It was without a doubt the wildest and craziest opening-round game in the 50-year history of the McPherson Invitational.
Derby and Blue Valley West, schools that advanced to the Class 6A State Tournament last year, set the bar unreachably high for the rest of the opening round Thursday as they sped up and down the court for four quarters, plus two overtimes.
When the smoke finally cleared, it was Derby — which started the game down 22-9 after a quarter — that survived, 95-90.
“Obviously they had a big size advantage on us and we couldn’t score, which meant we couldn’t press,” said Derby coach Brett Flory, whose team wound up forcing 30 turnovers that resulted in 37 points. “We knew we would have an advantage if we could get into our press. Once we were able to get into it, we got some things going.”
The Panthers were able to whittle the deficit to 33-26 by halftime and continued to chop away at the big tree. They finally tied the game at 46-all and then it was game on from there.
Ryan Ralston scored with 24 seconds left in regulation to tie the game for Blue Valley West at 73-all. Derby had a chance to win, but 6-8 Blaise Gammon blocked James Conley’s shot in the closing seconds.
Derby was up 81-79 in the first overtime, but West’s Connor Kaiser hit a driving layup with 2 seconds left to force a second OT.
The Panthers then hit 10 of 10 free throws in the extra session to put the cap on the amazing comeback win.
There were a multitude of stars. Jeremy Dunham, who scored eight points in the second overtime, finished with 28 to lead Derby. Keaton Steadman came off the bench to drain five 3-pointers and scored 19, and Nyjee Wright and Conley scored 13. Conley missed the final 3:17 because of severe leg cramps.
The Panthers had a big advantage at the foul line, making 32 of 38, not to mention they shot 51 percent from the field.
Gammon, a junior and the son of former Kansas City Chiefs long snapper Kendall Gammon, had one of the greatest double-doubles in Invitational history with 34 points and 15 rebounds. He had 16 points and 10 rebounds at half, then scored 14 points in the third quarter before slowing down. He also hammered four dunks.
Kaiser and Parker Roy scored 21 and 20 points, respectively. West lost despite making 32 of 54 shots for 59 percent, including 8 of 11 from 3-point.