Panthers stun top-seeded Lancers

Crest’s season ends with 69-61 loss

By JOCELYN SHEETS
Register Sports Editor

Register/Jocelyn Sheets
Crest High senior Todd Johnston (23) makes a baseline jumper over the defense of Centralia’s Michael Glatczek (5) in the second quarter of Thursday’s state tournament opening round game. The Lancers fell short in their quest for the 2009 Kansas Class 1A Boys State Basketball Tournament championship, losing 69-61 to Centralia.
Register/Jocelyn Sheets
Trying to protect a one-point lead, Crest High Lancers surround Centralia’s Ben Steinlage on the baseline in the fourth quarter. Steinlage makes a pass out to teammate Tyler Glatczak (25), who hit a key three-pointer. Defending on the play were seniors Dakota Milner (20), Todd Johnston (23), Brandon Newton and Travis Buck, whose hands are above all the rest. Centralia went on to beat Crest 69-61 Thursday in the first round of the Class 1A state basketball tournament in Hays.

HAYS — Emotions ran deep here Thursday.
Crest High’s Lancers had a script that they were following since a year ago when they took third place at the state basketball tournament. They were back on that basketball court — Fort Hays State’s Busch-Gross Coliseum — Thursday. They were again the top seed.
But Centralia High’s Panthers had the new pages to the script. Ben Steinlage and company never allowed the Lancers to see the changes to it and the Panthers wrote a different ending.
“Even when we were 17 points down, I believed our kids would win this game,” said Travis Hermreck, Lancer head coach, while he fought back tears following the Panthers’ 69-61 upset of the Lancers.
“We were playing on so much emotion in the third quarter to get back in the game that when they (Centralia) made that last run at the end, we were spent. I thought we had enough to win the game.”
The Panthers came into the class 1A state tournament as the No. 8 seed. Maybe they had a chip on their shoulders and something to prove as a 19-5 team up against top-ranked and undefeated Crest (25-0).
“I think a key in this game, which I never thought it would be for us, is we were tight and nervous,” Hermreck said. “And Centralia wasn’t. They came out and took the game right at us.”
Crest found itself down 26-9 by the 5:29 mark of the second quarter. The Panthers showed their hand in the first quarter — every thing went through 6-5 senior Ben Steinlage feeding into a strong inside-outside game.
Neither team scored in the first two minutes of the contest, then Patrick Bram-hall drilled a three-pointer. Steinlage, who had 21 of his game-high 35 points in the first half, powered inside for two and was fouled by Crest senior Brandon Newton. Finishing the three-point play, Steinlage handed his team a 6-0 lead.
The Lancers finally got on the board when junior Zach Stinnett came off the bench to score on a follow shot. He didn’t convert on the free throw for a three-point play. At the other end Tyler Glatczak fired a trey.
Stinnett and Steinlage exchanged baskets and Crest trailed 11-4. With 1:20 left in the period, senior Todd Johnston connected for his first of five three-pointers for the Lancers. Johnston’s putback with 47 seconds left pulled the Lancers to within four, 13-9, at the close of the period.
Quickly Steinlage scored as the second period got under way, triggering a 13-point run by the Panthers. Most of the points coming from Steinlage — a three-point play, a three-pointer and a steal for a dunk — and a three-pointer by T. Glatczak.
Hermreck called a timeout at 5:26 and his team down 17 points.
Brandon Newton re-sponded for the Lancers and led his team on a comeback, which included a rise in defensive intensity. Brandon Newton had a three-point play, then Johnston scored, junior Bryan Newton drained a three-pointer and Brandon Newton had a basket with 3:03 left.
The Lancers rattled off 10 straight points but Brandon Newton picked up his second foul a few seconds later. Steinlage hit one of two free throws to make it 27-19. Crest senior Travis Buck converted an offensive rebound into a basket and it was six-point game.
Steinlage and Michael Glatczak downed back-to-back threes to push the Panthers’ lead to 33-21. Brandon Newton responded with a trey as the final basket of the first half and Crest trailed 33-24 at halftime.
“Coming into the game we knew if Steinlage got his points and we shut down the others or if we limited him and the others got their (points), we’d have a very good chance of winning the game,” Hermreck said. “We had times when we were able to get that situation as we came back on them.
“At the end, the worst scenario happened for us — Steinlage and the others got their points.”
Crest continued its comeback in the third quarter. Down 35-26, Johnston hit back-to-back threes for the Lancers.
The Lancers and Panthers combined for 22 three-pointers in the game, 11 apiece.
Bramhall drilled a trey for Centralia and Brandon Newton made it four threes in a row. But fouls were mounting against the Lancers as Buck picked up his third inside against Steinlage, who went 11 of 13 at the foul line.
Johnston’s trey at the 3:36 mark pulled the Lancers to within one, 40-39. Buck went to the Crest bench with his fourth foul 20 seconds later.
Brandon Newton controlled a defensive rebound and the Lancers cashed in. Bryan Newton connected from beyond the three-point arc to give Crest its first lead of the game, 42-40, with 2:44 left. Bramhall answered with a trey of his own.
Johnston hit a jumper to put Crest back in front and the Lancer defense controlled another rebound. Branton Newton’s third foul came at the offensive end with 1:22 left and he stayed in the game.
When senior Dakota Milner added another trey for the Lancers, it seemed that Crest had righted their ship. The Lancers had held Steinlage to just two free throws in the second half at this point. Steinlage got a follow shot to go down just before the buzzer to make it 47-45.
Brandon Newton scored to open the fourth quarter, then made a steal but was called for carrying the ball. Bramhall triggered in three to bring his team to within one, 49-48. Brandon Newton and Steinlage traded baskets but the Lancers didn’t score on a possession.
As the Lancer defense sagged on Steinlage, he made a pass out to Tyler Glatczak who — what else — drained a three. Brandon Newton was called for an offensive foul with 4:55 left. The Panthers went down and Michael Glatczak fired in a three.
Crest trailed 56-51 with 4:30 left but turned the ball over and found itself on the wrong end of a 9 to 1 count in team fouls. The Panthers put the game away by hitting 9 of 12 foul shot attempts in the last four minutes.
Johnston hit a three with 2:43 left to make it 60-54 but the Panthers controlled the basketball and forced the Lancers to foul to stop the clock. As the final seconds ticked off, a break in the action allowed Hermreck to pull his three remaining seniors from the court with 7.8 seconds left.
“I gathered the four seniors together and I had something profound to say to them but all I could do is look at them and cry,” Hermreck said.
The Lancers shot 43 percent, 23 of 53, from the field and the Panthers were 21 of 40 from 52.5 percent. The Panthers cashed in on 16 of 21 free throw attempts while the Lancers had just seven tries at the free-throw line, hitting four.
Brandon Newton finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and four steals. Johnston had 21 points and three assists. Buck had two points and three rebounds while Milner had three points and three assists.
“We handled the pressure well all year as the top-ranked team from the beginning and the undefeated regular season. There were so many outside our team that built a lot of drama around us and it finally caught up with us today,” Hermreck said.
“I don’t want to take away from Centralia. They played very well. They scored twice as much as we normally allow and that’s a testament to their offense.”
Along with Steinlage’s 35 points, the Panthers got 14 points from Bramhall and 10 from T. Glatczak.
In its two state tournament runs, Crest has gone 51-3 but it was the first loss of the 2008-09 season that came at the wrong time — opening round of the state tournament.
“I’m so proud of this group of young men. These four seniors have been tremendous. Brandon and Todd have worked hard throughout the years to be on this floor. They were shooting at 6 and 7 in the mornings, doing whatever it took to be the best,” Hermreck said.
“They truly have hearts of champions. How proud I am of Travis and Dakota to finish up their careers with a season like this.”
There were three undefeated teams going into Thursday first round of the Class 1A state tournament. Only one remains as third-seeded Hanover (26-0) defeated Macksville 64-56. Second-seeded Thunder Ridge of Kensington was 25-0 but was upended 49-45 by Goessel, now 21-5.
There will be a new champion as two-time defending 1A champion South Gray (24-2) was beaten by Quinter (25-1) 65-55.
Crest (9-15-23-14—61) (FG/3-pt): Milner 0/1-0-1-3, Bran. Newton 6/2-2-4-20, Johnston 3/5-0-4-21, Bry. Newton 0/2-2-2-8, Buck 1-0-5-2, Stinnett 2/1-0-3-7. TOTALS: 12/11-4-19-61.
Centralia (13-20-12-24—69) (FG/3-pt): Steinlage 9/2-11-2-35, Bramhall 1/4-0-3-14, T. Glatczak 0/3-1-1-10, Whetzal 0-0-1-0, Alderfer 0-1-2-1, M. Glatczak 0/2-1-1-7, Gleason 0-2-0-2. TOTALS: 10/11-16-10-69.