WAVERLY -- In a must-win game to get to state, Freeman pushed Yutan to the brink but the Chieftains were able to pull away late for a district championship.
The Falcons fell to Yutan 45-37 in the C2-1 District Championship at Waverly High School Monday night.
Freeman needed a win to get into the Class C2 State Tournament while Yutan already had a wildcard wrapped up.
Yutan led by as many as 11 points in the first half, but Freeman was able to chop away at that lead. Late in the fourth quarter, Tyler Adams had a putback three point play to get the Falcons to within one at 37-36.
Yutan came back with a basket, but with 1:39 left in the game, a free throw by Jacob Gramann made it 39-37 Yutan.
Yutan's Brady Timm came back with two free throws to make it 41-37 with 55.5 seconds left.
The Falcons got to the foul line on their next possession, but missed the front end of a one-and-one. Yutan rebounded and Timm was able to make two more free throws to make it 43-37 with 27.8 seconds left.
Freeman was unable to get a good look at the basket on their next possession. Yutan hit two more free throws down the stretch to eventually win 45-37.
It was the third time Freeman has lost to Yutan this year. The Chieftains only have one loss on the season.
“I really thought we showed some grit to battle back like that,” said Freeman coach Jim McLaughlin. “We made some things happen in the second half to give us a chance, but it just wasn’t enough at the end of the day.”
Freeman’s 1-3-1 zone defense created turnovers in the second half and allowed the Falcons to get back into it.
“We extended the zone a little bit, but that eventually hurt us because they were able to break it down a few times for a few layups,” McLaughlin said. “On one side, it got us back in it, but later on it allowed them to answer some of our baskets.”
Early on, it looked like the game was going to completely belong to Yutan. They opened the game with a 6-0 run, which was finally ended by Blake Kastanek's three pointer to make it 6-3.
Yutan extended their lead to 12-3, but a free throw by Gramann and a basket by Kastanek in the post made it 12-6. Yutan would lead 14-6 after the first quarter.
Yutan opened the second quarter with a basket, but Kastanek answered with a basket in the post. Tyler Adams then answered another Yutan basket with a basket in the post.
A three pointer by the Chieftains made it 21-10, but Adams finished the first half scoring with a three pointer to make it 21-13.
“I thought Yutan played really well,” McLaughlin said. “They shot it really well and they finished at the rim really well. We didn’t really ever get into a rhythm offensively, but our defense always gives us a chance.”
Freeman made their move in the third quarter. Logan Anderson hit two free throws to open the half, cutting the deficit to five. After a Yutan basket, Trey Yates hit a three pointer to make it 23-18.
Yutan came right back with a three pointer of their own, but Yates answered with another three pointer to make it 26-21.
Again, Yutan answered with a three pointer to get the lead back to 29-21. A basket by Lane Cacek was answered by Yutan, but Beu ended the third quarter with a three pointer to make it 31-26.
Yutan opened the fourth quarter scoring, but Anderson came back with two free throws to make it 33-28.
After another Yutan basket, Beu scored a three point play and Yates followed it up with a layup to make it 35-33, which set up the dramatic finish.
Adams and Yates led the way for Freeman with eight each while Kastanek had seven, Beu had six, Anderson had four and Gramann and Cacek had two points each.
Freeman's season ends after posting a 19-7 record. McLaughlin said his team didn’t start the season very well. They opened up by losing two of their first three games and gave up 59 points in those losses.
“From that point, though, the kids made an effort and knew we had to be great defensively night in and night out to give ourselves a chance,” McLaughlin said. “We were fantastic throughout the year from a defensive standpoint. It’s probably the best defensive group I coached and it gave us a chance.”
McLaughlin said he loved how his team improved throughout the year and credits his five seniors Lane Cacek, Jacob Gramann, Korey Beu, Blake Katanek and Michael Gronewold.
“If you go back and watch the Yutan game earlier in the year, we don’t even look like the same team,” McLaughlin said. “The seniors were a big part of that.”