VALLEY CENTER — The way Andover Central's Boston Stiverson calmly approached his basketball coach, Jesse Herrmann, in the final seconds against Kapaun Mount Carmel Saturday gave no indication of the near-impossibility of the task Stiverson was about to attempt.
Trailing by four with 7.4 seconds to go, Stiverson was about to go to the free throw line, where he needed to, as he confirmed with Herrmann, "Make the first, miss the second."
Stiverson swished the first, then lined the second shot hard off the rim, collecting his own rebound before passing it to Cole Kretchmar, who made a three-pointer with four seconds to go. Central controlled the overtime before a late Michael Martin three-pointer and won 68-66, advancing to the Class 5A tournament in Topeka.
The Jaguars will make their seventh trip to state in the past nine seasons.
"I'm a confident guy but I've never done that before," Stiverson said. "I was just trying my best to get it back to me. I was watching a college game the other day where someone tried to do that and they didn't execute it very good, so I was trying to execute it better than that."
Kapaun coach Bernie Pearson wasn't even asked a question before muttering, "One-twenty-six," the time remaining when he felt the Crusaders began to give it away. But Kapaun was in command even later than that, leading 61-53 with less than 40 seconds to go.
A Stiverson basket cut Kapaun's lead to six with 36 seconds to go, and after a Kapaun turnover, Kretchmar hit the first, slightly less heroic of his two three-pointers. Kapaun's Nick Cook made a free throw to put Kapaun ahead 62-58 with 15 seconds to play, setting up Central's improbable four-point possession.
"Three defensive rebounds that we didn't get," Pearson said. "In turn they hit threes on them. You've got to play for 32 minutes. We played for all but a minute twenty-six."
There was a turnover and Cook's missed free throw, but it was difficult for Kapaun to point to much else that went wrong during the final 90 seconds. It was more about everything going right for the Jaguars.
Even though Cook's fifth foul gave Central time to talk over their plan with no timeouts remaining, everything happened naturally. Stiverson knew he was supposed to miss the second free throw, and Kretchmar knew he needed to be behind the three-point line if Central got the rebound.
"I told my teammates, 'I'm going to be out there. You get me the ball and I'm going to shoot it,''' Kretchmar said.
Neither team led by more then five in the second half before Kapaun began to pull away with about three minutes to go. Sophomore Braden Hullings made a three-pointer with 3:33 to play in regulation to put Kapaun ahead 52-50 and start a 9-0 run that ended at the fateful 1:26 mark.
The Crusaders were carried by Michael Martin, who made six three-pointers and finished with 30 points. But as three starters fouled out in the fourth quarter and overtime, Kapaun wore down and couldn't match Central's depth. The end of regulation deflated the Crusaders, who lacked energy in overtime.
"That's natural, but you've got to overcome that," Pearson said. "You've got to fight your way through that."
Adam Wilks, who led Central with 17 points, had a three-point play with 2:57 to go in overtime to put the Jaguars ahead for good. The final moments of regulation and the magnitude of Central's accomplishment still hadn't sunk in minutes later.
"I don't know what to say," Herrmann said. "It's one of those where I've got to watch the film because I'm having a hard time still believing it."
Kapaun Mount Carmel (11-11) 20 8 20 14 — 66 Andover Central (15-6) 16 11 17 18 — 68
KAPAUN: Hullings 2 5-6 10, Martin 10 3-4 30, Lewis 2 1-2 5, Cook 1 3-5 5, Hagan 1 0-0 2, Baxter 0 2-4 2, Floyd 5 0-0 10, Griffith 1 0-0 2, Washington 0 0-0 0, Sheets 0 0-0 0, Young 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 (8) 14-22 66.
ANDOVER CENTRAL: Lock 5 1-3 11, McWhorter 1 1-2 4, Clements 2 1-2 7, Winter 3 2-3 10, Kretchmar 3 0-2 8, Ad. Wilks 7 3-5 17, Stiverson 4 3-8 11. Totals 25 (7) 11-24 68.