When the regulation buzzer went off and the score was tied, the atmosphere was that of at least a state semifinal.
Student sections were dueling with their best chants. Players seemed as evenly matched as possible. Coaches, too. So after Andale beat Trinity Academy 40-39 in overtime, fans from both sides said the game should have been played in Emporia in the Class 4A-Divison II tournament, not in Clearwater for a sub-state final.
“I’d probably agree,” Andale coach Jeff Buchanan said.
Buchanan said Trinity is “absolutely” a tournament team, and its players have shown that throughout the season.
“The bad thing is that only one team gets to end up on top,” he said.
Andale entered the sub-state tournament as the No. 2 seed with a 17-2 record. That would have been good enough for first seed in almost all other sub-state brackets across all classes, but Trinity plays a few miles away, and Class 4A still uses geography to determine its sub-state groupings.
The Knights were the top seed in the Clearwater tournament with an 18-1 record. Had they beaten Andale on Saturday, they would have been one of the top two seeds at the Class 4A-Division II tournament in Emporia. Instead, one overtime loss in a play-in game has eliminated Trinity from continuing in the postseason.
As of Sunday morning, a situation like that likely won’t happen again.
The Kansas State High School Activities Associaiton has accepted a proposal to change Class 4A’s sub-state format to what Classes 5 and 6A use: two 16-team regional tournaments with the highest-seeded teams hosting three others.
“I’m definitely not disappointed with the change,” Knights coach Chance Lindley said. “Let’s leave it at that.”
Even Andale players like Easton Hunter and Codi Urbanek agreed after winning the bracket.
The teams put on a show, which only furthered their point.
Andale led for almost all of regulation, but Trinity never fell behind by more than a hanful after the first quarter.
The Knights stiffened their defense. They were more active, pressed up on the Andale shooters to an annoying degree, particularly in the third quarter.
Neither team scored a layup in the third. Andale scored four points; Trinity had three.
The score was tight. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Indians clung onto a 26-24 lead. Then Trinity senior Jacob Baker went to work.
Baker scored 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, including a vital three-pointer from the right wing that kept the score at 34-31 with three minutes to go in regulation.
After an Andale miss on the other end, Trinity junior point guard Caden Vanlandingham hit a three-pointer from the secondary logo. The 30-footer tied the score at 34 and ultimately sent the game to overtime.
The teams went back-and-forth hitting what seemed to be sub-state clinchers in such a low-scoring game. But Andale’s Parker Bruce scored the game’s last bucket.
Brody Jobbins drove to the hoop for the Indians, but, as everyone was Saturday, he was cut off. He tried to pass to Codi Urbanek in the low post. The pass was off.
The ball bounced off several players and fell to Bruce cutting in from the three-point line. He grabbed it and shot a floater that hung on the rim and dropped with 30 seconds left.
Trinity couldn’t find its redemption shot.
Afterward, one team had smiles. The other had tears. And another that hasn’t even been mentioned was already at home.
Collegiate earned the No. 3 seed in the Clearwater regional because of its geography. The Spartans finished the regular season 15-5. Lindley said all three teams should be moving on to Emporia.
“Do I think we’d all do well at state tournament time?” Lindley said. “Yeah.”
The game lived up to its billing, and Bruce said having beaten 15-5 Collegiate and one-loss Trinity just to get into the state tournament will help their mentality and confidence.
Andale must look past its path to Emporia now. Although Saturday’s game served as a vindicator for KSHSAA’s move to the new sub-state model, Buchanan said he is looking forward.
“I don’t know where it puts us, but it puts us in one of the final eight,” he said. “How’s that?”