Bluestem outscored Flinthills 39-19 over the final 11:40 of the game.
ROSALIA, KANSAS – Trailing for a majority of the game, Bluestem never quit. They fought to the last second and overcame a 17-point second half deficit to stun rival Flinthills 81-78.
It almost never happened.
It took a team effort from seniors Nic Laidler and Garrett Korte combined for 46 points on 13 made baskets. Laidler was 5-of-11 from three-point range and Korte made 10-of-15 free throws.
Flinthills led 59-42 with 3:40 remaining in the third quarter. Kedryn Morse was fueling a hot shooting Mustangs team that was poised to drop 80-plus points twice in less than 24 hours.
Then a technical foul happened.
“We pulled the team together and told them this is the season.” Korte said. “We had to stick together as a team.”
They did. Korte who was in foul trouble the entire first half, picked up two fouls within the first three minutes of the first quarter, had to sit the remainder of the half.
“It was tough,” Korte said. “Coach has a rule and he stuck to it. I have to be smarter about putting my teammates in that position.”
Korte came back in the second half and you’d think his energy from the first half on the bench would fuel his second half. Then two minutes into the second half Korte would pick up his third foul.
“I let them make that decision, but at the fourth one, you come out,” Bluestem head coach Branigun Gomez said.
Korte would make his time in the game count.
After the Mustangs grabbed the 59-42 lead, it was Korte who would roll off seven unanswered points, cutting it to a 10-point deficit.
Bluestem just need a chance.
“I told them at halftime I thought we were better than our play in the first half,” Gomez said.
After a pull-up three by Korte, the lead was cut to four and that’s all the Lions needed. They would put pressure on the Flinthills offense, forcing them into bad decision making and exposed their tired legs.
Flinthills played in another up-and-down fast paced game less than 24 hours ago against Buffalo-Altoona, winning 82-67. Bluestem were the fresher team and it showed. They outscored Flinthills 25-15 in the fourth quarter.
The legs caught up with Flinthills and they sent Bluestem to the line 20 times in the fourth quarter, with the Lions making 12 of them.
Korte would get to the line, completing the comeback. After his free throws, Bluestem led 68-64. A 26-5 run had been completed and the game’s momentum had flipped.
“We just had to keep going,” Korte said. “I knew we could close it out.
Flinthills led 44-38 at halftime. A fast pace, up-and-down tempo like the Mustangs want to do. They want to get teams on their heels and playing their style of basketball. It forces mistakes by the opponents. Much like the option offense of football, it’s hard to prepare for.
Nic Laidler stepped up with Korte in foul trouble. He scored 21 points in the first half, including four-three pointers. He was a large reason why the Lions didn’t let Flinthills run away with it in the second quarter.
“Nic leads by his actions,” Korte said. “The kid is a dog, night in and night out.”
“I just do whatever my team needs of me and tonight they needed scoring,” Laidler said.
Korte would hit another three with 4:08 to go in the fourth quarter, putting the Lions up for good. Two more free throws and they held a 73-70 lead with 3:03 remaining.
The game dwindled down and you can tell one team was ready for the fight and the other had run out of gas. Bluestem found their way to the line and Flinthills made questionable choices down the stretch, like choosing not to foul down two with 23 seconds remaining. They didn't foul until 3.2 seconds were on the clock. By then, the opportunity for a quality shot had gone out of the window.
Bluestem will now host Erie on Friday night at Bluestem high school. They fell to Cherryvale 51-50 on Tuesday night and are ranked eighth by the Kansas coaches.
“We have a top 10 team coming in,” Korte said. “We have a chance to go do something really special. We have to go take care of business.”
Bluestem – 21; 17; 18; 25 – 81
Flinthills – 22; 22; 19; 15 – 78
Bluestem – Laidler 24; Korte 22; Wilson 9; Simon 8; Dawson 6; Jackson 5; Rigg 3; Walden 2; Miller 2
Flinthills – Lowmaster 31; Bugner 16; Morse 16; Becker 7; Wight 4; Sorum 4