Return Flight: After a 1-year hiatus, Goessel Bluebirds return to state tourney


Austin Unruh out-muscles Pretty Prairie?s 6-8 center, Joe Lampe (left), and scores two of his 21 points before help from Keith Zerger arrived. Lampe led the Bulldogs with 13 points.

The Goessel High School boys? basketball team started Saturday night with a 5-0 run and did not trail on the way to a 70-64 ouster of Pretty Prairie in the final round of the Emporia 1A sub-state championship tournament.

The Bluebirds lead by as many as seven in the first quarter, with Niko Herman's 3-pointer putting GHS out front, 16-9. The Bulldogs rallied to force a 23-23 tie on Hunter Pittman's fast break layup, but Goessel answered with another 5-0 run?powered by Craig Banman's right wing trey that forced a Pretty Prairie timeout with 1:50 left in the first half.

GHS carried a 33-30 lead into the break and dynamited their opponent's bridge to the state tournament with a 21-point third quarter. Travis Fensky hit back-to-back 3-pointers to start the period, and Goessel's offense connected on layups in rapid succession to claim a 51-39 lead midway through.

Pretty Prairie showed signs of cracking late in the frame, leaving Austin Unruh unchecked to score a virtually uncontested layup off an inbounds play. Unruh also nailed a short jumper set up by Banman's assist to make it 54-43 through three quarters.

The Bulldogs in desperation brought variations of high-pressure defense throughout the fourth quarter, but could not break the Bluebirds.

Trailing by a 62-52 margin with 2:22 left, Pretty Prairie made a game of it by drawing four quick Goessel fouls and hitting six free throws in 26 seconds of clock time.

Banman picked up his fourth personal with 1:41 to go, but stayed aggressive enough to get GHS into the double-bonus with 1:28 left. He nailed both throws to re-up the Bluebirds lead to six.

Bristol Broce scored a Bulldogs layup to chop it back to four, but Unruh?s hustle prevented what could have been a cataclysmic turnover with 1:05 left. Having tracked down a loose ball, Unruh knocked down the foul shots.

The Bulldogs kept it interesting to final possession, with Ryan Chambers hitting a layup and Broce knocking down a mid-range jumper on the right wing side with 23 seconds left. But Goessel answered each bucket with free throws, and maintained a 4-point lead throughout the final minute.

Unruh posted 21 points for the second consecutive night?his 21-12 double-double lifted GHS to a 52-48 win against Hartford in the semifinal Friday. Support came in the form of 14 points from Weston Hiebert, 11 from Fensky and 10 from Banman.

Goessel outscored Pretty Prairie 21-12 at the foul line, out-chancing the Bulldogs 38-18 and converting 55 percent. Pretty Prairie's top scorer was 6-8 tower Joe Lampe, who had 13 points.

Against Hartford, Goessel led 25-16 at halftime despite shooting under 40 percent before intermission. GHS shot 53 percent from the field after the intermission and drained 11 of 21 free throws to hold on for the win. The Bluebirds limited Hartford to 1-for-10 from 3-point range in the first half, and allowed just four makes on 19 Hartford 3-point tries.

Coming?Goessel (20-5) is seeded seventh in the Class 1A State Tournament and will open against second-seeded Thunder Ridge (25-0) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Hays.

?Thunder Ridge is a very talented basketball team,? coach Justin Coup said. ?They are in their first year of consolidation with a new coach, new school, new everything, but none of that seems to have distracted them.?

Coup said Thunder Ridge has considerable offensive firepower?enough to threaten any 1A team both in the paint and from long range.

?They have two kids that really make them go: the really quick point guard, Micheal Yoxall (5-7) and a very long athletic post, Jordan Kirk (6-5). After watching film and talking with other coaches, they have several scorers from outside that can really shoot the three ball. They are quick and athletic, not a real tall team outside of Kirk, but really get after it on the boards,? he said. ?I really think we match up well with them. Our athleticism should match theirs and at state we know anything can happen. We are excited about the opportunity to go in and pull off the bracket upset.?

If the Bluebirds are victorious, they would play the winner of No. 3 Hanover (25-0) and No. 6 Macksville (23-2) at 8:15 p.m. Friday. The teams on the other side of the bracket are No. 1 Crest (25-0), No. 8 Centralia (19-6), No. 4 Quinter (24-1) and No. 5 South Gray (24-1).

The 1A championship is slated for 6:15 p.m. Saturday.

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