Metamora's big 2nd half denies St. Francis state berth
Tears welled as hugs and fist bumps were passed down the St. Francis bench for one final time.
Metamora junior Ethan Kizer soared for his final alley-oop dunk for good measure. The program's first trip to the state tournament was minutes away from being officially realized.
The St. Francis duo of Brennan Yarusso and Sebastian Miller were among the last along the line.
"We're a brotherhood," Miller said following Metamora's 60-44 victory over St. Francis in the Class 3A Ottawa supersectional on Monday. "I think, even from the outside, you can tell when we're playing that we love each other. We're always huddling up and we really made a statement."
St. Francis (27-9), vying for its first state bid since 1989, had just won its first sectional title since 2013 days before.
"I think we set a standard of how we're supposed to play at Francis," Yarusso said. "It starts on defense; play together, love each other. Like Sebastian said, a brotherhood."
The Spartans and Metamora were deadlocked at 21 to close the first half, while Kizer, the 6-foot-6 forward, battled foul trouble.
St. Francis' offense went cold by shooting 35% from the field in the second half. The Spartans were outscored 14-5 in the third quarter to spark Metamora toward a date with Simeon in Friday's 11:30 a.m. state semifinal.
"In the first half, we were up by seven [and] I was thinking [with] Kizer in foul trouble, 'Let's see if we can stretch this a little bit," Spartans coach Erin Dwyer said. "Then they had some guys step up and make some shots, which they've had all year. Every time they've had a game where they haven't somebody play well, or one of their top guys play well, someone else steps up for them and they shoot with some confidence."
Upon the final buzzer, Metamora (29-6) spilled out into the court with Queen's "We are the champions" blaring over a sea of student fans and more.
"Tremendous," Metamora coach Danny Grieves said. "Kids did a tremendous job. I'll tell you what: My hats off to St. Francis. They're a well-coached, really good team. We just tried to take away what they did best and our defense was the key. We held them to 44 points. We scored 60. That's a win every time."
"It means everything," said Kizer following his nine-point, six-rebound effort on the historic season. "I love this team. We have a great team and it's a great group of guys."
The Redbirds were paced by Tyler Swanson's 18 points, three rebounds and three assists, while Zack Schroeder had 14 points, four rebounds and one block.
St. Francis was led by Sean Killian's eight points, three rebounds and one block. Yarusso had eight points, six rebounds and three assists. Miller and Jack Brennan each had seven points.
"As a coach, when you have kids who absolutely love playing the game, and then playing for each other and putting in the work during COVID, anytime they had chance to go play somewhere, they found a place to play. They played," Dwyer said.
"They've raised the standard of the program dramatically."