On a night when defense dominated, Inman High had every answer for Little River’s effective inside/outside attack in the Class 2A Sterling substate.
Inman held off Little River’s rally 42-39 to clinch a Class 2A state tournament berth at Manhattan’s Bramlage Coliseum. It's Inman first state trip since 2006 when the Teutons lost 42-39 to Republic County in the first round.
Inman (18-5) will meet Heart of America League rival Moundridge at 4:45 p.m. in Wednesday's state tournament opener. Moundridge beat Inman 61-60 and the Teutons edged the Wildcats 60-56 during the regular season.
Moments after the Teutons accepted the substate championship trophy, Inman’s wild and crazy crowd celebrated by storming the court.
“Our fans have been great all year long,” said Inman coach Brett Froese. “We’ve got a great bunch of young men and it’s very easy to cheer for them. It’s a very close team. Our crowd has been very supportive for us.”
The Teutons showed off a 2-3 zone and a 3-2 matchup zone that slowed down the Redskins attacks to the basket while defending the perimeter. The Redskins’ Tevin Renken made a pair of 3-pointers and Dalton Konen added one 3-pointer.
It was the fifth time the teams have played during the past two seasons.
“It’s tough when you play a team that many times. Little River is a very physical and athletic team, but we were able to slow them with a couple of our zones,” Froese said. “They want to play fast and it got them out of their offensive rhythm when we showed them different looks. They shot a lot of 3-pointers, but they didn’t make very many.”
The Teutons from the Heart of America League maintained a comfortable 10-point lead through the second and third periods. After Justin Friesen and Alex Ropp scored, the Teutons’ lead again reached 10 points at 38-28 with three minutes left.
Little River (18-5) rallied in a 20-second span with seven points. Chet Cordell’s basket was followed by back-to-back steals and baskets by Renken and Dalton Konen’s 3-pointer off Cordell’s assist with 1:46 left.
Inman’s Josh Miller converted a pair of free throws for a 40-35 margin with 57 seconds left. Friesen iced the victory with two free throws for a 42-36 lead after Little River’s Renken, Cordell and Ethan Wright missed field goal attempts.
Renken’s final 3-pointer with 0.7 of a second left cut the final margin to 42-39.
Inman’s Justin Friesen led the way with 18 points, including four 3-point goals. He scored 11 first-half points for a 25-13 Inman halftime lead. The Teutons maintained their comfortable lead 34-24 after three periods with solid defense and a patient offense.
“Justin is a great shooter who gave us a lift,” Froese said. “When he catches and shoots, he can make seven or eight in a row.”
The muscular 6-foot-4 Ropp added 10 points, and drew a charging foul. Miller scored eight points.
“We missed some opportunities,” Froese said. “Our biggest problem we had trouble scoring too. We got good open looks and didn’t convert. Little River was aggressive in the post defensively.”
Renken paced the Redskins with 15 points. Dalton Konen scored 10 points and Cordell chipped in nine points. But the Redskins failed to convert from the free throw line with 6 of 19 foul shooting, and a trio of one-and-one misses that cost them the ballgame.