Wolves outlast Nikes in epic Class 1A battle

Jake E and Spencer B

Winfield-Mount Union's Jake Edwards tries to block a shot attempt by Notre Dame's Spencer Brent on Tuesday night in Mediapolis.

Liam Delaney

Notre Dame's Liam Delaney sits on the court just moments after his team's epic battle against Winfield-Mount Union on Tuesday night.

Cam Buff vs ND

Winfield-Mount Union senior Cam Buffington drives down the floor against Notre Dame on Tuesday night.

Nikes close in on Abram

Notre Dame defenders Dylan Kipp and Gedi Boal close in on W-MU's Abram Edwards on Tuesday night.

MEDIAPOLIS -- At this time of year, you have either heartburn, heartbreak or a heartwarming story.

For the first time in three years, Winfield-Mount Union boys basketball coach Klay Edwards has a heartwarming story.

Coach Edwards watched his team overcome a 13-point deficit and hold Notre Dame to just a single field goal in the fourth quarter to claim a hard-earned 51-49 Class 1A district final win Tuesday night.

The win propels the Wolves into substate action against Holy Trinity (19-5) Saturday at Fairfield High School. The winner advances to the state tournament.

Winfield-Mount Union improved to 19-2. Notre Dame finished 16-7.

“I’ve got a folder about an inch thick on what Holy Trinity does,” Coach Edwards said. “Hopefully, we’ll be ready.”

Despite the Wolves’ win, Notre Dame forced them to play a slow-down tempo and they had to watch every pass and every dribble. Ultimately, Winfield’s size and strength prevailed.

Abram Edwards’ two free throws with 10 seconds remaining provided the margin for the Wolves.

Notre Dame had three quality looks to tie the game but could not connect.

W-MU players ran on the floor to celebrate something that had eluded them twice before, the district championship.

“I was telling Abram that I felt calm about it,” Coach Edwards said. “He didn’t shy away from it.”

Notre Dame, which used their customary pressure, either shared or held the lead until Winfield-Mount Union’s Jake Edwards hit a confident 3-pointer from the wing to give the Wolves their first outright lead with 3:26 to play.

The lead held for about 90 seconds as the Nikes’ Shay Stephens tied the game again with a confident trey of his own.

“We didn’t play all that well in the first half,” Abram Edwards said. “In the second half, we played our game, and we were a lot more confident.”

As the seconds ebbed off the clock there was a travel called on each team and with 10 seconds to play, which became 11, the Wolves found the 6-foot-6 Abram Edwards under the hoop. His first free throw clanged off the back of the iron, but it jumped straight up into the air and through the net.

Abram Edwards was utilized as the team’s primary ball handler to defeat the Nikes’ press. Then Edwards would go down low to do work in the paint, scoring eight of the Wolves’ first 11 points.

Notre Dame’s Gedi Boal was equal to the challenge as he not only provided sticky on-ball defense, but was red hot from the outside and was able to penetrate to get layups as well. Boal scored nine of the Nikes’ first 14 points and 12 of the team’s first 20. Boal, the silky-smooth senior, ended his career with 15 points.

Liam Delaney sparked the Nikes with a steal at half court and outraced Winfield-Mount Union’s Cam Buffington to the hoop for a two-handed slam just a breath before the halftime horn sounded, giving Notre Dame a 26-18 cushion.

Delaney scored six of Notre Dame’s points during a stretch in the third quarter to give Notre Dame it’s largest lead of the game.

Then W-MU's Cam Buffington handled the paint like Picasso, scoring 13 of the team’s 19 points precluding Abram Edwards’ timely free throws.

“We’re not going to quit,” Buffington said after scoring a team-high 25 points. “It was just like in football. We’re not going to give up. In the second half, we cranked up the intensity.”

“Cam and Abram will never be afraid of the moment,” Coach Edwards said.

Jake Edwards finished with nine points. Delaney had 11 points for Notre Dame with Spencer Brent adding 10. Stephens had eight.

The key to Winfield-Mount Union’s win was perhaps playing better during the moment of truth.

“They were making their baskets, and we weren’t,” Notre Dame coach Dan Kies said. ‘They got a few easy ones underneath. Jake hit a couple of big threes. They responded better.