By Jim Misunas
RUSSELL — Larned’s boys held a nine-point lead and were two minutes away from their first state basketball appearance in 20 years. The Indians lost a 3-point lead in the first overtime and a 4-point lead in the second overtime.
Pratt High stunned Larned 70-69 in two overtimes to capture the Class 4A-Division II state tournament berth.
“There were tears being shed and broken hearted players,” said Larned coach Don Zimmerman. “But that’s what it should feel like if you put everything into it that you are supposed to.”
Zimmerman said Pratt made clutch plays down the stretch of regulation and both overtimes, but it was a game that the Indians let slip through their fingers.
“I was proud of the effort and determination we put into that game,” Zimmerman said. “They had nothing to hang their heads about because we give it everything we had. Pratt battled us the entire time. There still was disappointment.”
Zimmerman said the Indians made good progress on the court, but needed to put the game away. A few missed free throws and untimely turnovers cost the Indians.
“We made some mistakes and that was frustrating,” he said. But this senior group took two good steps. They were competitive and hard-nosed and battled. Winning 13 games is a good achievement. But next time, we want to finish the job.”
Larned was riding high when Pratt sharpshooter Derek Barnard drew a technical foul for his fifth foul after pushing Grant Unruh. Larned’s Michael Reece capped a 14-2 run for a 50-41 lead. Camryn Bryant scored five points and Unruh had four points in Larned’s run.
But Pratt forced overtime at 55-55 with a 12-3 run as Spencer Sullivan scored 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers in the final 90 seconds of regulation. Christian Kurz added a basket for Pratt. Larned managed two free throws by Easton Palmer and a free throw by Bryant in the final 1:02. Larned’s Brayden Smith missed the final shot in regulation.
In the first overtime, Palmer nailed a 3-pointer, Isiah Perez made two free throws and Unruh added a free throw for a 62-59 lead.
But Pratt’s Samson Kohman converted his second 3-point play for a 62-62 tie. Pratt’s Shawn Ramos and Brandon Ruckle missed game-winning attempts.
The second overtime had a familar feel.
Smith passed to Ty O’Neill for a basket and Tyler Stelter’s assist led to a 3-pointer by Palmer for a 68-64 lead.
Larned still led 69-68 after Ramos and Kohman scored rebound baskets. But Sullivan converted a steal into the game-winning basket. Tyler Stelter and Smith missed shots to win the ballgame.
Sullivan led Pratt with 22 points and Kohman added 21 points. Larned’s Grant Unruh scored 17 points and Easton Palmer tallied 17 points.
Pratt (11-11) qualifies for the 4A D-II State Tournament and plays Scott City (19-3) Thursday at Hartman Arena.
Larned finishes with a 13-9 record. The Indians placed fourth in the 1994 Class 4A state tournament behind standout Jason Crosby and Brock Davidson, Kyle Holmberg, Todd Bauer and Mike VanVleet. Larned beat Louisburg 54-42 and lost to cjhampion Atchison County 57-52 and Valley Center 70-39 in the third-place game.
Pratt 70, Larned 69
Kohman 21, Sullivan 22, Kurz 8, Ruckle 7, Barnard 6, Ramos 2, Shumway 2, Bartel 2.
Unruh 17, Palmer 17, Reece 10, O’Neill 7, Bryant 7, Smith 5, Perez 4, Stelter 2.
PHS 16 9 12 18 7 8 — 70
LHS 15 14 7 19 7 7 — 69