Maize coach Chris Grill is notorious, whether his team wins or loses, for how long he stays in the locker room following games. He didn't change his pattern Saturday night at South, even though his team had defeated North 43-41 to advance to the Class 6A tournament.
It's the first time his players have been to state, and Grill's first time, as a coach or player.
"I needed to calm them down a bit," Grill said with a slight smile shortly after leaving the locker room.
That's because the Maize players were not only thrilled about advancing to the 6A tournament on Thursday in Emporia, but about winning after a Luke Langley three-pointer with 34 seconds to go.
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"We found a way to get it done, and that's all that matters," Maize senior Ryan Schultz said. "That's what (Grill) has been preaching all year."
Maize had a clear advantage in size with Schultz (6-foot-5), Derek Lee (6-4), Tyler Hosman (6-6) and Steven Wolgamott (6-7). So North tried to neutralize that by running a zone defense.
"We knew coming in that their big players, we couldn't match up man-to-man," North coach Gary Squires said.
It worked well as the Redskins forced turnovers and then scored in transition. North outrebounded Maize 38-29 and had 11 offensive rebounds in the first quarter.
After trailing 19-13 in the second quarter, North closed out the half with a 13-1 run.
Over the next 15:26, the Redskins hung onto that lead. Even though they missed all six fourth-quarter field goal attempts in the final period, scoring only on 5-of-6 shooting from the free-throw line.
With Maize (17-5) trailing North 41-40 in the final minute, the Eagles first looked to Ryan McCarthy, who passed up several shots, then went to Langley.
"That's who we wanted taking that shot," Squires said.
Langley hadn't made a three in the game, but he's not one to let that bother him, and with 34 seconds remaining, he hit from the right wing for a two-point lead.
"He's one of those kids, he forgets a missed shot as soon as we run back on defense," Schultz said. "He's hit big shots all his life, to have the confidence that he had to make that shot."
Grill added: "He's fearless, nothing really fazes him.... I had no worries about him shooting it and having the confidence to knock it down."
North still had 30 seconds to tie or take the lead. Wright drove baseline and missed, but North got the ball back. Then Spencer Robertson put up a three from the top of the key. It rimmed out. Briston White was there for a tip-in as time expired, but that rimmed out, too.
"I understand now when athletes say it hasn't set in yet," said Schultz, who finished with a game-high 17 points and 10 rebounds. "Because this is the most amazing feeling I've had in my life. Against such a good team like North, with such competitors and a good coach."
For Wright, it was a painful way to end his career.
"It hurts, it hurts a whole lot," Wright said. "Three years, this team, we put a lot of work in. We put our hearts on the court, it hurts a lot.
"I could feel it. I could taste it. I knew how it was going to feel."
Wichita North (13-9) 13 13 10 5 — 41 Maize (17-5) 12 8 12 11 — 43
NORTH: Frankamp 4 0-0 10, Briston White 3 0-0 6, Robertson 3 2-2 9, Brison White 2 1-2 5, Wright 4 4-5 12, Tolliver 0 0-0 0, Kemp 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 (2) 7-9 41.
MAIZE: Schultz 7 2-4 17, Davis 3 3-4 9, Lee 2 0-0 4, Langley 3 0-0 7, Sturgeon 0 1-3 1, Hammack 0 1-2 1, Hosman 0 0-0 0, McCarthy 2 0-0 4, Wolgamott 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 (2) 7-13 43.
Dodge City 56, Wichita Northwest 43 — When Northwest senior Dave Carson opened the game with a three-pointer from the left corner and hit another one two minutes later, it seemed to bode well for the Grizzlies.
From there, though, Northwest struggled offensively. The Grizzlies shot 32.6 percent from the floor and 20 percent from three-point range.
"We didn't shoot well," Northwest coach Chris Collins said. "Shots that we're accustomed to hitting, they weren't falling."
Yet the Grizzlies stayed with Dodge City through the game's first 21 minutes. Dodge City had a 10-point lead after the first quarter, but with all but one starter on the bench Northwest battled back.
The Grizzlies got to within 29-24 at the half — seldom-used reserve Daunte Carter hit a three and two free throws, while Kendrick Miller had six points in the second quarter.
Down by eight, Grant Landenberger hit two straight to get Northwest within 33-29 with 3:36 to go in the third quarter.
But Northwest turned it over on two of its next three possessions, and Dodge City went on a 14-0 run.
"That's the game there," Collins said.
Carson led Northwest with nine points, while Dodge City's Terrence Williams and Landon Head had 15 points apiece and a combined 13 rebounds.
As disappointing as the loss was, the future is bright for Northwest, which finished at .500 after last season's three-win season.
Northwest returns four starters and nine of the 11 players on its roster.
"I feel good about it, the direction that we're going," Collins said. "I know expectations will be higher next year, and the guys will work harder."
Wichita Northwest (11-11) 10 14 5 14 — 43 Dodge City (19-3) 20 9 9 18 — 56
NORTHWEST: Carson 3 0-0 9, Johnson 1 1-2 3, Gales 2 2-22 6, Landenberger 3 1-2 7, Nicholson 2 3-4 7, Miller 3 0-1 6, Cramer 0 0-0 0, White 0 0-0 0, Carter 1 2-2 5. Totals 15 (4) 9-13 43.
DODGE CITY: Williams 4 6-9 15, Head 5 4-7 15, Morin 3 1-2 7, Hallman 1 0-2 3, Hogan 3 2-4 10, Sotelo 0 0-0 0, Howarth 3 0-0 6, Brown 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 (5) 13-24 56.