SALINA — For the second straight game the Concordia Panthers were forced into chase mode, and for the second straight game they were unable to track down their opponent.
Unable to catch up with Clay Center after falling behind by seven points in overtime on Tuesday, the Panthers faced an 11-point deficit against Sacred Heart with under four minutes to play.
Concordia whittled the deficit to two points, but the Knights connected on five of six free throws over the final 28 seconds to preserve a 66-59 victory in the consolation bracket game of the Salina Invitational Tournament Thursday afternoon.
The Panthers, who were the top seed in the tournament, led 39-30 midway through the third quarter before Sacred Heart caught fire, hitting six consecutive field goal attempts, and went on a 26-6 run to take a 56-45 lead.
Josh Pounds made one of two free throws, Gabe Bergmann scored inside and Grant Holmes hit a three-point shot to close the gap to 56-51 with just over a minute to play.
Holmes was called for an intentional foul, and Tate Richards made two free throws.
Sacred Heart then turned the ball over, and Kaleb Pounds buried a three to pull Concordia within four points, 58-54, with 1:07 on the clock.
Lucas Comfort made one of two free throws eight seconds later, and Sacred Heart led 59-54.
Joshua Pounds scored on an offensive rebound, and Concordia trailed just 59-56.
Richard, who led Sacred Heart with 22 points, was fouled. He made both free throws to put the Knights up 61-56 with 45 seconds left.
Holmes pulled down an offensive rebound, scored and was fouled. He made the free throws to make it a 61-59 game with 33 seconds remaining.
Richards was fouled five seconds later. He made one of two free throws to put Sacred Heart on top 62-59.
Holmes was unable to knock down a three-point shot to tie.
“I thought we could have gotten a better look, but in those circumstances it was a decent look. With the game Grant was having, the ball was falling,” Concordia coach Michael Roe said.
Sacred Heart then made five of six free throws to secure the win, and advance to the fifth-place game.
“Clay Center had a lot of confidence with (Caleb) Carson back, and Gabe (Bergmann) not playing. They (Knights) saw Clay Center play,” Roe said, “They play a great game, and they knock down a lot of shots.”
Concordia (8-3) will play Smoky Valley(2-9) in the seventh-place game at 4:45 today.
Smoky Valley lost 71-39 to Abilene.
Abilene (9-2) will take on Sacred Heart(7-4) in the fifth-place game on Saturday.
Salina Central defeated Clay Center 57-32 and Andover dropped Salina South 54-39 in the semifinals.
Despite committing five turnovers in the first quarter, the Panthers led by as many as eight points, 13-8.
Trailing 13-7, Sacred Heart got three-point baskets by Brooks Brown and Daniel O’Brien to tie the game at 13-13.
It was a 15-15 game when Concordia got a layup by Joshua Pounds, a three by Holmes and a free throw by Cooper Holmes to take a 21-15 lead.
Sacred Heart would pull back even at 23-23, and trailed 29-27 at halftime.
A three-point play by Tony Chavez a minute into the second half gave the Knights their first lead of the game, 30-29.
A one-man, 10-point flurry by Grant Holmes gave Concordia its biggest lead of the game, 39-30.
Grant Holmes finished the game with 22 points and 12 rebounds.
The Panthers managed just four free throws over the final 4:23 of the third quarter as Sacred Heart rallied to grab a 45-43 advantage.
Concordia hit just one of nine field goal attempts to start the fourth quarter as the Knights pushed the lead to 56-45.
“We have to find a way to make stops defensively when teams are shooting the ball well. If we can’t get more stops we are not going to have good results,” Roe said.
The Panthers put together a surge over the final three minutes, but couldn’t catch up.
“To come back from 11 down and to have a look to tie the game, you have done a good job,” Roe said.
Joshua Pounds scored 13 points for Concordia.
Bergmann, who missed the game against Clay Center because of a cut under his eye, chipped in 10 points.
Concordia hit 22 of 53 field goal attempts for 42 percent and 12 of 17 free throws for 71 percent.
Chavez tossed in 21 points for Sacred Heart, and Comfort added 10 points.
The Knights shot 56 percent (23 of 43) from the floor and made 16 of 21 free throws.
SACRED HEART (66)
Brown 3-0-1 8, Comfort 4-1-3 10, Chavez 9-3-3 21, VonLintel 0-0-2 0, Dooley 0-0-3 0, O’Brien 1-0-0 3, Richards 5-12-2 22, Palen 1-0-3 2. Totals: 23-16-17 66.
K. Pounds 2-0-1 5, Garcia 1-0-3 2, J. Pounds 5-3-4 13, G. Holmes 6-8-4 22, C. Holmes 3-1-2 7, Bergmann 5-0-3 10. Totals: 22-12-17 59.