As the closing seconds of the third quarter of Friday’s KSHSAA Sub-State Championship game between SM North and SM West zipped off the clock, junior forward Marcus Weathers launched the ball toward the Indians’ basket from behind half court.
It found the backboard square and bounced cleanly through the hoop, electrifying the home crowd and giving the Indians a comfortable 12 point cushion as they headed into the final quarter. From the feel of things, SM North was about to cruise to its first state tournament appearance since 2002.
Turns out the Indians would need every bit of cushion they could get.
As the fourth quarter got under way, SM West coach Ryan Darst directed his team to apply full court pressure and attack the basket on offense, a strategy that had his team chipping away at the Indians’ lead. With 1:04 left to play, SM West trailed by just four points.
Even as the Vikings surged, though, Weathers said his team had no doubts that they’d be able to pull off the win.
“You’ve always got to keep believing and keep pushing,” he said after the game.
By taking care of the ball in the closing minute and draining free throws when it counted, the Indians were able to fend off the Vikings, holding on for a 58-52 win, and securing the sub-state title.
“It got a little hairy there at the end,” said head coach Steve Stitzer. “We weren’t making very good choices going on the offensive side.”
The Indians were led on offensive by Weathers and his fraternal twin Michael, who scored 17 and 15 points, respectively. Senior Nick Perez chipped in 14. Stitzer said that while the Weathers brothers have been key to the team’s success all season long, their supporting cast has been crucial as well.
“Micahel and Marcus Weathers have carried us all year,” he said. “But those other three guys on the court deserve a lot of credit.”
Stitzer has helped breath new life into the SM North program since taking the helm last season. Prior to coming to SM North, he spent 14 years as head coach of Hogan Prep Academy in Missouri, where he amassed a 273-120 record and took his team to state five times.
The Indians, now 15-7 on the year, will play their opening round state tournament game Wednesday at the Charles Koch Arena in Wichita against a yet-to-be-determined opponent.
SM East’s season came to an end Friday as they dropped their sub-state title game to Lawrence 45-60.