At the free throw line with 1.5 seoncds left, Sterling Chapman looked cold as ice and drained the first.
Maize coach Chris Grill said he knew he had a timeout in the bag and couldn’t let the Campus sophomore tie the game as easily as he hit showed he could. Coming out of the timeout, Chapman missed the second free throw. Maize’s Caleb Grill tipped the ball toward the sideline and clinched a 46-45 thriller to stay undefeated.
With the win, the Eagles hold a two-game lead in AVCTL I with three league games to go.
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Maize senior Tanner Ohnmeis was the primary option for a defensive rebound off the missed free throw. The ball hit the front iron and carried over him to Grill. Ohnmeis, Maize’s go-to guy for the dirty work in the paint, said Grill’s tip after the miss saved them.
“I’m thinking if we don’t get that rebound, we lose the game,” Ohnmeis said. “I knew if we didn’t get that, we’d lose. I just gave it my all.”
The Eagles struggled to hit buckets at times Friday. Chris Grill said his goal was to hold the Colts under 50, which the Eagles did, but they had plenty of scoreless stretches that allowed the Campus crowd to take hold of the gym.
Campus went on a 9-2 run to start the second quarter and stormed into the locker room at halftime with a 25-16 lead. But the Eagles are a group of closers.
Senior Brandle Easter Jr. finished with a game-high 21 points, almost 50 percent of the Maize offense. Caleb Grill was held scoreless in the first half but hit the shot of the night with 1:12 to go, a go-ahead three-pointer from well beyond the line. And Ohnmeis, though he finished with one point, it came with 35.9 seconds to go. It was the Eagles’ final point of the night.
“The environment was tough, and I think our guys were a little sped up,” Chris Grill said. “You can play fast and under control, and I think we were playing fast and a little out of control. Everybody amped up, but thing is you don’t have to get yourself fired up for that kind of stuff. You’ve just got to relax and play under control.”
Maize’s final three AVCTL I games look like this:
- vs. Hutchinson (3-13) on Tuesday
- vs. Salina Central (12-4) on Friday
- at Salina South (6-10) on Feb. 19
A league title would be Maize’s second straight, but Caleb Grill said the group is chasing more.
Maize’s motto this year is “Red Dead Redemption,” based on the popular video game that features outlaws in the old west.
Before every game as he is introduced as a starter, Grill puts his jersey over his nose and makes finger pistols.
Last year, Maize lost 40-30 at home to Salina Central, the eventual Class 5A runner-up, in its sub-state championship game. The Eagles will be in almost the same spot again Friday as the Mustangs look to upend an undefeated season and potentially the league title.
“We knew it was going to be an insane game, so it was fun,” Caleb Grill said. “I guess we felt like outlaws.”