After struggling in the first half and trailing by 15 at halftime, Circle was able to pull off an epic comeback and beat No. 2 seed Abilene 55-53 to advance to the sub-state championship.
Abilene quick jumped out to a 9-0 lead to start the game. The Thunderbird offense struggled to get good looks for the rest of the first half, as the Cowboys were able to score at will and grab a commanding 30-15 lead before the break.
Midway through the third quarter, Jude Warren knocked down a three to cut the Abilene lead to 10. Warren quickly knocked down another three to cut it to 7. The Thunderbirds continued to knock down big shots as Dylan Meier connected on a three-pointer right before the end of the third quarter to bring the Thunderbirds within four points.
Abilene went on a 6-0 run to start the fourth quarter to make it 47-37. The Thunderbirds showed no signs of quitting as Matt Hromek and Dylan Meier hit back-to-back threes to cut the Abilene lead to 4. Circle was able to put some pressure on the Cowboys in the final minutes, forcing turnovers which led to layups. With one minute left, Lane Coulter stole the ball and was able dos core an uncontested layup to tie the game at 53. After a pair of missed free-throws by Abilene, Circle ran the clock down to just under nine seconds before calling a timeout.
Lane Coulter inbounded the ball to Jude Warren, who took a few dribbles and pulled up for a ten-footer that swished through the net to give Circle a 55-53 lead with 2 seconds left. Abilene tried to throw a deep pass, but was unable to make a connection as the buzzer went off and the Thunderbirds came away with an upset victory.
“The coach had us run our out-of-bounds play to our point guard,” said Circle junior Jude Warren.
“They were denying him so I knew I had to go up and get it. I went to the hole and I felt I had an edge on the defender so I kept going and jumped up for the shot. I thought I air-balled it at first, then I saw it go in and everyone was going nuts, it was amazing.”
Thanks to Warren’s game-winner, the Thunderbirds will take on Wamego tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. for a shot at the 4A state tournament.
“We need to play as a family. We couldn’t have done it without every one of those players tonight. The guys on the bench came in and swung the momentum right back to us, and we couldn’t have done it without them,” added Warren.