Webb: Practice makes perfect for Giffin as Bearcats reach state tournament

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Burlingame heads to the state tournament with a 20-2 record.

ALMA – For several weeks, the only basketball activity Montana Giffin could participate in was shooting free throws due to an ankle injury that sidelined the junior for 16 games. That came in handy Saturday night with a trip to the state tournament on the line.

Giffin calmly buried four straight free throws down the stretch as Burlingame (20-2) knocked off undefeated and second-ranked Lyndon 52-42 to secure back-to-back berths to state.

“All I could do for six weeks was shoot free throws, so I shot free throws,” Giffin said. “That helped tonight. This is an unbelievable feeling, especially getting back to state with all we’ve had to deal with this season.”

The Bearcats are no strangers to adversity, as they have endured a season without their starting point guard because of an ACL tear and more than two months without Giffin, a starting shooting guard who moved over to the point when Dalton Sporing hurt his knee in football.

Though it took the team several games to adjust to new roles, Burlingame persevered behind a slew of seasoned veterans like forwards Jake Thompson, Tristan Lee and Caiden Musick and guards Colton Noonan, Seth Greenwood and Zach Herrick.

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“This means a lot to me and these kids to overcome what we have and get back to state,” said coach Creighton Winters, whose team finished third in Class 1A Division I last season. “This is in an experienced group, and they’ve played in a lot of big games, so I knew the moment wasn’t going to get to them. They really played well tonight.”

Burlingame needed to play well against a Lyndon team that rolled through the regular season without a loss, including a one-point win at home against the Bearcats in the December. Burlingame remembered that game all season.

“That was a big factor tonight because we felt like Jake didn’t play well in that game, and Montana didn’t play much because of his injury,” Winters said. “This is who we wanted to play. We knew it’d be tough, but we wanted another shot at them.”

Burlingame led most of the night, but did weather several Lyndon runs. The first came after the Bearcats bolted to an 11-2 lead on Lee’s put-back midway through the first quarter. The Tigers (22-1) went on a 10-2 run, closing the quarter with a fast-break layup at the buzzer to pull within 13-12.

Burlingame surged ahead again in the second period with five straight points, but Lyndon answered with an 11-4 run and pulled ahead at the half. On the final play of the frame, Shaugn Reed’s 3-pointer from the corner bounced high off the rim and backboard before settling through the net for a 23-22 advantage.

The teams went back and forth early in the second half before Herrick, who hit the winning trey during the second overtime of the Class 1A Division I third-place game in 2017, canned a three from the right wing for a 33-28 lead.

Lyndon got as close as 36-33 at the end of the third frame, but Thompson hit three free throws to start the fourth. The Bearcats led by at least five points the rest of the way, connecting on 12 of 21 shots from the foul line to hang on for the victory.

The Tigers frantically scrambled on defense in an attempt to force turnovers, but Burlingame’s fundamentally sound and quick guards, notably Giffin, repeatedly dribbled out of trouble.

“Giffin was so good tonight,” Winters said. “We really needed him tonight, and he stepped up.”

The Bearcats play Sacred Heart, the defending state champion, in the first round of the Class 2A tournament Thursday in Manhattan.

“We’re just going to go and have fun and see what happens,” Giffin said. “We feel like our experience will help, especially after finishing third last year.”

BURLINGAME 52, LYNDON 42

Burlingame      13        9          14        16        —          52
Lyndon                        12        11        10        9          —          42

BURLINGAME (20-2): Thompson 4-7 5-7 13, Musick 4-7 1-1 10, Noonan 3-7 2-6 9, Giffin 0-2 8-8 8, Lee 1-4 4-7 6, Herrick 1-4 0-0 3, Greenwood 1-3 0-2 3, Hovestadt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-34 20-31 52.
LYNDON (22-1): Swinehart 4-15 3-7 13, J. Reed 4-14 4-5 13, S. Reed 2-4 0-0 6, Kitselman 2-3 0-0 5, Stevicks 2-7 0-0 4, Krause 0-2 1-3 1, Miller 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 14-46 8-15 42.

3-point goals: Burlingame 4-16 (Noonan 1-5, Herrick 1-4, Greenwood 1-3, Musick 1-2, Giffin 0-2), Lyndon 6-22 (Swinehart 2-10, S. Reed 2-4, J. Reed 1-6, Kistelman 1-2). Rebounds: Burlingame 34 (Thompson 6, Lee 6, Musick 6), Lyndon 18 (Stevicks 6).

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Webb: Gritty Bearcats keep winning behind Noonan, Musick

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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.

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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).

Bearcats partying like it’s 1995

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Burlingame finished the regular season with a 20-2 record, reaching a state tournament for the first time since 1995. The Bearcats hadn’t won 20 games in a season since 1995-96.

The last time Burlingame’s boys basketball team played in a state tournament, Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” was a top-10 hit, “Seinfeld” was No. 2 in the TV ratings (behind “E.R.”) and “Seven” was a revelation on the big screen.

Twenty-two years. It’s been a long drought for the Bearcats, whose last appearance at state was in 1995. The players on the current team were several years away from being born, virtually nobody had any clue what the Internet was, and Hootie and the Blowfish was the most popular band on the planet.

Burlingame hadn’t been to a state tournament since 1950 before that season, so advancing to the Class 2A tournament in Manhattan was special. I remember it well because I was a freshman at Kansas State.

While most of the town drove the 70 miles from Burlingame to the Little Apple, my roommate Steve, also a BHS alumnus, and father walked from Marlatt Hall to Bramlage Coliseum. We arrived early enough to catch most of the opening game that day, which pitted No. 1 seed Frankfort against No. 8 seed Inman, both traditional state powers.

That game was memorable for several reasons. For starters, Inman pulled off a stunning upset, rolling past the Wildcats 78-65. The most memorable thing about that game was an athletic guard named Greg Friesen, who willed his team to the win with 37 points. Time and time again, Friesen slashed through Frankfort’s defense for short jumpers and layups.

Frankfort had a great player of its own, an all-state guard who scored 28 points on an array of floaters, long jumpers and drives to the basket. I remember watching that senior walk off the court with his head down, his high school career over much sooner than he expected.

Little did I know that I’d meet that Frankfort player in, of all places, Centre, at the end of the 2007 season. An assistant coach introduced him to me after Burlingame’s 70-65 loss to White City in a regional semifinal game. I remember talking to him about that 1995 game. All these years later, he still hasn’t watched tape of that loss to Inman.

You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m talking about Creighton Winters, the longtime coach who took over the program in 2005, battled through the occasional lean year and has put together perhaps the best team in school history in 2016-17.

For the longest time in Burlingame, the biggest problem was that a coach wouldn’t stick around. It’s impossible to build a program when you don’t have consistency.

About the time Winters started at BHS, the youth programs in Burlingame finally had traction. A few years later, a group of boys began playing basketball together. By the time they got to junior high, they simply didn’t lose. By the time they got to high school, Burlingame was ready to build a program. A few years later, those boys were ranked among the top five teams in Class 1A-Division I.

Going into the final weeks of the season, Burlingame appeared to be the favorite to win a tough sub-state in Olpe. The Bearcats were hot after losing in the Lyon County League tournament, using a close loss to Lebo to fuel a dominant second half of the season.

Then, of course, came a devastating injury when their starting point guard suffered a torn ACL in the final game of the regular season. I’d seen the look on Winters’ face after the game before, back in 1995 in Manhattan.

Many, including myself, felt the injury was going to cost Burlingame its first state tournament bid in decades. Fortunately, we were wrong. The Bearcats, a tough, gritty group, put on an impressive display of teamwork in sub-state, crushing a dangerous Southern Coffey County team and smothering a Lebo team with 10 seniors to end the long drought.

The community finally got a taste of success during the past two football seasons with trips to the Eight-Man I semifinals. Now, it gets another bite in the form of a three-hour drive to Hays for a state tournament.

Burlingame has ended a number of droughts in the last few years, including trips to the state semifinals in football, league titles in football and basketball, and a trip to a state basketball tournament. It’s about time another one comes to an end: winning a game at state, something the Bearcats have never done.

The last time Burlingame played in a state tournament, it played a Berean Academy team that had virtually no tradition. In the 22 years since, the Warriors have been to several state tournaments and won a championship in 2010. Let’s hope this year kick-starts a similar run for the Bearcats.