Wayne hit 18 of 21 free throws in the fourth quarter to pull off a first-round upset in a 59-52 win over Kearney Catholic in the opening round of the Class C-1 State Basketball Championships in Lincoln.
The sevenenth-seeded Blue Devils got out to a 14-9 lead in the first period and led 29-22 at the half before the second-seeded Stars pulled to within 35-33 after three periods. Kearney Catholic led 40-37 early in the fourth period, but Wayne was solid at the charity stripe, hitting 13 of their last 14 free throw attempts to come away with the win.
The Blue Devils were outsized by the taller Starrs team, but made up for it with quickness and a patient offense. Wayne led 14-9 after one period as Tanner Walling gave Wayne the lead with a 3-pointer, followed by a driving layup by Alex Phelps and a free throw by Walling in the closing seconds.
Wayne extended the lead to seven points at the half with back-to-back 3-pointers by Colton Vovos and Walling highlighting the period, but Kearney Catholic came back to make it a ball game as the Wayne offense struggled to keep their momentum.
Brandon Bartos nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing as time expired in the third, giving Wayne a 35-33 advantage, and the Blue Devils were able to finish things off at the free throw line, hitting 18-of-21 shots from the foul stripe. Bartos was 6-for-6 at the line and Vovos was 4-for-4 in charity tosses as the Blue Devils hung on for the win.
Bartos led the Blue Devils with 18 points, Walling added 15 and Vovos put in 12. Daniel Judd had six points, Phelps scored four and Jacob Kneifl and Sedjro Agoumba each had two.
Wayne will play Adams Central on Friday at 11:15 a.m. in the semifinals at the Pinnacle Bank Arena.
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