To Andale basketball coach Jeff Buchanan, a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit is simply a setup to an interesting story.
“I said, ‘Everybody’s going to enjoy talking about this comeback tomorrow. They’re going to enjoy talking about it. Let’s get it done. Let’s go have some fun,’ ” Buchanan said.
The payoff was Friday’s final 16 seconds, when junior guard Zach Meyer scored his only four points, a driving layup and two important free throws, to propel Andale to a 48-45 win over Augusta in a Class 4A-I sub-state semifinal.
Andale meets Andover Central, a 75-43 winner over host Circle, in Saturday’s championship.
Andale used full-court pressure to stymie Augusta into one fourth-quarter basket, but it took a while to seize momentum after Augusta ended the third quarter with a flurry. Andale missed several potential game-changers before Meyer finally finished the job.
“That fourth quarter was like the whole game, we just couldn’t string two things together,” Buchanan said. “We’d do a good, then we’d lack somewhere, a good and then lack somewhere.
Meyer said Andale ran on adrenaline during the fourth quarter, when it chipped away at a the 41-34 lead Augusta built in the final two minutes of the third.
Logan Weakley commenced the run with a three-pointer, followed a minute later by Weakley’s three pointer. In the quarter’s final seconds, Augusta ran several screens before Chance Whitehead got open well behind the three-point line and delivered a swish at the buzzer.
“(We were thinking) we need to get stuff done and we really need to pick it up,” Meyer said. “Keep playing hard.”
Andale’s adrenaline came from the results it got from the press. Augusta never permanently solved it, breaking it for one layup and success that proved fleeting.
Jeffery Ast, who scored 11 of his team-high 15 points in the second half, scored to put Andale ahead 44-43 in the final minute. Augusta answered with two free throws from Weakley before Meyer found the perfect time for all of his offense.
“It was a really good finish for him,” Buchanan said. “For Zach to do that, he’s a competitor. He’s like that on the football, he’s like that in track, he’s like that in basketball. He’s a competitor and he doesn’t mind getting coached.
“He got squared away, and the focus at the end is exactly what you want from a point guard.”
Andover Central 75, Augusta 43 – The Jaguars scored 36 points in the third quarter to turn a five-point halftime lead into a 69-37 advantage. Central made 11 of 17 shots in the third, 8 of 9 free throws and took advantage of nine Circle turnovers and two technical fouls.
Darraja Parnell scored 21 points, 17 in the first half. Central’s third quarter was fueled by Cole Taylor, who scored 14 points. Isaac Anthemides made two three-pointers in the third, when Jordan Birch scored six of his 10 points.
Augusta: Trebbe 3, Whitehead 9, Weakley 9, Patterson 3, Howerton 17, Clausing 4.
Andale: Cothran 2, Meyer 4, Carney 10, Walstad 9, Bruce 8, Ast 15.
Circle: Walthers 3, Hartley 10, Eastridge 7, Parr 5, Horyna 14, Straw 4.
Andover Central: Parnell 21, Birch 10, Taylor 19, Curtis 5, Huslig 6, Belt 2, Anthemides 6, Bezdek 2, Leedom 4.