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.
“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).