TOPEKA — It took just the game's last waning seconds Thursday, but that's all that was needed to put Andover Central on the ride only a state tournament can produce.
Exhilaration spread through the Jaguars when they knotted the game with 17 seconds left, but it faded to uneasiness playing the waiting game as St. Thomas Aquinas held for the last shot.
Then they had to pick their hearts off the floor to half-heartedly congratulate Aquinas on its 55-53 victory after a game-winning layup by Shane Nachbar fell in just before the final buzzer sounded in Topeka's Expocentre.
"In the end, that's basketball," Central coach Jesse Herrmann said. "They made one more play than we did."
The final play drew controversy, as Nachbar slipped through the top of Andover Central's zone and met a defender near the basket. Both fell down, no call was made, and Nachbar came up the hero.
"No matter what, I knew I had to get up a shot to just try to make one," said Nachbar, who finished with a game-high 18 points. "It couldn't be called either way, I felt like."
Herrmann added: "Obviously we didn't contain the dribble well enough. But it looked like we had a guy well up and he went down and I don't know what happen. The kid made a great shot, regardless."
It soured a tremendous comeback from the Jaguars, who erased a five-point deficit with under two minutes remaining.
After an unforced Aquinas turnover that gave the ball back to Central, the Jaguars ran a set play to Cole Kretchmar that opened him up for a three-pointer. He missed, but Central grabbed the offensive rebound and Taylor Lock was fouled.
"I just didn't think about the pressure," Lock said. "I went up there and did what I've done my whole life, just shoot it."
Lock sank both to tie it at 53 with 17.5 seconds left and Aquinas held for the last shot. The Saints penetrated and passed to Nachbar, who began his slash down the lane with five seconds remaining. The ball went through with a second left and the mob formed around him not much later.
"Every kid in that locker room feels like there is one more thing he could have done," Herrmann said. "And us coaches, we feel like there could have been one more thing we could have done."
Andover Central was led by 29 combined points from posts Adam Wilks and Boston Stiverson. The Jaguars played without Chris McWhorter, a normal starter at guard, who Herrmann said "was no longer with the team."
McPherson 58, Bishop Miege 39 — Kurt Kinnamon is as qualified a source to comment on what makes a state championship team.
Kinnamon, now in his 16th season, has won three titles at McPherson. As the Bullpups took a step closer to their goal of another one, Kinnamon saw some similarities in this year's team and his past champions.
"All those really good teams have gotten off to real good starts and this group was pretty determined to do that," Kinnamon said. "All the really good teams hate to lose and this team's got that."
Senior Christian Ulsaker ensured the fast start, scoring 19 points in a first half in which the Bullpups scored the first 12 points to start and closed it out with the last 15 points for a 36-16 lead. Ulsaker finished with a game-high 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting.
"You can tell with him sometimes with how he shot the ball the day before," Kinnamon said. "That's kind of weird to think about, but I can't tell you how many threes he made in a row in practice the night before."
Lansing 50, Bishop Carroll 45 — Lonnie Lollar's offense at Carroll isn't design to produce substantial comebacks, so getting in a 9-0 hole in the first four minutes set up a steep climb.
The Eagles were able to make it a possession game on a handful of occasions, but never tied the game or took the lead. Lollar points to the early deficit as the culprit.
"It seemed like it was really uphill from there," Lollar said. "It just didn't seem like it bounced our way tonight."
Making things even more difficult was that Lansing is accustomed to playing exactly the same style as Carroll. That meant limited possessions for Carroll to make up the difference.
"Looking at them on film, it was kind of scary really," Lansing coach Rod Briggs said. "We both want to play the same way and we both kind of have to with the guys we have."
Carroll did make a couple of runs, but found consistent-enough offense to take the lead. Lollar said there was too much standing around, a symptom of chasing Lansing around on defense.
"We did spend a lot of energy trying to get it back," senior Chad Darland said. "But the thing about our team is that we'll never give up and we'll always have each other's back."
Carroll was always on the edge of threatening, but never trimmed Lansing's lead to under four points in the last five minutes. Brian Rohleder led the Eagles with 12 points.
But for a team with no expectations around the City League, it wasn't too bad of a ride for the Eagles.
"I'm proud of what these guys were able to accomplish this year," Lollar said. "I don't think anyone had us coming back to Topeka."