HALSTEAD — The Halstead Dragon boys’ basketball team took just one shot in the fourth quarter of the Class 3A state finals against Phillipsburg Saturday at the Hutchinson Sports Arena, but it was the only one needed.

Braden Gerber drove the length of the court for a layup at the buzzer to lead Halstead to a 44-42 win over Phillipsburg to win the state title for the sixth time in school history and the first since 2001.

“The ball was supposed to go to Kason (O’Neal), but they kind of slacked off,” Gerber said. “It could have gone to anyone. It happened to be me. They did seem pretty spread out at the end. It wasn’t how the play was designed, but we’ll take it.”

“He was just a little boy the last time they won it,” Halstead coach Lonnie Lollar said. “In 2001, he was 6-months old. He was here, at the game at 6-months old. He comes back and makes the winning shot. He’s grown up here his entire life. His dad is the principal. He was an assistant coach here.”

O’Neal led the Dragons with 15 points, hitting six of nine from the field. The only other player in double figures was Phillipsburg’s Ty Sides with 10 points.

“We just had to keep our composure and keep playing together, and that’s what we did,” O’Neal said. “… On the first day of practice, we looked at the state championship wall. We pointed at it and there was a spot open. We wanted to be state champions. We worked our butts off every day. We’d come in at 6 a.m. and work as hard as we can every day. It was all worth it.”

Halstead’s Dalton Kraus was scoreless entering the fourth quarter, but hit eight of eight in the final period. The Dragons went 11 of 14 from the line in the final period.

Andrew O’Brien finished with eight points and 10 rebounds for Halstead.

“Hats off to Phillipsburg,” O’Brien said. “They did a good job of putting pressure on us, making us earn it for sure. The coach told us during a time out to keep our heads and knock down free throws, which we did. Gerber made that play at the end.”

“That team is good,” Lollar said. “That team defends 94 feet very well. They swarm you. You are never comfortable. There’s a reason they only lost one game. They have been ranked no. 1 in the state the last half of the season at the 3A level. We went toe-to-toe with them. We’re much better when we pop out into the lead. We were a little shaky at times and that was probably my fault. But there were two things — Dalton Kraus came up big at the free throw line. The other thing was Wyatt (Seibel). He didn’t score, but he was a presence. He rebounded. He had two blocks. When he’s in the game, it’s tough to score. When he’s not in the game, they were able to score. I was happy for those two and everyone.

“So many people doubted them. A lot of kids didn’t come out. These kids came together. Got off to a good start and believed in each other. I kept telling them ‘I’m preparing you for a state championship.’ I went to a football game at Notre Dame and on the way back, I was making some notes to myself that I’m preparing these young men for the Cheney’s of Kansas — to meet the teams they would face at state. We won early, but we still weren’t satisfied. We had to push more.”

Halstead jumped out to a 4-0 lead and held that lead for most of the period. A late Phillipsburg 3-pointer cut the Dragon lead to one at the end of the quarter, 11-10.

Phillipsburg scored a layup to start the second quarter, but Halstead finished the period on an 11-2 run aided by late Panther fouls, leading 22-14 at the half.

Halstead was eight of 19 shooting in the first half, while Phillipsburg was five of 18.

Halstead gave up an ally oop to start the third quarter, but then went on an 8-2 run to lead by 11. A VanKooten three-point play got the Panthers back to within six with 2:44 left in the period. Jordan Ford followed with a layup.

Braden Gerber hit a layup at the buzzer to get Halstead back up by six, 31-25.

Trey Sides opened the fourth quarter scoring with a layup. Dalton Kraus answered with a pair of free throws. Jack Pakkebeir hit a layup with 5:28 in regulation to get Phillipsburg within two, 33-31. Halstead came back by hitting three of four free throws.

After a pair of Nathan Moon free throws, Halstead gave up an unforced turnover. After trading time outs, Ty Sides hit a layup to put Phillipsburg within one with 1:42 in regulation.

Dalton Kraus hit two free throws with 1:08 in regulation. One second later, Phillipsburg missed a free throw. Gerber was fouled on the rebound and missed two free throws.

Phillipsburg missed two shots, but got the rebound each time, allowing a Trey Sides 3-pointer with 22 seconds left. Halstead came right back with a pair of Dalton Kraus free throws.

Ty Sides hit a layup with eight seconds left. After a Halstead time out, Dalton Kraus fed the inbounds to Gerber to set up the winning shot.

“This is my 27th year as a head coach,” Lollar said. “I have been blessed with other opportunities to coach for a state title. This is the first group I’ve had that stayed together from the start of the season. I’m talking players, parents, coaching staff. There weren’t any distractions. The parents here let us coach. There wasn’t any agendas. That’s what I love about Halstead. They just told us, ‘coach our sons.’”

Halstead loses four seniors — Baylor Bohling, Dalton Kraus, O’Neal and Wyatt Seibel.

“Last year, we had zero seniors,” Lollar said. “The seniors worked hard. Each one brought something special. Wyatt brought improvement, work ethic. Kason got better and better. He’s the best player in our league and deserves the opportunity to play at the next level. Dalton Kraus has been a tremendous leader, a great free throw shooter and brought a steady hand to the defense. Baylor, the thing I love about Baylor is he’s gotten better by the month. He’s gotten stronger, more athletic, tougher.”

Two starters and several key bench players look to return.

“They need to celebrate the special moments they have had this season,” Lollar said. “We will have a good group of players. Gerber and O’Brien will be two of the better players in the league next year. We’ll also have Kaden Kraus. We’ll have some good players back.”

“We’re going to work our butts off, that’s for sure,” O’Brien said. “We’re not going to be satisfied with this. We’re going to be working for one next year.”

Phillipsburg (23-2)


Trey Sides;4-12;1-5;0-0;1;2;3;2;9;3;1;1;2;27

Ty Sides;4-8;2-5;0-0;0;1;1;2;10;2;4;0;3;25

Nathan Moon;0-1;0-0;2-4;0;1;1;5;2;0;1;0;2;17

Chris VanKooten;2-4;0-1;5-7;1;2;3;3;9;1;0;0;0;20

Jordan Ford;3-7;0-0;0-2;1;3;4;4;6;3;3;0;1;22

Braden Juenemann;0-0;0-0;0-0;0;0;0;1;0;0;0;0;0;1

Jacey Kellerman;0-0;0-0;0-0;0;0;0;0;0;0;1;0;0;9

Austin Miller;0-1;0-0;0-0;0;0;0;0;0;0;0;0;0;4

Trey Thompson;1-5;0-2;0-1;2;1;3;3;2;0;1;1;0;19

Jack Pakkebier;2-4;0-0;0-0;1;1;2;1;4;0;1;0;0;16



Halstead (23-2)


Andrew O'Brien;3-7;0-3;2-2;0;10;10;0;8;0;4;1;0;30

Braden Gerber;3-3;0-0;0-4;0;0;0;3;6;2;3;0;0;24

Dalton Kraus;0-1;0-1;8-8;0;2;2;3;8;4;6;0;1;31

Kason O'Neal;6-9;2-4;1-2;0;1;1;3;15;1;3;1;5;32

Wyatt Seibel;0-2;0-0;0-0;2;2;4;2;0;2;1;2;0;12

Kaden Kraus;0-0;0-0;2-2;1;0;1;2;2;0;1;0;2;8

Baylor Bohling;1-5;1-4;2-2;0;1;1;2;5;0;2;0;1;23

Lane Pitts;0-0;0-0;0-0;0;0;0;0;0;0;0;0;0;0+





Technical fouls — none. Fouled out — Phi.: Moon 1:08-4Q.