It’s no stretch to say that players that make it to the state tournament court have put up thousands of shots in their life, dreaming of making the shot that brings home the championship. While those imagined championship winning shots are often buzzer-beaters from beyond the three-point line, the last crack in the driveway or the mound of dirt 25 feet from the basket on the side of the barn, the less glorious free throw is usually the shot that earns your team the title.
Kaharri Carter of Minnehaha Academy will undoubtedly smile the next time he steps to a free throw line.
With field goals at a premium and a Litchfield team trying to make one final push to complete a comeback, Carter hit three of four free throws in the final 1:25 to help top seed Minnehaha Academy win their first state championship, a hard-fought 56-54 victory over second seed Litchfield in the Class 2A state championship game.
The game was tight throughout, with the largest lead by either team just six points, coming when Minnehaha took an 11-5 lead less than five minutes into the game. While the game was close throughout, Minnehaha held the advantage for most of the game, taking a two point lead into the locker room and then stubbornly holding the small lead for most of the second half.
Litchfield, the Class 2A runner-up for the second straight year, was finally able to draw even with the Redhawks with 8:34 to go when 6’3” Riley Pater made a layup. Minnehaha answered right back to re-take the lead, but on the next possession Litchfield’s Zach Kinny completed a three-point play to give Litchfield a 46-45 advantage. Once again the Redhawks answered on their next possession, as John Pryor canned a three to give Minnehaha Academy a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
The Pryor three came with 7:08 to go in the game, and at that point the defense got tough and the hoop got small for each team. In fact, each team would only make one more field goal for the rest of the game. The teams traded free throws over the next few minutes, with Carter hitting two to give Minnehaha a four-point lead with 1:25 remaining; Litchfield’s Cameron Sundmark then hit a three-pointer with 1:05 remaining to close the Dragons to within a point. Litchfield’s defense then held Minnehaha without a basket on their next possession, but the Dragons weren’t able to take advantage on their offensive end and were forced to foul.
With 16 seconds left in the game, Carter was sent to the line once again. He made the first free throw but missed the second, giving Litchfield one final opportunity. Fittingly, the tough Redhawk defense held firm, forcing Litchfield into an extremely difficult shot to tie it at the buzzer. The shot was no good and the Redhawks were able to celebrate their hard-earned state championship.
Marcellous Hazzard led Minnehaha in scoring, tallying 14 points and adding six rebounds. Carter ended with 11 points- seven of those from the free throw line- and eight rebounds, as Minnehaha out-rebounded Litchfield 33-20. Riley Pater led Litchfield with 16 points; Zach Kinny added eight points and was the Dragons’ leading rebounder with seven.
Minnehaha Academy ended their season with a 24-6 record, while Litchfield finished with a 26-6 record.
In the Class 2A third place game, Annandale edged Esko 59-58.