Greeley County downs Hanover at buzzer

Updated: Mar. 12, 2022 at 9:28 PM CST
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GREAT BEND, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Greeley County has a new hero. Maybe two. Junior Jaxson Brandl scored a game-high 31 points in Saturday’s Class 1A, Div. II state championship basketball game against Hanover. But freshman Lincoln Shafer hit a 3-pointer with just one second left to push the Jackrabbits past No. 1 Hanover 56-55 for the title.

“We drew it up in the huddle,” Shafer said. “I was a little shaky. I saw it looked good and felt good, so it went in.”

In a close game all night, Hanover almost had the game in hand with a pair of turnovers that led to baskets from seniors Philip Doebele and Emmitt Jueneman. The Wildcats pulled ahead 54-50 with just 2:07 remaining.

“I had to call that timeout because it was slipping through our fingers,” said Jackrabbit coach Josh Gooch. “Our senior got the steal and a timeout and we held our composure. A lot of these seniors and juniors have been playing since their freshman year so they’ve had their growing pains and taken their licks on games like that. We knew the game’s not over until it’s over.”

A trey from Brandl cut the gap to one, then Doebele made one of two free throws with 84 ticks left for a 55-53 score. Hanover missed another free throw in the one-and-one and Greeley County appeared to be holding the ball for one last shot. Then a turnover could have sealed the deal but Hanover again missed a free throw with just 13 seconds to play.

The Jackrabbits had made seven threes earlier in the game. Coach Gooch now had a decision to make.

“I asked the guys in the timeout if we wanted to go for the tie or the win,” he said. “Senior Cade Mangan said the win and I said yes, that’s what we’re doing. It didn’t go exactly as we drew it up, but the end result was the same.”

Once past the half-court line, Brandl created some space and junior Janiath Yanez found his target in the corner. The freshman put up his shot and slipped into the history books as Greeley County pulled ahead.

Shafer’s teammates ran the floor and tackled him only to learn one second remained on the clock. With players and spectators settled, Hanover senior Braelen Stallbaumer made a baseball pass to senior Keagan Dimler, who missed another game-winning try at the buzzer.

In a true east versus west match-up – Tribune and Hanover as separated by five-plus hours - the Jackrabbits were never intimidated heading into Saturday’s championship. Greeley County lost just two games all season in back-to-back contests against Ness City and Dighton in late January. The reigning-champion Wildcats were just another opponent.

“It really started Tuesday and Wednesday when (the media) picked everybody but us,” Gooch said. “We knew how good we were. We’ve relied on our defense all season, especially these last couple weeks. That’s what our mindset was going into this: no one has seen, in our division, a defense like ours.

“I know (Hanover) is long and athletic, and hats off to them, but they just haven’t seen a defense like ours. We play man the whole time, it’s fundamental defense, and we did it. We didn’t back down. They came out and punched us in the mouth but we didn’t back down.”

Hanover was effective early with the first five points in the game. Junior Joshua Zarybnicky scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds in the opening quarter to give the Wildcats a 19-15 lead after one.

Then Brandl warmed up with 13 points in the second quarter. The junior with more than 1,000 points to his name already gave the Jackrabbits their first lead of the night at 28-26 on a basket and foul with 2:38 to play in the first half. Brandl’s runner near the buzzer again leveled the score at 33 heading into the break.

Hanover again took control with the first five points of the third quarter. Brandl again had the answer with the next five points for Greeley. Brandl took a steal the distance in the final seconds of the third to hit 26 points on the night and give the Rabbits a 44-43 lead into the fourth.

Zarybnicky scored all 15 of his points in the first half and added 12 rebounds to lead the Wildcats. Dimler finished with 13 points, Doebele got his double-double with 11 points and 11 boards, and Jueneman finished with nine points. Hanover ends the season at 24-2.

Brandl scored his 31 points on 14-of-21 shooting and also had eight rebounds, five assists, and five steals. Shafer scored all 12 of his points from the perimeter on 4-of-11 shooting. Yanez added four points, and Mangan finished with three points and five assists.

Greeley County ends its championship season at 24-2.

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