LARNED, Kan. - Larned senior Chance Sanger follows the same routine before every free throw. He takes one dribble, and tells himself, “nothing but net.” Sanger’s mentality helped in the fourth quarter and overtime in the Indians’ 61-55 home victory Tuesday against Haven.
Sanger, who delivered a game-high 24 points, made the front end of a 1-and-1 with 12.9 seconds remaining to help force overtime at 52 all.
In OT, Sanger went 5 of 6 from the foul line, all after Larned standout senior guard Mason Perez fouled out. Overall, Sanger, who averages around 15 points, finished 6 of 8 on free throws.
“Usually goes in, I have been practicing a lot,” Sanger said.
Besides Sanger, Larned went 0 of 5 from the line in overtime. The team shot 8 of 16 overall on foul shots. Haven was 1 of 3 on free throws in the extra time and 7 of 14 for the game.
“He was very poised tonight, and Chance has matured,” Larned coach Jerrod Smith said. “He played a little bit for me as a freshman, and started as a sophomore, and it’s been fun to watch him mature. When he was young, when shots weren’t going in, it kind of affected his entire game. And he’s learned now that he can contribute in a lot of different ways.”
Larned, part of a six-way tie for tenth in this week’s Kansas Basketball Coaches Association Class 3A rankings, improved to 12-3. Haven, second in the poll, dropped to 14-2.
“We did not make free throws and easy baskets,” Haven coach Lonnie Paramore said. “In that fourth quarter, I think we could have salted the game away, but we just didn’t.”
Both squads are in the Central Kansas League and in the Halstead sub-state. Last winter, Larned reached state for the first time in 25 years.
The Indians amassed another quality win. Larned has won two tournaments and have a victory versus St. John, ranked fourth in 1A. However, Larned has split with unranked Nickerson, including a 12-point loss.
“That’s the frustrating thing with this group, and it’s been that way as I have coached them along,” Smith said. “We were a little bit that way last year, too, and they elevate their play to big games, which is a credit to them. But yeah, we’ve got to be able to maintain this type of energy and effort against lesser opponents.”
“And that’s no discredit to some of the teams that have beaten us,” he added. “But we’ve got to figure out how to play like this each and every night, and if we can do that, we are going to be OK, because it’s going to continue to be tough.”
Haven allowed 60 points in its season opener. Since then, the Wildcats had permitted more than 50 once, in an 84-57 victory against Winfield on Jan. 20.
“Sanger was a heckuva player tonight,” Paramore said. “And we knew he’s really good. They have got a lot of good players. He made a lot of plays. Early on, I didn’t think we communicated very well with it – where he was at.”
Haven’s trademark is the 1-3-1 defense. Larned sunk 9 of 23 (39 percent) from beyond the arc and forced a rare defensive change from the Wildcats to a 3-2.
“Because of (Sanger) shooting,” Smith said. “And then it was driving and getting to the free throw line and rebounding the basketball, and hitting critical free throws down the stretch. And great defensive effort as well.”
Haven standout senior forward Wyatt Carmichael paced the Wildcats with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Larned junior Layton Crosby played well inside with 12 points and three boards. Crosby has moved into the starting lineup the last several games.
“I was a little bit concerned about Carmichael’s athleticism being a little superior to Layton’s, and him not having the footwork to be able to stay with him,” Smith said. “But he did a pretty good job.”
Larned never trailed in the first half. The Indians had a 16-13 lead after the first quarter and built a 24-16 advantage before Haven tallied the last eight points before the break. The third quarter yielded multiple ties, including 26, 28, 31 and 38, and Haven held a 40-38 advantage into the fourth.
“Pretty intense,” Sanger said. “They are one of the best teams in our league, and I thought that we played pretty good, just had to keep pushing the whole time, it was never letting up.”
Haven was up 46-40 before Sanger, the MVP of the St. John tournament in mid-January, delivered a pair of treys within 35 seconds to tie the score at 46. The second time, Perez had a steal and then found Sanger for the trey well beyond the line.
Larned led 51-50 before the teams combined for three straight turnovers. Carmichael scored inside for a 52-51 advantage off a pass from junior Darby Roper. Sanger drew a foul and tied the game at 52. Haven turned the ball over with a tenth of a second left in regulation and never had a clean look.
Perez fouled out 21 seconds into overtime after a complete game. Perez, like Sanger and senior Brock Skelton, is a four-year player and three-year starter. The seniors, Crosby and Smith have played together since third and fourth grade.
A Fort Hays football signee, Perez delivered seven points, seven rebounds, four assists. Known for his defense, Perez collected four steals and blocked a shot.
“Just kind of brought ourselves together,” Sanger said. “We never really got down about it, just kept our heads and focused.”
Larned never trailed in overtime. Skelton (12 points) broke the tie with a steal and full court layup. He cramped up just after he scored. Then, junior Jack Stelter found junior Dillan Smith for a trey. Carmichael scored on the inside to cut the deficit to 56-54, though missed a free throw.
Haven then misfired its final seven field goals, several that would have tied or given the Wildcats a lead.
“We missed shots that we normally make,” Paramore said. “And our free throw shooters are usually better than what they shot as well.”
Sanger, with his familiar routine, iced the victory with a pair of free throws after a defensive rebound with 21.8 seconds remaining.
“Just kept telling myself nothing but net,” Sanger said. “Just think every one is going to go in. A lot of mental.”