Congratulations to the Maur Hill-Mount Academy boys’ basketball team for winning the sub-state finals on Saturday.

The Ravens beat the Nemaha Central Thunder 44-42 in a game that was as exciting as anyone could have hoped for. There were big offensive and defensive plays in a Horton gymnasium packed full by the fans of the two schools.

It’s not an exaggeration to say the crowd noise was deafening at times. I normally try to find a spot by myself when covering games, but there was no chance of that happening on Saturday night.

The folks from Nemaha County filled their side of the gym and Atchison did its part on the MH-MA side. I saw quite a few people affiliated with other schools who showed up to lend support to the Ravens. Another case of Atchison pulling together to support its own.

I found a corner to stand in so I could take pictures, tucked between the Ravens student section and their cheerleaders. I was definitely in a loud spot.

Before the game, I told a friend the loudest high school gym I’d ever heard was the Maur Hill Prep vs Jeff West game back in 2000. Jeff West entered the game as the No. 1 team in 4A, but the Ravens earned an overtime win that January night. I was a sophomore in high school yelling my heart out in the student section of that game. At one point, a Maur Hill player covered his ears on the court because it was so loud.

I think Saturday’s MH-MA game against Nemaha has passed that game from 2000, though I never saw anyone holding their hands over their ears on the court.

The Ravens are the No. 1 seed in the 3A state tournament, playing No. 8 Council Grove at 3 p.m. Wednesday in Hutchinson. I expect a good number of people will make the 3.5 hour drive from Atchison to Hutchinson on Wednesday, and I’ll be one of them.

It’s a big deal to qualify for the state tournament. The Ravens players, fans and coaches celebrated on the court Saturday night, as they should. I have no doubt, though, that MH-MA was focused on its next goal as early as Sunday morning.

Lose Wednesday and the season is over. Win Wednesday and there are two more games left to play. This MH-MA team has shown a knack for not letting the big moment impact them in a negative way. Some people call it being clutch – having the ability to rise to the occasion when the pressure is on. Others say it’s not rising to the occasion as much as it’s simply not shrinking in the moment.

Whatever it is, these Ravens have it. There were numerous times when the Thunder seemed to grab momentum Saturday night and were on the verge of taking over the game. That never happened because every time MH-MA needed a big play, the Ravens made that play.

Whether it was a Jack Caudle drive to the basket, a Zach Schwinn 3-pointer, a Jared Thibault jumper, an Abe Siebenmorgen rebound or Colten Kocour’s block on Nemaha’s last shot of the night, the Ravens were ready to make a play.

Good luck to MH-MA in Hutchinson, it’s going to be a fun ride.

Adam Gardner can be reached at adam.gardner@npgco.com.

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