The Junction City Blue Jays seemingly were in control against No. 2 seed Lawrence Free State in the semifinals of the McPherson Invitational Friday night.
The unheralded and sixth-seeded Jays were up 35-27 on Class 6A’s fifth-ranked team. But midway through the third quarter, a technical foul on the Blue Jays halted their momentum and kicked-started the Firebirds’ mojo.
Free State finished the quarter on a 12-2 run and continued to ride the wave for a 61-53 victory to advance to Saturday’s 7 p.m. championship game against the winner of Carroll and McPherson.
Hunter Gudde, who missed Thursday’s game for disciplinary reasons along with three other players, was a lifesaver for the Firebirds. He scored 11 points in the first half off the bench, then piled up 12 more in the third period and 14 in the fourth for a staggering 37 points, including an amazing 21 of 23 at the foul line. He was 17 of 19 at the stripe after the half.
Ricardo Erans led Junction City with 15 points and Tyrone Poole scored 11.
The Blue Jays went the first 3:50 of the fourth quarter without scoring before Ricardo Erans knocked down a 3-pointer to end an 18-2 run overall. Junction had one more late rush to get as close as five, but Gudde made eight free throws in the final 2 minutes to seal the deal.