SEDGWICK — Neal Bever made sure the Cinderella slippers stayed on for the Sedgwick Cardinals in a 59-57 win over Sterling in the Class 3A sub-state quarterfinals in Sedgwick.
Bever took a charge against Lucas Briar with 3:40 remaining in the game to foul out Briar. Bever then took a 12-foot jumper from the side of the basket that kissed the glass and went in for the game winner.
“I think I did,” Bever said when asked if he thought the game-winning shot was going in. “I just knew I had to get a shot. There were about five seconds left. I just had to get to open. I think early in the season, or about halfway through it, we weren’t really buying in. Then we really came together.
“I saw Briar driving in. Then he spun around and I knew I had to get there. I slid over and got in position. He was scoring almost all his team’s points there.”
Sedgwick, 12-9, reaches the finals at 7:30 p.m. Saturday after downing third-seeded Hesston Monday and the second-seeded Black Bears. Both wins were by two points.
“We’ve had good senior leadership and a sense of urgency,” Sedgwick coach Darren Crumrine said. “They took ownership of the team about three or four games ago. The practices have been outstanding. It’s been a different team. I know (being at home) played a big factor in playing here Monday night. They kids wanted to play here. That was a motivating factor to get back here. Going into a sub-state, you dream of being in a championship.”
Brayden Francis led Sedgwick with 24 points. Bever added 19.
Briar led Sterling with 19 points, 15 in the third quarter. Kenan Comley added 17.
After five lead changes in the first quarter, Neal Bever hit a 3-pointer with 28 seconds left that put the Cardinals up 15-14. A Sterling trey at the buzzer was ruled to have been shot after the buzzer.
The Cardinals led by as many as nine in the second quarter. After a 6-0 Sterling run, Trey Bright hit a trey for Sedgwick with 36 seconds left in the period. Francis hit a trey with six seconds left in the half to put the Cardinals up 33-24.
Fouls were 9-6 against Sterling in the first half. Sedgwick was five of seven from the line in the first half. Sterling was two of three.
Sterling made a 10-1 run to start the third quarter, tying the game on a Briar trey with 5:21 left in the period. Bever countered with a 3-pointer 17 seconds later.
Briar hit a trey with 46 seconds left in the quarter to put Sterling ahead 44-41.
Sterling pulled out by five in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter. After a Sedgwick time out, Bever hit one of two free throws, followed by a Francis trey. Comley hit two free throws for Sterling to break the run.
Bever tied the game with a trey with 3:25 in regulation. Briar fouled out on the following possession on a charge.
Francis scored on a layup off a steal with 2:34 in regulation. Another layup attempt off a steal was knocked away 11 seconds later.
John Schweizer hit one of two free throws for Sterling with 2:01 in regulation. The miss went out of bounds and ruled off a Sedgwick player. Blake Richter put Sterling up by one with a putback, followed by a Mason Lacey trey for Sedgwick.
Comley hit two free throws for Sterling with 1:09 remaining. Sedgwick ran the clock down to 20 seconds and took its final time out of regulation.
Sedgwick worked the ball over to Bever in the corner for the game-winner.
“Neal was our first option,” Crumrine said. “We had a counter to that. It was a big-time play. We got a couple of defensive stops. We got back-to-back layups from Neal and Francis. That changed the momentum. The shot was the game winner, but that charge, we may not have been in that situation if Neal hadn’t taken that charge.”
Sedgwick faces Halstead in the finals.
“We need these guys to get some rest and play with the same kind of confidence,” Crumrine said.
SEDGWICK (12-9) — Bever 2 (4) 3-4 2, 19; Lacey 0 (1) 0-0 1, 3; K.Schroeder 1 1-1 1, 3; Francis 8 (2) 2-3 4, 24; H.Schroeder 0 0-0 3, 0; Bright 0 (1) 2-2 0, 5; Smith 0 0-0 2, 0; Carson 2 1-4 2, 5; Horning 0 0-0 0, 0; TOTALS 13 (8) 9-14 15, 59.
STERLING (17-4) — Dutton 0 (1) 0-0 2, 3; Comley 1 (3) 6-6 3, 17; Richter 4 1-4 3, 9; Briar 4 (3) 2-2 5, 19; Myers 2 0-0 2, 4; Ball 0 0-0 1, 0; Jones 0 0-0 0, 0; Schweizer 2 1-2 4, 5; TOTALS 13 (7) 10-14 17, 57.