ALMA – Part of the charm of sports is the unsung hero willing his team to victory. Burlingame had a couple of those Friday night in a Class 2A sub-state semifinal.
Colton Noonan and Caiden Musick, gifted athletes who rarely receive the headlines in a program loaded with talent, wore the capes during the Bearcats’ 52-46 win against perennial power Olpe.
The duo combined for 29 points and made big play after big play as Burlingame slowly pulled away from the Eagles before hanging on for its life down the stretch.
Coming into the season, the Bearcats ranked among a handful of contenders for a state championship. Anchored by all-state forward Jake Thompson and arguably the best point guard in the class, Dalton Sporing, Burlingame figured to build on last year’s run to third place in Class 1A Division I in 2017.
Then, in the span of a few weeks, the Bearcats lost Sporing to his second ACL tear in nine months, followed by Montana Giffin, an all-league off guard who took over at point to start the season, to an ankle injury.
Ultimately, the Bearcats played virtually the entire season without their starting backcourt. After struggling a bit for several games, Burlingame began to take off when Noonan, an aggressive and fast guard, emerged as the leader.
Musick, an athletic 6-foot-7 post player, helped the Bearcats stay afloat as they adjusted to a new style of play and a different mix of players.
Despite what would be debilitating injuries for most teams, Burlingame managed to win the Lyon County League tournament while finishing 17-2 in the regular season. The only losses along the way were a one-point loss in the closing seconds at Lyndon and a loss at Olpe, which they avenged two weeks later at the LCL tourney.
Armed with a plethora of experience, including deep postseason runs in basketball and football, and an enviable array of talent, the Bearcats were battled-tested going into sub-state.
After cruising by Madison/Hamilton in the first round, Burlingame faced another big hurdle against an Eagles team featuring one of the best players in Class 2A in Damon Schmidt and the always-rigid defense of longtime coach Chris Schmidt.
The Bearcats cleared that hurdle largely because Musick played with reckless abandon, attacking the basket with fury while scoring 14 points and grabbing seven rebounds against a great defensive big man in Schmidt.
At one point in the first half, Musick took a pass near the free throw line, drove through the lane and soared to the basket in an attempt to dunk over Schmidt. The ball rattled out for a missed jam, but the message was clear: Musick came to play.
Meanwhile, Noonan was fearless at the point, holding off Olpe’s suffocating guards to set up the offense. He also buried timely threes and came up with a handful of critical steals.
HANGING ON LATE
Musick, Tristan Lee and Thompson scored on layups as Burlingame jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the opening moments, but Olpe countered with an 8-2 run to take the lead. Wyatt Schulz took advantage of a Bearcats defense focused on smothering Schmidt, hitting three mid-range jumpers in the quarter.
Burlingame pulled even on Noonan’s runner at the end of the first quarter, and surged ahead on six straights points from the senior point guard and Musick. The Bearcats led 25-21 when Giffin, playing in his second game since returning from the injury, hit a short jumper at the buzzer.
Burlingame had a chance to pull away early in the third quarter, but struggled at the foul line. The Bearcats still grabbed a 28-21 lead when Musick scored on a beautiful fast break that included nifty passes from Noonan and Seth Greenwood.
Trailing 36-29 at the start of the fourth period, the Eagles (17-4) cut the deficit to 37-33 on Schmidt’s 17-footer. But the Bearcats answered with back-to-back buckets from Noonan and Thompson.
Olpe took advantage of Burlingame’s struggles at the foul line, where the Bearcats missed nine free throws in the final quarter, to chip away at the deficit. When Kadon Redeker canned a trey from the left corner, the Eagles trailed 45-44 with 39.4 seconds left.
Olpe pressed on the ensuing inbounds play, but Burlingame broke it and ended up with a layup from Greenwood with 30 seconds left. Greenwood, yet another unsung hero, forced a turnover moments later, and Giffin put the game away with a pair of free throws.
Noonan had 15 points, while Thompson added nine. Schulz led the Eagles with 15 points, while Schmidt had 14 points and eight rebounds. Camden Hoelting had 13 points.
The Bearcats won despite finishing 11 of 25 at the foul line, including 5 of 14 in the fourth quarter.
BURLINGAME 52, OLPE 46
Olpe 10 11 8 17 — 46
Burlingame 10 15 11 16 — 52
Olpe (17-4) – Schulz 7-11 0-0 15, Schmidt 6-12 2-2 14, Hoelting 5-10 0-0 13, K. Redeker 1-4 1-3 4, Pimple 0-2 0-0 0, C. Redeker 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 19-41 3-5 46.
Burlingame (19-2) – Noonan 5-11 3-13 15, Musick 6-9 2-4 14, Thompson 3-5 3-5 9, Greenwood 2-4 1-2 5, Lee 2-2 0-0 4, Giffin 1-2 2-2 4, Herrick 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 19-36 11-25 52.
3-point goals: Olpe 5-13 (Hoelting 3-7, K. Redeker 1-2, Schulz 1-1, Schmidt 0-2, Pimple 0-1); Burlingame 2-10 (Noonan 2-7, Herrick 0-3). Rebounds: Olpe 19 (Schmidt 8), Burlingame 18 (Musick 7).
LYNDON 39, JACKSON HEIGHTS 32
The top-seeded and undefeated Tigers held off the 2016 state champions behind a stingy defense that limited the Cobras to 11-of-48 shooting, including 6 of 26 from 3-point range.
Lyndon (22-0) led 9-2 at the end of the first quarter and 13-10 after a defensive first half, but Jackson Heights (15-6) took the lead briefly in the third period on a three from Levi Olberding and short jumper by Brady Holliday.
The Tigers countered with eight straight points, including six from Jamie Reed, to take a 21-15 lead. Heights pulled even on a trey by Kolby Rethman, but trailed 25-21 going into the fourth.
Lyndon led by six early in the final stanza and held on down the stretch, though the Cobras got as close as two, at 29-27, on Rethman’s 25-footer from the key.
The Tigers made just enough free throws (7 of 12 in the quarter) to hang on.
Olberding led Jackson Heights with 10 points, while Reed and Dexton Swinehart had 11 points each for Lyndon.
JACKSON HEIGHTS 39, LYNDON 32
Jackson Heights 2 8 11 11 — 32
Lyndon 9 4 12 14 — 39
JACKSON HEIGHTS (15-6) – Olberding 4-14 0-1 10, Rethman 3-11 0-0 8, Thomas 2-11 0-0 6, Dahl 1-4 4-8 6, Childs 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 11-48 4-11 32.
LYNDON (22-0) – Swinehart 4-14 2-4 11, J. Reed 4-10 3-3 11, S. Reed 2-8 3-4 8, Krause 2-4 1-3 5, Miller 1-2 1-2 3, Stevicks 0-4 1-3 1. Hielscher 0-1 0-0 0, Kitselman 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 13-44 11-17 39.
3-point goals: Jackson Heights 6-26 (Rethman 2-9, Thomas 2-8, Olberding 2-6, Holliday 0-2, Dahl 0-1), Lyndon 2-18 (Swinehart 1-6, S. Reed 1-4, J. Reed 0-4, Stevicks 0-2, Hielscher 0-1, Kitselman 0-1). Rebounds: Jackson Heights 34 (Dahl 18), Lyndon 34 (Miller 7).