Advance boys basketball pulls away from North Andrew late to earn spot in Class 1 title game
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- With the Advance boys basketball team leading by just three points after three quarters, an Armani Vermillion drive saw the ball slip through the hoop, bodies fall to the ground and the whistle blow.
And in that moment, the entire complexion of the game changed.
Vermillion converted the three-point play to give the Hornets their biggest advantage to that point, 61-53, while North Andrew's Caleb Patterson was helped off the floor, not to return.
With the Cardinals' best player no longer on the court, Advance pulled away for an 88-78 victory Thursday in a Class 1 semifinal at Mizzou Arena, as Vermillion scored 38 points to snap North Andrew's 15-game winning streak and hand it just its second loss of the season.
The result earned Advance its first berth in a state championship game in 42 years. It will face Walnut Grove (29-3), which defeated Glasgow 69-63 in Thursday's other Class 1 semifinal.
"It's everything we've ever asked for and ever wanted," Advance senior Preston Wuebker said.
The Hornets (26-6) led just 56-53 entering the fourth quarter in a game that featured 13 lead changes and five ties in the first half. But Advance opened the final period with a 5-0 swing, as Dawson Mayo scored on a putback 13 seconds in, and just 34 seconds later, Vermillion slipped into the lane, drew hard contact and collapsed at the base of the basket as the ball rolled in for a 61-53 lead.
Trailing by eight, North Andrew never got closer than six points again.
"I didn't know it went in," Vermillion said. "I had hit my knee on the floor and was hit pretty hard, too, but I walked it off. I didn't know if it went in. I asked them if it went in, and they said, 'Yeah.'"
Vermillion got up, but Patterson did not. Clutching his left ankle in obvious pain, he was helped off the floor and into the locker room.
Patterson entered the game averaging a team-high 12.7 points per game; when he exited Thursday he had 19 points and 14 rebounds. He was taken to the hospital for X-rays -- though North Andrew coach Del Morley said they didn't think it was broken -- and is not expected to play in the third-place game.
"It changed the game when Caleb Patterson when out of the game," Morley said. "It changes our dynamic significantly. It takes a rebounder out, an inside defender with some length. So we had to play small, and of course, we got to the end having to chase."
Ryan Hughes hit a 3-pointer for the Cardinals (28-2) to cut the differential to 66-60 with 4:20 left, but the Hornets began to get out in transition and Carson Miles dunked the ball on the break inside the final minute to put an exclamation point on the victory.
Vermillion scored 15 of his 38 points in the final quarter and also finished with seven rebounds.
Mayo had a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Hornets, who also got 11 points from Wuebker and 10 points from Michael Hood.
Advance shot 52.4 percent (33 of 63) in the game, including 16 of 27 (59.3 percent) in the decisive second half.
The Hornets also tightened up defensively after North Andrew shot 64.3 percent (18 of 28) from the floor in the first two quarters. The Cardinals were limited to 14 of 33 (42.4 percent) in the second half and just 7 off 22 (31.8 percent) from inside the arc.
"Really, our defense didn't play that well," Advance coach Bubba Wheetley said. "I say that, but then I think, also, it helped us win that game. I think we wore them down. I really do. I think they got tired. We didn't play that well defensively, but it was enough. I think it was enough.
"We put a little more pressure on the guards (in the second half). The little guard (Hughes) was pretty good with the ball. He took care of the things, and we tried to deny him as much as we could from getting it in the second half. I think it helped some -- not all -- but it did better."
Hughes finished with 19 points and seven assists, while Lance Streeby and Aidan DeLong each finished with 11 points.
"When we got it in the half court early on, we got it in the high post a lot and really opened up the base line, which is what we practiced," Morley said. "We planned that all along.
"I think they adjusted and came up and challenged the high post a little more in the second half. Their little wings, as we'd scouted them, tended to fly out quite a ways out, and we got quite a few easy baskets because of that in the first half. The second half they stayed tighter. They made a few adjustments defensively that took away what we were able to do in the first half."
And while Wheetley had some issues with how his team played defense, Advance's press did take its toll on the Cardinals, who turned the ball over 14 times.
"We haven't faced a team that quick that put that much pressure on us all year," Hughes said. "We just hadn't seen that."
The first quarter saw the two teams jockeying for position the entire way. A Vermillion 3 gave Advance a 16-15 edge with 2:14 left in the period, but North Andrew closed the quarter on a 7-2 run as Hughes hit a desperation 3 from 23 feet out at the buzzer, giving the Cardinals a 25-21 lead at the end of the period.
"It just seemed like we were giving up too many easy baskets, and when we went on a little run, they answered," Wheetley said. "They answered every time. We just couldn't ever pull away. Then they make that shot at the end of the quarter and, woah, it's just stuff like that that's tough."
It was more back-and-forth battling in the second, as three Vermillion buckets led a push that gave Advance a 30-28 lead at the 4:48 mark of the quarter, but neither side led by more than three points the rest of the period.
Vermillion got to the rim for a 40-39 lead with 40 seconds left, and a Mayo bucket allowed Advance to cling to a 42-41 lead at halftime.
The Hornets started the second half strong, getting a putback from Mayo before Michael Hood knocked down a 3 from the left corner for a six-point lead, 47-41, with 7:03 left in the period.
Jacob Powelson hit a 3 for North Andrew to pull it within a point, 54-53, with 52 seconds left, but Hood drew a charge and Vermillion converted a pair of free throws to take a 56-53 edge.
That's when Advance delivered the critical blow.
North Andrew was unable to significantly close the gap despite 11 points from Hughes in the final quarter, including three 3s.
Tipoff between Advance and Walnut Grove is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at the Mizzou Arena.
NORTH ANDREW (78) -- Ryan Hughes 19, Lance Streeby 11, Caleb Patterson 19, Aidan DeLong 11, Jacob Powelson 6, Cole Thorburn 5, Orlo Simmons 5, Trevor Madison 2. FG 32-61, FT 10-19, F 15. (3-pointers: Hughes 5-6, Powelson 2-5, Streeby 1-4, Simmons 1-3, Thorburn 1-1. Fouled out: None.)
ADVANCE (88) -- Armani Vermillion 38, Preston Wuebker 11, Michael Hood 10, Brendan Crader 2, Dawson Mayo 18, Carson Miles 9. FG 33-63, FT 15-22, F 11. (3-pointers: Vermillion 3-4, Wuebker 2-7, Hood 2-5. Fouled out: None.)