There was no pressure on Winfield's Will Adler. As long as he drained two free throws with two seconds left in the game, the Vikings would hold a two-possession lead and secure a win.
Otherwise, Mulvane would have one last gasp for air to try to tie the game.
Not to mention that only a week ago, he was having trouble with free throws against El Dorado.
“I've been struggling a bit in the past, but I worked on it,” Adler said. “I just thought to go to the line as confident as possible and knock them down.”
With the Vikings clinching to a 62-60 edge, Adler toed the charity stripe. 63-60. Again. 64-60. Ballgame.
“Will's a good shooter. He's just like any shooter. He always knows he's going to make the next one,” said Winfield coach Troy Lallemand. “He lives for moments like that, and he came through in the clutch.”
Winfield's four-point victory over Mulvane constitutes a blowout in the budding rivalry.
On Dec. 18, the Wildcats squeaked out a two-point win. On Feb. 15, Winfield returned the favor. Tuesday's game followed the same path.
“We were trying to think of it as we were 0-0 tonight,” Adler said. “We weren't thinking about the loss. We weren't thinking about the win. We were just thinking about how we can beat them and their weaknesses.”
The Vikings led 24-20 at halftime. Back-to-back buckets from Kendyl Gard capped a 7-0 run to start the second half, putting Winfield up 11.
That sent Mulvane chasing hard the rest of the quarter. Winfield was up 13 heading into the fourth.
“We had good ball movement,” Adler said. “We didn't turn the ball over as much, we were hitting big shots and we were playing good defense – slowing their offense down.”
But the Wildcats had a final push left in them. Collin Dempsey came off the bench to spark a rush, scoring 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter for Mulvane. Dempsey's steal and layup brought Mulvane's deficit to 51-49 late in the contest.
Winfield stretched its lead back to seven with a 3-point play from Jonathan Mays with 1:19 to go. Still not defeated, Mulvane closed it back to two when Ty Redington collected a bad pass and layed it up to bring the score to 62-60.
It was right after that Adler stood tall at the free throw line, scoring two of his game-high 19 points. Mays added 15.
Redington, a senior, paced Mulvane (11-9) with 18. Dempsey contributed 12.
The Wildcats' entire starting five were seniors.
“Collin did a really nice job. He's going to be our leader next year. I thought he had a really good season. He came along and did a lot of really good things for us,” said Mulvane coach Don Shirley. “I just feel really bad for the seniors. They're a special group of kids.”
The Vikings (12-8), the No. 5 seed in the sub-state bracket, push ahead to challenge No. 1 Wichita Trinity (16-5).
Lallemand said Trinity is known for its balanced offense, but his priority has been polishing off Mulvane.
“As a coach, you live one day at a time. You don't start looking ahead. But now we can start looking ahead a little bit,” Lallemand said. “Our kids got a lot of confidence tonight.”