Olpe sweeps the day, wins 1A D1 boys title
DODGE CITY, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Undefeated Montezuma-South Gray and Olpe were tied at 39 with 4 minutes, 21 seconds left. Junior Derek Hoelting had faith that sophomore Truman Bailey, a reserve, could hit a big shot. Bailey had suffered injury near the end of football and was more known for defense in basketball. Hoelting saw Bailey out of the corner of his eye.
Bailey collected Hoelting’s pass and delivered a huge 3-pointer that gave Olpe its final lead. Olpe eventually earned a 54-47 win versus the Rebels in the Class 1A, Division I state championship on Saturday at United Wireless Arena.
“I knew that was money,” Hoelting said.
Then, Olpe sank three straight shots. Hoelting had another assist on a basket from senior forward Christopher Olsson. Hoelting tallied a score, and then found Bailey again for a trey, the Eagles’ last field goal of the contest.
Olpe led 49-41 and sealed the win with free throws. Notably, senior Jordan Barnard, the team’s leading scorer and the best player at the state tournament, made three foul shots and delivered a game-high 17 points.
“He knocked it in,” Hoelting said. “And I kept looking for him. And I happened to be in the right place at the right time to see everybody, and they got in my view to where I could see them. It was just a heckuva good moment to be in.”
Olpe capped an historic day and school year. Chris Schmidt is the longtime football and boys’ basketball coach at his alma mater. Olpe won 1A football in the fall. Earlier Saturday, the Eagle girls completed an undefeated season with their fourth title in 44 years under coach Jesse Nelson. Then, the boys won its first basketball crown. Olpe had made one previous final, a double-overtime loss to Pittsburg Colgan in 2002, a defeat Schmidt still remembers.
“Great day for our community,” Schmidt said. “Our kids worked so hard starting with our girls.”
Olpe boys finished 18-3 and pulled back-to-back upsets versus Little River and South Gray, considered the classification favorites since early December. SG, under 39th-year coach Mark Applegate, was trying to finish as the lone boy unbeaten team in Kansas. The Rebels concluded 24-1. Applegate said Olpe played “really well.”
“They took care of the ball, and they didn’t make very many mistakes down the stretch,” Applegate said. “And we did. I mean, I thought we took ill-advised shots when we should not have and went away from what we did the first three quarters. You have got to take your hats off to Olpe.”
Both teams played with high intensity and delivered strong defense throughout the contest. SG had the size advantage with 6-foot-5 senior center Carter Riley and 6-foot-3 senior Aaron Skidmore, both college football signings and at least 210 pounds.
“Those kids, they gutted it out,” Applegate said. “I mean, they are athletes.”
The 6-foot Olsson battled well in the post and delivered six points and seven rebounds. Olsson was a first-year starter. He could not play as a junior after he transferred from nearby Emporia. Olsson said he tried to “play under” Riley and keep him from going to his dominant right hand.
“We have got to be physical with them,” Schmidt said. “And try to get them away from the basket and make them shoot over the top of us. The Riley kid, he likes to get you pinned.”
Skidmore finished 4 of 12 for 11 points. Riley was 3 of 8 for nine points. Junior Brent Penner paced SG with 14 off the bench. South Gray shot 38 percent .
“You’ve just got to learn that defense wins championships,” Hoelting said. “…You have got to work your tail off if you want to stop people that are bigger than you, and I think it just boils down to whoever has the more heart, and I thought we had a lot of heart tonight.”
South Gray missed its first 11 shots, and Olpe led 7-6 after the first quarter. However, SG was ahead 27-20 at halftime and 33-31 entering the fourth quarter. Overall, Bailey finished 4 of 7 from the field and 3 of 4 on treys for 11 points.
“We had to come off of somebody, and that’s who we thought we’d come off of,” Applegate said.
In the semifinals, Bailey delivered five points in just under nine minutes against top-ranked Little River. He exceeded that in the fourth quarter.
“He’s just continuing to get better,” Schmidt said. “He is a confident kid shooting the ball, and his thing is defensively, but tonight, I thought he did a nice job when he was in.”
Junior Brady Deges made a trey to cut Olpe’s lead to 50-47 with 26.2 seconds left. Barnard made 1 of 2 free throws, and Skidmore missed a 3 with 12.5 seconds remaining. Applegate has led South Gray to four titles: ’97, ’07, ’08 and ’18. The last crown is his only undefeated season. Applegate labeled this winter a “great year,” especially considering the COVID-19 pandemic that caused long layoffs.
“These kids, they fought through it,” Applegate said. “And stayed undefeated. It’s just a great group of boys. They really are.”
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