After years of making the journey up K-96 to battle for Class 3A boys basketball championships, Collegiate will try a different road this week.
The Spartans got 23 points from sophomore Cody McNerney and held off Trinity Academy 50-42 on Saturday to win the Class 4A-II sub-state title. Collegiate will take a 19-3 record into the 4A-II quarterfinals Thursday at Emporia.
McNerney, a 6-foot-2 forward, carried the scoring load with 14 second-half points, including a three-pointer from the right wing and a layup off one of Trinity’s 20 turnovers near the end of the third quarter to put Collegiate up 36-26. The Spartans spent the rest of the game keeping Trinity (12-10) at arm’s length.
“We were searching in the second half,” said McNerney, who made two threes and 9 of 14 free throws. “That three really helped us get going.”
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Collegiate has been without its leading scorer, Cameron Christian, since he broke a bone in his right hand during a Feb. 22 practice. On Saturday, McNerney provided the offense and the Spartans used their old staple – pressuring man-to-man defense – to get the job done.
“That’s 18 points we’re missing,” Collegiate coach Mitch Fiegel said of Christian’s absence. “But I think our kids have adjusted well.
“When we shoot it well, we’re really tough to beat. We didn’t shoot it very well the last two games, but our defense pulled us through.”
Trinity, which prolonged its season Friday on a buzzer-beating follow shot by Luke Prohaska to edge Parsons 38-37, got 18 points from Prohaska against Collegiate. The Knights jumped to a 9-2 lead, but their early momentum soon began to dissolve as Collegiate made them work for every pass and shot.
“It was Collegiate’s defense that made the difference,” Trinity coach Steve Miller said. “Mitch always does a good job with them, rotating players in and out. It eventually took its toll.”
Still, Trinity only trailed by five and had the ball after Collegiate turned the ball over against full-court pressure. But the Knights’ Drew Thornton, who had 10 points, was called for traveling to give the ball right back.
In addition to turnovers, Trinity’s comeback bid was stymied by 8-of-21 second-half free-throw shooting.
“It comes and goes with us,” Miller said. “Some nights we’ll make 17 of 20 and others we’ll struggle to make 50 percent. It was surprising because we’ve really worked on it.”
Trinity, which finished third at state last season, will yield its spot in the 4A-II tournament to Collegiate, which features a group of seniors who are eager to complete a three-game run at state. The Spartans lost in the quarterfinals to eventual 3A champion Hesston two years ago, and fell to Scott City in last year’s 3A title game.
“They’re on a mission,” Fiegel said. “They are on a mission.”
Trinity: Thornton 10, Counts 3, Prohaska 18, Johnson 1, Adler 7, List 3.
Collegiate: Adams 4, Waddell 5, Reed 9, McNerney 23, Murphy 2, Root, Newlin 5.