes' turbulent first 20 games a distant memory.
"I was confident," Harris said. "Trying to get to state. We're all trying to get to a common goal."
Just as the accomplishment of nearly getting to Emporia after an 8-10 regular season is small consolation, Harris wasn't thinking much about the fact that Southeast got so close primarily because of his energized play off the bench on Saturday.
Harris scored a team-high 19 points and was nearly a hero. He made a three-pointer with 19 seconds to go that gave the Buffaloes a 55-54 lead.
After Manhattan's Zach Nelson made two free throws to take back the lead with 6.9 seconds to go, Southeast point guard Reggie Williams weaved between defenders before finding Harris.
Upon his miss, Harris started to fall backward then threw his arms in the air as a celebration commenced near the Manhattan bench.
"It's not Hayden's fault," Southeast coach Carl Taylor said. "We shouldn't have been in that situation in the first place — we didn't execute very well. Hayden had a great game."
Manhattan (12-10) 14 14 15 13 -- 56 Wichita Southeast (9-13) 12 20 8 15 -- 55
MANHATTAN: Nelson 6 10-11 25, Brooks 1 0-1 3, Tr. Francis 0 1-2 1, Stitt 8 0-0 20, Wilkinson 0 2-2 2, Kern 2 1-2 5. Totals 17 (8) 14-18 56.
SOUTHEAST: Williams 3 1-3 7, Gunter 1 1-2 3, Gar. Thurman 2 2-3 6, Gav. Thurman 5 4-4 14, Randle 1 0-0 2, Pressley 2 0-0 4, Harris 7 3-5 19. Totals 21 (2) 11-17 55.