Sometimes the best offense doesn’t involve relentlessly attacking the basket.
Sullivan took the patience approach Tuesday in the Class 4 District 10 semifinals to defeat the host Union Wildcats, 51-40.
“It was a good win for us,” Sullivan Head Coach Dino McKinney said. “The kids took the game plan and knew what I asked them to do. It wasn’t pretty down the stretch. Normally if we get into the fourth quarter with the lead, we’re going to shoot free throws. That was our plan all night and it worked out.”
Union Head Coach Chris Simmons felt his team could have played better.
“We didn’t play our best basketball, but I think we deserved better than tonight,” Simmons said. “It just didn’t end like we wanted. We’ve got to rebound the ball better, especially after free throws. We just fell asleep a couple of times. You’ve got to tip your hat to Sullivan. They shot the ball real well early and I thought they were tough shots. They hit them and you’ve got to live with that. We just didn’t do what it took to win and they did. You’ve got to give them credit.”
In the second half, the Eagles looked to take time off of the clock. While it didn’t initially lead to growing the gap, it did frustrate Union into putting up quick attempts when they got the ball. Frequently, Sullivan soon was dribbling the ball around the perimeter looking for openings once again.
“I think they tried to play faster than they really wanted because they were down,” McKinney said. “The possessions they got, they tried to hurry a little bit. It worked to our advantage. We turned the ball over a couple of times there, but for the most part, I thought we did a good job with it. Union is a good basketball team, so this was a good win for us.”
Simmons said there was a lot of frustration.
“I think they held the ball for most of the third quarter,” Simmons said. “It took us out of what we wanted to do. We got a couple of shots and didn’t hit them. It pushed us a little bit to hit the panic button.”
Third-seeded Sullivan (21-6) faces top-seeded Rolla (18-8) Friday at 7 p.m. for the championship.
Union ended its season at 16-9.
Union led 11-9 after one quarter, but the Eagles netted the first 11 points of the second quarter, including a trio of threes from Cody McKinney and Landon Hoffman (two).
Sullivan held a 31-27 lead at the half.
Sullivan’s possession domination finally paid dividends when Cody McKinney knocked down back-to-back three-point shots to increase the lead to 10. Carter Adams hit the only other basket for Sullivan in the quarter, a three-point shot which made it a 13-point Sullivan advantage.
Trevor Kelly broke Union’s drought with a three and Sullivan held a 40-30 edge going to the final quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Union got to within four points, 41-37, but couldn’t complete the comeback.
“We had our chances, but just couldn’t finish it off,” Simmons said.
Sullivan did not hit a single field goal in the final quarter, but knocked down 11 of 15 free-throw attempts to seal the game.
“It’s a tough deal for us with our two bigs,” Simmons said. “They weren’t even looking to score. They were just looking to run out the clock. They would have run off the whole second half if we would have let them, so we had to chase the ball.”
As a team, Sullivan went 13-18 from the free-throw line. The Eagles hit 10 three-point baskets and only four shots from two-point range.
“When we shoot the ball like that, we look like we know what we’re doing,” McKinney said. “We’re all smart coaches then. When we get hot, we’re pretty good. This is a hard place to shoot and our kids have shot well two nights in a row. Hopefully, knock on wood, we do that again Friday.”
Cody McKinney led all scorers for the game with 21 points. He hit five three-point baskets and went 6-6 from the free-throw line.
Hoffman was next with nine points despite missing much of the second half after being hurt late in the second quarter. He hit a pair of three-point shots.
“He gutted it out a little bit and tried to give us some offensive possessions when they were trying to foul,” McKinney said. “Even with his free throw near the end, he was sore. He’s got a couple of days to rest now, so hopefully he’s ready to go Friday.”
Cameron Cunningham was next with seven points, including a three-point basket.
Adams and Austin Frye each had five points. Each hit a three-point shot.
Austin Lewis added one point.
“We had a lot of kids fill in who did good jobs,” McKinney said. “I’m proud of them.”
Union hit nine three-point baskets to go with five from two-point range. The Wildcats only attempted four free throws, but hit three of them.
Trevor Kelly, one of four seniors, led the way with 19 points. He hit five three-point baskets. Kelly scored 16 of his points in the first half.
Senior Jacob Towell scored his 11 points in the first half. He knocked down two three-point shots.
Senior Wil Strubberg had five points with one three-point shot.
Junior Peyton Burke scored three points on one basket.
Kale Crawford, the fourth senior, added two points.
“I’m so proud of our seniors,” Simmons said. “This is a great group of kids. I’m just really proud of them. They have left a strong legacy for groups to follow them. I’m proud to say I got the opportunity to coach them and just wish it would have ended differently.”