Boys pull upset, advance
On the inside, Graham Power was a bundle of nerves when he was called on to shoot a pair of free throws with 12 seconds left in De Soto's first-round 66-64 sub-state win over Lansing.
But on the outside, it was Power's ability to calm himself and concentrate as he connected on the game-winning charity tosses.
"I just said to myself, 'Graham, try not to screw up too bad," Power said. "I told Danny (Brown) before I took the shots that it was like being in the bottom of the ninth inning, with the bases loaded and the score tied. I knew I had to hit those free throws."
Following Power's winning stroke, Lansing still had a chance to tie or win the game, or win with 12 ticks left on the clock.
But the Lions couldn't connect on a couple of good looks and a tip. Hunter Noe then ripped down a defensive rebound and held on to the ball as the clock ran out.
De Soto coach Jason Generally was still in disbelief moments later.
"I wasn't sure what happened," he said. "I thought we had lost the game."
He soon realized that De Soto held off a furious rally by the Lions and secured the Wildcats' second win over Lansing this year as they advanced to the sub-state semifinals against Piper.
"That's one big step for our program," said senior guard Ryan Brown. "We're glad to be playing another day."
Assistant coach Toby Weir added, "These kids have been fun to coach all year. They really earned this one. Win or lose they've always bounced back. I think this win will give us an extra hop in our step."
Halfway through the final period, it looked as if De Soto was about to walk away with an impressive double-digit win.
"No matter who we play," Power said, "the other team always seems to hit a bunch of three pointers against us. We never seem to be able to get a clean win. We always have to make our games too interesting."
With less than three minutes left in the game, De Soto still clung to its biggest lead of the game at 60-48. That's when the Lions began to prey on the Wildcats.
Matt Warner, a 6-foot sophomore for the Lions, stepped up and swished a three pointer, narrowing the gap to 60-51.
Fellow sophomore Chris Wagner then cut the deficit to 60-56 when he scored on a lay-up and nailed another trey with 1:43 left in regulation.
Three more Wildcat turnovers down the stretch aided the Lions comeback bid.
"We were trying to hold on to the ball too much," Generally admitted after the game. "And that's when their press really started to hurt us. They saw we were having problems, and they took advantage of it."
De Soto built its double-digit advantage earlier in the second half by doing what Lansing did to get back in the game -- lighting up from three-point land.
The Wildcats made 6-of-7 three-point attempts in the second half, including all five tries in the third period, as they out-scored Lansing 25-14 in that frame, taking a 46-35 lead heading into the final quarter.
De Soto led by just three points with about two minutes left in the third frame when three different Wildcats stroked three-point attempts, fueling a 10-2 quarter-ending run.
Ryan Brown started the run when he found the bottom of the net from three-point-land and made the ensuing free throw after drawing a foul. Cody Mohan scored on a back-door cut for the Lions before Danny Brown and Josh Arnold connected on back-to-back three pointers.
In all, De Soto made 9-of-14 attempts from beyond the three-point arc on the night. Five different Wildcats hit treys, and five Wildcats scored in double figures.
"It all started when Hunter (Noe) hit that three-pointer early on," Generally said. "Sometimes we watch Danny too much. But tonight everybody was looking to make plays themselves. We came of age tonight. It was fun."
De Soto had a 12-10 advantage after the opening period and settled for a 21-21 deadlock at intermission.
Danny Brown led De Soto scorers with 18 points. Ryan Brown and Hunter Noe added 13 and 11, respectively. Arnold and Power each chipped in 10.
Danny Brown pulled down eight rebounds, while Noe and Power each grabbed six caroms.
Slater pulled down a game- high 14 rebounds for the Lions. Morehead ripped down seven boards.
The Wildcats ended regular season play last Friday with a 56-52 win over Basehor-Linwood. De Soto had a 23-18 advantage at halftime and led 36-35 going into the final period.
Danny Brown led all scorers with 21 points. Ryan Brown, Arnold and Noe all chipped in nine points apiece.
Noe, Danny Brown and Pete Crall each pulled down seven rebounds.
De Soto, 10-11, travels Friday to Lansing and will play Piper at 7:30 p.m.