State tournament games offer all sorts of matchups that can be assessed in many different ways.
In the case of Saturday’s consolation game between the Moundridge boys and Ness City, it couldn’t have come together any closer in terms of overall athleticism and competition.
Both anchored by a prominent scorer from the perimeter, Colin Foos and Daniel Ratzlaff, an up-and-down battle ensued between the two teams but it was two free throws from Ratzlaff with 6.8 seconds left that clinched the victory for the Wildcats.
Behind 22 points from Ratzlaff, the Wildcats defeated Ness City 71-68 to claim third-place in the tournament.
The Wildcats easily found their strongest offense of the tournament, shooting 51.1 percent from the field as well as 21-24 from the free throw line.
After an impressive start from both teams, the Wildcats took a 21-18 lead into the second quarter and were able to build multiple double-digit leads over the Eagles.
“When we developed a double-digit lead, I was surprised,” Moundridge coach Vance Unrau said. “I figured this would be everything it was cracked up to be because we matched up so well.”
The offensive attack from the Wildcats was balanced as they’ve been all season with every starter scoring at least eight points on the afternoon.
Along with Ratzlaff, three other starters were able to score in double figures.
“All five of our starters had huge plays somewhere in the second half,” Unrau said. “Anything from a shot, a loose ball or a rebound or a take to the basket and an and one, whatever.”
With a 58-49 lead heading into the fourth quarter, a victory didn’t appear to be far away for the Wildcats.
Just as they had done all game, Ness City closed the gap and went on a 10-0 run to start the final quarter, giving the Eagles a late 59-58 lead.
“I told my assistant coach, even on the bench, I said ‘Boy, I know how to coach away a double-digit lead,’” Unrau said. “I did it against Inman and I did it again tonight.”
Behind 31 points from Foos, the Eagles looked prepared to finish off for the win with their late performance, but the Wildcats had the final say.
In need of an answer, guard Ryan Lorimer was able to finish a three-point play at the basket to tie the game at 68-68 with 1:10 left.
“Talk about poise,” Unrau said of his team’s fourth quarter composure. “Just refusing to give up. The guys that invest are the ones that are the last ones to quite or to give up or anything like that.”
Page 2 of 2 - One more free throw from Lorimer pushed the Wildcat lead to one with 43.4 seconds left and it was Ratzlaff’s poise on the free-throw line that put the icing on the cake for the win.
“We have other good free throw shooters,” Unrau said. “But none as good as Daniel in that situation.”
With the win, the Wildcats finished the season at 20-6.