SALINA, Kan. - After opening the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run, Kansas City Piper was in good position to hold off top seeded Wichita Trinity.
Trinity, after all, held a one point lead going to the fourth quarter, outscoring the Pirates by five in the frame to erase a halftime deficit.
Then for Piper, it all very nearly came crashing down, until Tyren Shelley saved the day.
Trinity entered desperation mode, trailing with the clock winding down and needing to foul. The strategy was working, as they whittled the Pirate lead down to 3, 54-51, after a Caden Vanlandingham bucket made it a one possession game.
Then on the ensuing in-bound, the unthinkable happened for the Pirates. Trinity got two hands on the ball, the refs whistled for a jump ball, and Trinity held possession. The Knights could at the very least tie.
Following a timeout, Trinity put the ball in Vanlandingham's hands. He was their best option, 16 points at that spot in the game, all coming after halftime. He got off a contested look from deep, the ball landing well short, but bailed out by a whistle. Three free throws. Vanlandingham sunk them all.
For the Pirates, it was hit a game winner or go to overtime. And thanks to Shelley, the latter happened. Shelley had attempted just five shots--all from range--before the ball came to him with an open look from deep--nothing but net. The clock hit 0:00, a heave from the Knight coming up well short, and the Pirates were on their way to their first state championship appearance in school history, 57-54 the final score.
Shelley finished with 9 points, all coming on threes, none bigger than the final shot. Tyrone Bates scored 16 to lead Piper, while Tamar Bates added 15.
Vanlandingham and teammate Nate Adler each had big games in different halves. Adler scored 12, hitting four treys all before halftime. Vanlandingham finished with 19, very nearly keeping Trinity's shot at a state championship alive. Instead, they'll meet Chapman in Saturday's third place game.
Piper will face off against Augusta, the Cinderella team of the 4A tourney who has beaten both the 2 and 3 seeds to reach the state title game.