Oran and Sacred Heart exchanged 15 free throws in the final minute of its Class 2 state semifinal matchup at Hearnes Center in Columbia.
Overall, both teams shot more than 50 percent from the line, but the Gremlins fell short in the free-throw shooting contest that determined its postseason fate, 64-59.
The Eagles advanced to the Class 2 state championship at 6:20 p.m. Saturday against the winner between Crane and Harrisburg. Sacred Heart (25-6) is relegated to the third-place game at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Trent Lyles led the Gremlins with 21 points, Micah Tanguay had 17 points and Alden Harding finished with 11 points and two assists.
Max Priggle and Jacob Shoemaker scored 17 points apiece for Oran, which out-rebounded Sacred Heart, 34-25.
Like Wellington-Napoleon last Saturday in the quarterfinals, the Eagles erased each Gremlin edge with the poise of a team in the midst of a charmed season. The Tigers took only its second loss of the season and snapped a 27-game win streak to Sacred Heart at Liberty High School in Liberty last week.
Oran eliminated defending state champions Hartville in the quarterfinals to join its girl’s basketball program in the Class 2 final four.
On Saturday, the Eagles will take its second shot in 48 years at the program’s first state championship.
Despite the result, Sacred Heart head coach Steve Goodwin said he typically likes the Gremlins’ chances in a free-throw competition.
“There’s a reason they knocked off the state champs,” Goodwin said. “But I’ll take my team shooting free throws to win the game, anytime. Any coach would. It just didn’t fall for us.
“We were right there to win the game, and that’s the way it goes, sometimes.”
Lyles hit a three to give Sacred Heart a 21-12 lead after one quarter. Shoemaker led the Oran charge going into the break, scoring with 14 points in the first half. He went 5-for-7 from three and the Eagles finished 8-for-19 from beyond the arc.
Colby Young, who had nine points and seven rebounds, fouled out on a rebound attempt with less than five minutes to play. Before the handicap, the Oran defense had limited Sacred Heart’s frontcourt production.
Harding said from a guard’s point of view, Oran’s double-team was too quick for warning.
“(Oran) played the post really well,” Harding said. “Whenever we would throw it up, our post would grab it, turn and there would always be a guy up there to poke it out. It’s hard to throw that in there, knowing there’s a guy right behind him, and you can’t let him know while you’re throwing the ball to him, because he’s just focused on catching the ball.
“He’s taught to turn, and every time he turned, there was always a guy digging.”
Tanguay rebounded and scored in the paint to give Sacred Heart a 56-54 lead with 1:19 to play. Teagan Trammell added one more to the edge, hitting one of two free throws.
Priggel missed a free throw after a field goal and foul on the next possession. Lyles then went 2-2 from the line and 0-2 on the next trip.
Drew Reischmean hit two free throws to give Oran a 60-59 lead with 27 seconds remaining. Inexplicably, the Eagles fouled Harding, but exited with the same lead after two misses.
Priggle made four more free throws down the stretch to secure the first Oran state championship appearance since 1969.
After the game, Priggle said the thought of a state championship crossed his mind during crucial free-throw attempts.
“I just had confidence in myself,” Priggle said. “I’ve been here before. I’ve been here a lot of times. I’ve missed it some, but, I just had confidence. I was like, ‘I just got to make these and we go to the state championship.’”
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2