FAIRBURY - Colin Knapp felt confident when he stepped to the free throw line with no time on the clock and the game tied in overtime Monday in the opening round of the Hawk Classic at Prairie Central High School.
"Coach (Tim Meiss) makes us practice them a lot," said the 5-foot-8 junior Eureka High School guard. "I was thinking I'd better make them or Coach was going to make me shoot them like crazy in practice."
Knapp sank his first charity toss to give No. 3 seed Eureka a 61-60 victory over Peoria Heights (5-6) and advance the Hornets (7-3) into tonight's 6:30 semifinal game against No. 2 GCMS. The Falcons (9-2) downed Flanagan, 60-48, in the first game of the tournament.
Lexington, the No. 5-seed, improved its record to 4-3 with a mild 58-48 upset triumph over No. 4 Gardner (7-2). The Minutemen will meet top-seeded host Prairie Central (8-3) in tonight's 8 o'clock semifinal. The Hawks took care of Dwight, 51-35.
Eureka, the No. 3 seed, rallied from a 49-42 deficit with 3:17 remaining in regulation. The Hornets took a 54-52 lead with 6.6 seconds remaining on freshman Jordan Prosser's two free throws.
However, Peoria Heights tied the game at the buzzer on Collin Mason's layup. The Patriots had a chance to win in overtime with four seconds remaining when Drew Jones drove the lane.
But Prosser was there to swat the shot away and Knapp grabbed the loose ball at midcourt. He drove to the basket and was fouled before getting off a layup attempt.
"It was a tremendous block and Colin had enough sense to take off (toward the Eureka basket)," said Meiss. "That was huge. Colin hasn't shot a lot of free throws, but he's a 70 to 80 percent shooter. I felt good with him at the line."
Knapp was among four Eureka players to score in double figures with 11. Dean Eastman and Brett Stewart led the Hornets with 14 each, while Prosser added 10. Stewart was the team's leading rebounder with eight.
"I was really pleased with our effort because we could have folded," said Meiss. "We had a 17-10 lead early, but we got a little lazy. We had a lapse where we didn't take care of the ball. The kids really turned up the heat late and our pressure caused them to hurry up and turn the ball over."
Josh Reese led Peoria Heights with a game-high 18 points.
Defending champion GCMS (9-2) used the double-double effort of Brett Peterson to get past Flanagan (2-9). The 6-5 senior center scored 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Flanagan's Jake Keading also was in double-figure scoring with 12.
"The kids have been looking forward to this tournament the last two weeks," said GCMS coach Ryan Tompkins. "They've been eyeing the Hawk Classic. They have a lot of pride in the fact they won it last year. They want to defend the title.
"We went to a 2-3 zone midway through the first quarter and that seemed to slow them down a little bit offensively. You have to give Flanagan credit because they really crashed the glass late in the first half and in the third quarter to get a lot of second-chance opportunities."
GCMS led by 10 at half before Flanagan made a mild run in the third quarter.
"We came out the third quarter with a case of Christmas' blues and didn't play real well," added Tompkins. "Fortunately, we had enough of a lead to sustain it. We woke up a little bit in the fourth quarter.
"We played hard, but we didn't play our best. We are going to have to play better if we're going to win the tournament."
Darin Gundy led Flanagan with 14 points, while Michael Folkerts had 10 rebounds.
"We played hard and we played well except for defensive rebounding," said Flanagan coach Eric Bryant. "If we had done a better job of keeping them off the boards in the first half it could have been a completely different game. Their size hurt us."
The Minutemen used a strong defensive effort to dispose of Gardner as they limited the Panthers' leading scorer, Brock Riggi, to six points.
"Joe Watt did a nice job on him," said Lexington coach Nathaniel Meiss, the son of Eureka coach Tim Meiss. "Overall, we played tremendous team defense. We wanted to be patient and we were patient. It was probably our most patient effort offensively of the season.
"We went to the boards well. Chris Mohr and Watt were our leaders. We got the effort I hoped we would get. We came out with the intensity level we needed."
Alex Tanney led the Minutemen with 19 points. Mohr added 14, while Eric Schuler had 12. Cody Mack paced Gardner with 17.
The host school took only 39 shots from the field, but made 51 percent to move past Dwight (4-4). Ben Herr and Brett Crane led the Hawks with 11 points each and Phillip Short added 10.
"It was kind of a struggle," admitted Prairie Central coach Alan Dunahee. "Dwight sat in a zone and dared us to shoot. We were finally able to put some distance between us in the third quarter."
Prairie Central led 18-13 at halftime before moving to a 36-23 advantage after three quarters. Herr had eight points in the third quarter, while Jason Williams had three assists.
"Thomas Harrison also had some nice passes," added Dunahee. "We were finally able to work the ball inside in the second half. We able to hit the cutter in the middle and made a couple of 3's and that softened them up."
Evan Wyllie and Curt Perschnick led Dwight with 10 points each.