EMPORIA — The St. John-Hudson High School boys’ basketball team went 11-for-16 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to hold on for a 61-56 victory in a Class 1A Division-I state tournament semifinal game against Centralia on Friday night.
With the win, the Tigers advanced to Saturday night’s championship game against South Haven. They will be making their first appearance in a state title game since 2008, when they lost 49-42 to Montezuma-South Gray.
“We expended a lot of energy,” St. John head coach Clint Kinnamon said. “South Haven had to expend a lot of energy, too. When you get to the semifinals and when you’re the one who has to play three in a row, that conditioning you’ve built up all season is going to come into play.
“Our guys, they’re going to play a lot on adrenaline (in the championship game), but at the same time, we’ve done a lot of conditioning.”
After Ethan Long hit 1 of 2 free throws with 28.4 seconds remaining in the game, Centralia’s Devin Rempe sank a 3-pointer to close the game to 59-56 with 18.4 on the clock.
Kade Kinnamon, who finished with 12 points, was fouled on the next possession and made the first of two foul shots. His second shot rimmed out, and he beat four Panthers players for the offensive rebound.
He drew another foul, and made the front end of the next pair.
“Ethan was 2 of 4 down the stretch,” Clint Kinnamon said. “He hit a couple to keep it a two-possession game. With Kade, we don’t have anybody under (the basket). What I think happened was it deflected hard, and it came back to him. That was nice.”
He took an extra seven seconds off the clock with the play, and the Panthers missed a last-second 3-pointer on the other end.
St. John recovered the rebound to close out the game.
Trailing 15-12 after eight minutes, St. John sprung to life with a 10-0 run to open the second quarter.
Zuriel Reyes drained a 3-pointer from the left wing, followed by a pull-up jumper and a layup from Dean Wade, who completed a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. He also had four bocks.
Reyes went 6-for-9 from the field for 15 points.
Spencer Nusser, who scored a team-leading 17 points, capped the run with a trey from the top of the key, giving St. John a 22-15 lead.
Samuel Steinlage made 1 of 2 free throws for the Panthers before Nusser put up a shot from the paint and got a free throw for a three-point play, making it 25-16.
The Tigers extended their lead to 33-22 at intermission.
“Dean was good tonight,” Clint Kinnamon said. “Dean was very good. Ethan was good. He didn’t score like he did the night before, but he had seven rebounds. He played well tonight.
“It was nice to see Kade, Spencer and Zuriel have a nice night tonight. They have been our four leading scorers this year. I probably expect them to be our leading scorers in the championship game as well.”
HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
Class 1A Division-I
St. John-Hudson 61, Centralia 56
Cody Huerter 1-4 4-4 6, Devin Rempe 3-9 1-2 10, Samuel Steinlage 6-12 2-7 14, Jovon Rosine 0-6 2-2 2, Brett Burdiek 7-16 5-6 20, Theodore 0-0 0-0 0, Darrian Turner 0-1 0-0 0, Hunter Haufler 1-1 0-0 2, Trevor Mars 1-5 0-0 2. Totals 19-54 14-21 56.
ST. JOHN (22-1)
Kade Kinnamon 3-8 6-9 12, Spencer Nusser 5-7 6-7 17, Ethan Long 0-1 2-4 2, Dean Wade 6-11 2-2 15, Zuriel Reyes 6-9 1-3 15, Trey Nelson 0-1 0-0 0, Omar Ramirez 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 20-40 17-25 61.
Centralia 15 7 12 22 — 56
St. John 12 21 11 17 — 61
Three-point goals — St. John 4-13 (Reyes 2-4, Wade 1-2, Nusser 1-1, Kinnamon 0-4, Nelson 0-1, Ramirez 0-1); Centralia 4-23 (Rempe 3-8, Burdiek 1-5, Rosine 0-4, Mars 0-4, Huerter 0-2). Total fouls — Centralia 23, St. John 18. Fouled out — Centralia (Huerter, Steinlage); St. John (Wade). Technical foul — St. John (bench).