INDEPENDENCE — The Sacred Heart Gremlins had a historical season but coach Steve Goodwin wasn’t satisfied with how it ended.
The Gremlins beat Skyline 80-59 on Thursday night in Clinton for their second-ever trip to the state quarterfinals. They hadn’t made the elite eight in 40 years.
With the Gremlins’ 76-66 loss to the top-ranked team in the state, the West Platte Blue Jays, they couldn’t make more history — making the state semifinals for the first time.
West Platte used its size, and the Gremlins’ inability to score from the outside to reach the Class 2 semifinals. The Blue Jays (29-0) will meet Iberia in the semifinals at 8:20 p.m. Thursday at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.
The undefeated Blue Jays featured 6-10 center Bryce Cashman, 6-5 forward Adam Roe and 6-3 center Nathan Coulson. With that size advantage, they outrebounded Sacred Heart 46-34, including 17-10 on offense.
Inside the arc, the Gremlins shot 62 percent (21 of 34) but from outside they went 3 of 19 (16 percent).
“Honestly, our problem was we didn’t shoot the ball very well,” Sacred Heart coach Steve Goodwin said. “I thought our post players did a nice job. We didn’t shoot the ball real well, and (Roe’s) defense on Malik (Hackett) was good, but our guards have got to step up and finish shots inside, taking the ball to the basket. We’re pretty disappointed today.”
Hackett, who scored 30 points against Clinton, in the sectionals and 29 against Santa Fe in the district title game, was held to nine.
“Our goal was to make him put it on the floor,” West Platte coach Zane Tanner said. “We didn’t want him to get going shooting 3s. That was our goal. We had Adam (Roe) on him with some length. He got open but he threw up some unbalanced shots.”
West Platte had a good night shooting, making 49 percent (23 of 47) of its shots.
However, the Blue Jays’ rebounding game gave them 13 additional shots from inside the arc, providing them additional scoring opportunities.
Another key for the Blue Jays was their ability to handle the basketball. They committed only 10 turnovers, including none in the third quarter.
“I thought the big thing was we had to handle the basketball because Sacred Heart does a great job mixing presses, using halfcourt traps. That’s been our Achilles’ heal,” Tanner said. “I thought our kids did a great job with that and got us in position to score the basketball.”
Leading by only four points at halftime, West Platte began to find a rhythm in the third quarter, working the ball inside and not relying on 3-point attempts. The team went 1 for 11 from beyond the arc in the first half but only attempted two in the third and fourth quarters combined.
The Blue Jays extended their lead to as many as 11 points in the third quarter behind nine points by Cashman. Spencer Hudson’s jumper and Roe’s free throw gave the Blue Jays a 49-38 lead with 9.7 seconds left, but Garrett Strange scored inside to cut the Gremlins’ deficit to 49-40 entering the final quarter.
The Gremlins kept fighting in the fourth quarter despite Hackett, Chase Lyles and Strange all fouling out.
Sacred Heart climbed within five points on Lyles’ free throw with 6:26 left in the game, but Coulson scored on a pair of putbacks and Roe made two free throws to push the Blue Jays’ lead back to 11 (59-48).
West Platte went 19 of 27 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to keep the Gremlins from making a dent into its lead.
“You know, Kansas City loves West Platte,” Goodwin said. “They went to the free-throw line a ton. They’re a good team.”
West Platte outscored the Gremlins 27-15 from the foul stripe, while holding a 35-21 edge on free-throw attempts.
Roe scored 11 of his game-high 27 points in the fourth quarter when he went 9 for 13 from the foul stripe.
Coulson finished with 16 points, and Cashman finished with 11.
Riley Simmons and Strange paced Sacred Heart with 17 points each. Strange scored six points in the first quarter where the Gremlins built a 12-4 lead.
West Platte answered with a 14-0 run that began with the final six points of the opening quarter.
An intentional foul by Lyles helped fuel the Blue Jays’ rally. Coulson made the two free throws for the technical, and Roe scored on a putback on the same possession that set the score at 12-10.
West Platte scored the first eight points of the second quarter. Roe scored on a turnover and made a 3-pointer to give his team a 15-12 lead, an advantage it never relinquished.
Logan Moose followed with a 3-point play to cap the run.
Behind five points apiece by Simmons and Clint Spangler, the Gremlins stayed close with Simmons’ 3-point play setting the halftime score at 28-24.
Sacred Heart, who finished the season 25-5, will lose only one senior — reserve Adrian Gonzalez — from this year’s team, and the future looks bright for the Gremlins.
“You never know what’s going to happen from year to year. I try to do it one year at a time,” Goodwin said, “but I’m proud of the kids that played this year. They achieved a lot. I feel like this game was here for the taking. I really do. We could’ve played better. I wish we had played better.”