DERBY — As the second free throw from Southeast's Gavin Thurman curled through the net to secure a 54-50 victory over Derby, it represented more than just clinching a first round sub-state victory on the road Thursday night.
Thurman's shaky performance — 5 of 12 — from the line before his final trip embodied much of a disappointing 8-12 campaign for Southeast.
And then his final two free throws to advance the Buffaloes to Saturday's sub-state final against Manhattan re-enforced their makeup.
It's not how you start, it's how you finish.
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"That's exactly it," Thurman said. "All that matters is winning and getting the job done. Coach (Taylor) always says no excuses. Everybody's got excuses."
Southeast came out the aggressor in the first half to force Derby into 13 first-half turnovers. The Buffaloes led 29-19 at half and stretched their lead to 14 in the third quarter on a Joseph Randle dunk.
When Derby rallied to within one point twice in the fourth quarter, Southeast responded with poise.
"You don't know what it took until you get in the fire," Southeast coach Carl Taylor said. "And they've been learning on the job."
The lone connection from last year's Class 6A runner-up is Randle. While Thurman (17 points) has been the offensive threat, Randle has been the glue. The senior finished with five points, three rebounds and four steals.
"It's not really my job to be the coach, that's (Taylor's) job," Randle said. "I was just trying to be an example for everybody to show them what everybody did in the past."
In a game marred by 45 fouls and 69 free-throw attempted, Derby couldn't overcome a poor start and a disastrous 20-of-39 performance from the line.
Cameron Cornelius led the Panthers (16-5) with 17 points and 10 rebounds. He was 13 of 21 from the line.
"I knew it when I walked in the locker room," Panthers coach Ryan Herrs said. "It was just dead quiet. You could hear a pin drop. And I thought, 'These guys are thinking.' That's never a good place for a player to be."
After a much-maligned regular season, the Buffaloes are now one game away from adding another team to Southeast's rich history in the state tournament.
"We're coming," Taylor said. "We're putting things together at the right time."
Southeast (9-12) 14 15 10 15 — 54 Derby (16-5) 9 10 14 17 — 50
SOUTHEAST: Williams 2 1-2 6, Randle 2 1-2 5, Ransom 2 2-2 6, Gunter 3 0-1 6, Thurman 5 7-14 17, Brooks 1 0-0 2, Harris 1 5-5 7, Thurman 1 2-4 5. Totals 17 (2) 18-30 54.
DERBY: Tucker 1 2-4 4, Z. Steadman 5 2-4 14, Richardson 2 3-9 7, Cornelius 2 13-21 17, Cornejo 2 0-0 6, K. Steadman 1 0-1 2. Totals 13 (4) 20-39 50.