Ness City, Hutch Trinity face-off in the 2A Boys Championship

Ness City senior Clayton Beutler is known as a 3-point specialist. In the season’s first 22 contests, Beutler tallied 103 points, with 90 coming from beyond the arc.

Ness City Eagle #21 Andres Rios drives to the basket in the first quarter. The Inman Teutons faced the Ness City Eagles in a Class 2A State Championship Semi-Final game held at Gross Memorial Coliseum on the campus of Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas on March 8, 2019. (Photo: Joey Bahr, www.joeybahr.com)

However, Beutler had contributed little offense in Ness City’s wild postseason run. In the three sub-state contests and the state quarterfinal, Beutler had tallied just five points on 2 of 8 shooting.

On Thursday, Beutler worked post-practice for around 25 to 30 minutes with a few other teammates and worked on his shot. The practice yielded a superb effort off the bench in Ness City’s 71-66 victory against Inman in the Class 2A state semifinals Friday at Fort Hays State University’s Gross Memorial Coliseum.

“I like to stay after practice, develop my shot a little bit more,” Beutler said. “See what I can do to get better.”

Off the bench, Beutler went 5 of 12 from the field, all 3-pointers, and tallied 15 points in 25 minutes. He sunk four treys in the first half as Ness City built a 33-26 lead.

“Feeling more comfortable,” Beutler said.

Beutler had his fourth double figure scoring contest and tied his season high set in a 76-55 win against Hill City on Jan. 29.

The 3-point shooting was the biggest difference in the game. Inman coach Brett Froese was impressed with NC senior John Pfannenstiel’s ability to just pass the ball to Beutler for treys, as opposed to driving and then kicking.

“The kid, no conscience, he just flat shot it,” Froese said.

Ness City was 9 of 26 from beyond the arc, Inman 7 of 19.

“Clay can shoot the ball, and he hasn’t shot well lately for Clay,” Rogers said. “But he stays after practice 30 to 45 minutes every day, and all he does is shoot, and run and shoot, and run and shoot, and the kid can really shoot the ball. I am so proud of him, and I am so happy for our team.”

Ness City coach Brandt Rogers first witnessed Beutler in a summer league game in Hays when he scored 26 first-half points off eight treys. Beutler has always been a sharpshooter who can catch fire. He also regularly comes up for Sunday shootarounds. He has sunk at least three treys in seven contests this year. The team calls him “Green Light Beut.”

“I give him the green light until he misses a few in a row,” Rogers said. “And then it’s over, but he will still bounce back from it.”

No. 4 seed Ness City improved to 21-4 and into the first state championship game in school history. The Eagles have won its postseason games by three, three, eight, two in overtime against Bishop Seabury on Wednesday, and then versus top-seeded Inman. The Teutons (21-3) dropped into the third place game versus St. Mary’s-Colgan (20-4).

The Seabury contest took a game-tying buzzer-beater 3 at the end of regulation from junior Easton Seib, who averages three points a contest. Then, Pfannenstiel sunk a game-winning runner to win the game.

“The boys really fight, and they fight and they fight,” Rogers said. “And they push for it.”

Ness City will play second-seeded Hutchinson Trinity (22-3) in the finals. On Saturday, the third-place game is scheduled for 2 p.m. with the championship set for 6:15 p.m.

“Happy about the way we played,” Beutler said. “Go get a ring tomorrow.”

NC is one of four Central Prairie League squads to reach the state tournament, joining the Central Plains boys and girls, and St. John boys, all in 1A.

Pfannenstiel, one of the state’s top players, had a game-high 20 points, including 10 of 10 from the free throw line.

“He’s a pretty sure thing at the free throw line in the fourth quarter,” Rogers said.

He picked up two fouls (both non-shooting) on Inman standout senior Payton Froese in the first quarter. Froese finished with 15 points and four assists. Inman senior Mason Thiessen, an Emporia State signee, had 19 points and 11 rebounds.

“The way we came out so tight was not typical for our team,” coach Froese said. “I did not expect that at all. We were loose today. We had a couple of guys dealing with some sickness, but that’s not an excuse. But we were just tight, and I didn’t quite understand that, and it cost us.”

NC led 33-24 at halftime. Before he went to the locker room, Rogers made his usual stop by the scorer’s table and checked fouls.

“When I got in there, the boys were just going absolutely nuts,” he said. “So I knew the energy was going to last.”

NC led 45-33 entering the fourth. Inman tallied 33 points in the fourth quarter and cut the lead to 60-53, though Pfannenstiel’s free throws sealed the victory.

“I just trust coach’s game,” Beutler said. “I know my role. I know everybody’s role for that matter. I trust coach, and it means a lot making school history tonight.”

Hutchinson Trinity defeats Colgan

Hutchinson Trinity coach Joe Hammersmith knew it was going to be a grinding game against patient Colgan in Friday’s first semifinal. The Celtics often had to play defense for at least 40 seconds and delivered a 36-31 victory.

Trinity’s defense held Panther standout Aaron Higginbotham to just seven points, 12 under his season average, and limited Colgan to 2 of 12 from beyond the arc. The Celtics moved into their third state finale, first since 1998.

“Our kids couldn’t get the ball where we wanted it at the right time, and so it created some problems for us,” Colgan coach Wayne Cichon said. “And they were able to match up with us, and our defense, we had a couple of lapses on defense.”

The Hammeke brothers, senior Kaleb and sophomore Lucas, and 6-foot-9 senior Joshua Bridgewater paced the Celtics.

Kaleb, a Fort Hays basketball signee, delivered six points on two critical treys, and Lucas paced the Celtics with 10 points and one 3. Bridgewater finished with eight points, seven rebounds and a block. Colgan senior Matthew Lomshek led the Panthers with 10 points.

“Be efficient on both ends,” Hammersmith said. “And we were efficient enough. We were attacking. We did turn the ball over a few times and that’s big against a team like that, but we were still in attack mode and that’s what we wanted to do, was stay within things, but still take it to them. We wanted some of those guys to have to defend.”