As they emerged from the North tunnel of White Auditorium, they were greeted with a blend of tears, screams and hugs.
Basehor-Linwood’s season escaped death Friday night in the Kansas Class 5A state semifinals. The Bobcats came back from down 13 points with eight minutes and beat defending 5A champion Bishop Carroll 69-68 and advance to the state championship game.
“It’s a miracle,” senior Nolan Ford said. “I don’t think there are enough words for it.”
Down two with 20 seconds to go, Basehor-Linwood senior Jacob Coleman drove the lane, spun to his right and got a contested right-handed floater to go in to tie it.
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About 15 seconds later, Bishop Carroll junior Tanner Mans held the ball just past midcourt in front of the scorer’s table. The Golden Eagles would win it and go to a second straight state championship game with a point.
Coleman said he read Mans’ eyes, jumped the pass and stole the ball with four fouls. He said that is his favorite move, but he knew he needed to take a massive risk.
Running toward the basket, Carroll sophomore Enrique Lankford swiped at the ball and was called for an intention foul with 1.1 seconds to go. Coleman went to the free-throw line and hit both shots to give the Bobcats their first lead since Thursday’s state quarterfinal win over Salina Central.
“We’re really emotional right now,” Coleman said. “We’ve got to go home and calm down. We can’t play like we did for three quarters and five minutes like we did tonight.”
After the game, players ran to the locker room and immediately received treatment for cramps. Junior Connor Younger was the worst of the group.
Lying face down on the training table, he screamed and tears welled in his eyes as the cramps in his legs spurred. Younger was one of the biggest reasons for the Bobcats’ comeback.
After scoring zero points in the first half on 0-for-4 shooting, including 0-for-3 on three-point attempts, the Bobcats got into him at halftime. Basehor-Linwood coach Mike McBride said he asked Younger for more, and he delivered.
In the second half, Younger hit five three-pointers and finished with 21 points. He was one of three Bobcats to score all of their points in the final two quarters. None of Youngers’ were bigger than a step-back three with 1:27 to go that cut the Carroll lead to 63-61. Younger tried to give an interview after the game, but the cramps hit him as he began to speak.
Ford, who fouled out in the fourth quarter and watched most of the comeback from the sideline, said when Younger hit the step-back, “You knew we were going to win. We had luck. We had God. We had everybody on our side.”
“We couldn’t lose,” Ford. “I probably cried three or four times on the bench because of the different emotions of the game.”
Basehor-Linwood went into halftime facing a 30-16 deficit. The Bobcats scored 53 of their 69 points in the second half, including a 30-point fourth. They scored almost twice as many points in the final eight minutes as they did in the first 16 — half the time, double the points.
All of the Bobcats agreed their fans were the key. Without the energy in White Auditorium, they couldn’t have believed. Even going into the fourth quarter, McBride said he didn’t say much of anything to his group to inspire the comeback.
“I told them, ‘Just keep working, see what happens,’” he said.
The Basehor-Linwood fans outnumbered the Carroll fans significantly. Carroll coach Mike Domnick said moving the 5A tournament to Emporia was brilliant. He said it can’t go back to Topeka’s Kansas Expocentre.
He also said he isn’t going to make excuses for the amount of noise on the Basehor-Linwood side the arena, or lack thereof on the other.
“I don’t want to take away from the people that did come and support us, but they are mostly family and a few students,” he said. “We’ve got to play within our own family unit whatever the situation is when it comes to crowd or no crowd. We have to deal with it with a positive attitude. I refuse to throw stones.”
McBride said that’s Bobcat nation.
“We are a very, very supportive community, and it’s been like that since I got here 15 years ago,” he said. “They just love watching kids play. Parents support other kids who play other sports. It’s just been a fun school to be at.
With the win, Basehor-Linwood will play in just its second state championship game in school history, the first since 2015 and first in Class 5A. The Bobcats will meet another team that competed in 4A-Division I in the title game, Andover Central.
In the miraculous celebration of what the Bobcats experienced Friday night, the reward seemed to be lost. When asked about how they will come down from the high and refocus for tomorrow, McBride started to laugh.
“For us to go to the state championship in our first year in 5A, it just shows that we belong,” he said.