By Rick Peterson

EMPORIA -- A year ago, Highland Park felt like it made some uncharacterisic mistakes down the stretch that opened the door for Andover to take a last-second, one-point semifinal win on the way to the the Class 5A state championship.

JaCoreyRobinsonKMCState 1Highland Park junior Ja'Corey Robinson had 20 points and 12 rebounds in Friday's 67-64 overtme loss to Kapaun Mt. Carmel. [Photo by Selena Favela/Special to TSN]

MikeyWilliamsKMCState 1HIghland Park junior Mikey Williams scored 20 points, including an 8 of 9 performance at the free throw line, in the Scots' 67-64 overtime loss to Kapaun Mt. Carmel. [Photo by Selena Favela/Special to TSN]

Conversely, Mike Williams' Scots played well enough to win Friday's semifinal but Kapaun Mt. Carmel came through with just enough big plays down the stretch to advance to its second straight 5A title game with a 67-74 overtime win at White Auditorium.

"When you get to this time of the year that's what you ask for,'' Williams said of Friday's nailbiter. "You ask for the kids to compete hard, the moment is going to be big and there's going to be a lot at stake and all you can ask is that your kids leave it out there and give it their all and we did that.

"A couple of bounces didn't go our way, a couple of bounces went their way and that's the beautiful thing about the game and that's what you put in the time for. That's a good team in that other locker room. They're coached really, really well. They don't give up and they did all that was necessary to win this game.''

Highland Park (22-2) trailed 16-14 at the end of the opening quarter but rallied for a 26-23 halftime advantage.

The Scots led by 10 twice in the third quarter, but Kapaun (21-3) clawed back within a point (48-47) at the start of the fourth quarter, setting the stage for an eventful fourth stanza and overtime period.

The Crusaders led 56-53 with 2:17 left but Highland Park junior star Ja'Corey Robinson scored three straight points to send the game to overtime deadlocked at 56.

Kapaun Mt. Carmel had multiple attempts at the end of regulation to win the game but couldn't get a shot to fall.

The Crusaders jumped out to a 60-56 lead at the start of overtime on back-to-back hoops from senior William Thengvall, but Highland Park battled back to take a 62-61 lead on a steal and dunk from Robinson with 1:10 remaining.

There were three more lead changes, with Hi Park taking a 64-63 lead on a Robinson drive with 35 seconds left before freshman Blaise Dalian hit the shot of the night -- a 3-pointer from the corner with 25.9 seconds on the clock -- that gave the Crusaders a 66-64 advantage.

"He's a fighter, Blaise is tough,'' Kapaun Mt. Carmel coach Steve Eck said. "He's a freshman but he shoots every day. When he shot that 3-pointer I didn't flinch at all because he does that all the time.'' 

After a Highland Park turnover and foul, Kapaun added a free throw with 15.1 seconds left to account for the final margin.

"We got down by 10 and we didn't give up,'' Eck said. "We didn't give up and we started hitting some shots. We're a pretty good team when we hit shots. We're not a very good team when we miss shots.

"We just go out there and play together as a team. "We battle and we stayed after them. Highland Park's a heck of a team. They guarded us like crazy and we finally fought through the pressure a little bit and got to the foul line finally and that helps a lot.''

Thengvall led Kapaun with 31 points and Corbin Johnson added 13 while both players canned four 3-pointers. Dalian had a pair of treys in the game.

Robinson finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals while junior Mikey Williams also scored 20 points for the Scots, going 8 of 9 at the free throw line. 

Highland Park will square off with Maize South in Saturday's 12 p.m. third-place game. Maize dropped its first game of the season in Friday's 61-55 semifinal loss to Piper.

"The hangover could be there,'' Williams said. "That's probably the toughest game to play but a character kid, a well-poised kid, a poised team that is out here for the right things, they're going to find the strength to come out there and play the game the way it should be played .

"We've shown in the past this is a team that does those things and I believe we'll do the same thing again tomorrow. Yeah, we would have rather been playing at 4 and that hurts to not be doing that but we want to end the season 2-1in this event with a winning record.''


Kapaun Mt. Carmel 16 7 24 9 11 -- 67

Highland Park          14 12 22 8 8 -- 64

Kapaun Mt. Carmel (21-3) -- Thengvall 11-21 5-8 31, Daniels 0-3 1-2 1, Johnson 4-11 1-2 13, Charles 3-6 0-0 6, Powers 2-6 0-1 4, Keller 0-0 0-0 0, Herlocker 2-4 0-0 4, Dalian 3-4 0-0 8. Totals 25-55 7-13 67.

Highland Park (22-2) -- Taylor 2-4 0-0 5, Wilson 1-3 1-1 3, Williams 5-10 8-9 20, Robinson 8-13 4-7 20, Anderson 2-7 0-0 6, Thrasher 2-6 0-0 4, Bradley 0-0 0-0 0, Cameron 3-4 0-0 6, Kingcannon 0-0 0-0 0, Kelley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-47 13-17 64.

3-point shots -- Kapaun Mt. Carmel 10-21 (Thengvall 4-8, Johnson 4-10, Dalian 2-2, Powers 0-1), Highland Park 5-16 (Williams 2-5, Anderson 2-7, Taylor 1-1, Thrasher 0-3). Total fouls -- Kapaun Mt. Carmel 21, Highland Park 17. Fouled out -- Charles, Powers, Taylor, Wilson. Technical fouls -- none.

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