MANHATTAN — One night after the greatest game-winning shot I’ve ever witnessed, St. John standouts Cole Kinnamon and Jorge Calleros departed the Class 2A state championship game with bloody noses when the Tigers needed them.
It was a lucky break for champion Salina Sacred Heart that no official saw Kinnamon or Calleros get tagged with a stray elbow, which could’ve been called a flagrant foul resulting in two Tiger free throws.
Coach Clint Kinnamon made no excuses, but stated the fact that missing time without his two best players in a two-point game proved critical. Kinnamon has coached four St. John teams to state titles.
The Knights’ Caleb Jordan sealed the Tigers’ fate with free throws down the stretch in a 59-51 victory.
Knights’ coach Pat Martin played on Sacred Heart’s last state basketball champion in 1981. Stratton Brown’s father, Greg Brown, played on the “Miracle Mustangs,” of Salina Central, which captured the 1983 5A state title with a losing record.
Cole Kinnamon created a lifetime memory with an improbable 35-foot miracle that clinched the Tigers’ six-overtime victory over Lawrence Seabury Academy. His 3-pointer against a trio of Seahawks is simply the greatest game-winning shot I’ve ever seen.
Coach Clint Kinnamon said the action on the play was borrowed from Mario Chalmers’ game-tying attempt by the University of Kansas against Memphis.
It was justice that the Tigers won the semifinal game 52-51 after Seabury coach Ashley Battles ripped the game out of his players’ hands by stalling to take the potential game-winning shot in regulation and four of the overtimes.
Coach Kinnamon’s choice to sit back and play zone defense was validated when the Seahawks missed 13 of 14 field goals from the end of regulation until the sixth overtime.
The Tigers were masterful working together with excellent team defense and crisp passing. The seniors — Kinnamon, Chase Fisher, Jorge Calleros, Alexis Valenzuela and Triston Long — finished 95-6 with two state championships and a state runner-up trophy.
The Tigers will feature a solid team led by Chase Fisher and Quincy Smith. But Central Prairie League rival Central Plains will be poised to challenge the Tigers next season.
Central Plains girls basketball coach coach Pat Stiles and his Oilers finished a 103-1 four-year state championship run with a hard-fought three-game stretch in Manhattan. The Oilers defeated Pittsburg Colgan 60-30, Valley Falls 53-41, Alma-Wabaunsee 60-48.
All-state point guard Emily Ryan (22 ppg), provided the Oilers with the best player in Class 2A. Janae Ryan and Kylee Kasselman performed brilliantly. Avery Hurley was the Oilers’ state sparkplug with an extra pass or hustle play. The Oilers featured perfect passing and aggressive defense.
The Oilers graduate three senior starters — Cassidy Crites, Janae Ryan and Kylee Kasselman — and Keeley Hipp started until she got sick near the end of the season. Crites, Ryan and Kasselman have signed to play college sports at the next level. Kirsten Gunder and Chelsey Bieberle also graduate.
Central Plains was head and shoulders above the Central Prairie league competition. It’s likely the Oilers will be favored to win the league again next year. Emily Ryan will set the tone with her unselfish passing. We’ll see how the complimentary players develop.
But the Oilers shouldn’t immediately be installed as the state favorite next season.
Class 2A state runner-up Alma-Wabaunsee returns its top two players — Karsen Schultz (22 ppg) and Abby Oliver. Fourth-place finisher Valley Falls and state qualifier Hill City return all but one player.
2A, TOP FIVE BOYS
1—Michael Wycoff, Seabury, 60
2—Zach McDermott, Seabury, 58
3—Chase Fisher, St. John, 57
4—Caleb Jordan, Sacred Heart, 51
5—Quinn Riordan, Sacred Heart, 48
2A, TOP FIVE GIRLS
1—Jaylin Stapleton, Meade, 75
2—Karsen Schultz, Wabaunsee, 66
3—Emily Ryan, Central Plains, 64
4—Kylee Kasselman, Central Plains, 38
5—Regan Kirkwood, Valley Falls, 37