One boys' semifinal in the Region 3-A high school basketball tournament at Arts & Sciences was destined to be close all the way. One team made sure that wasn't the case in the other.
In the end, Sale Creek and Boyd-Buchanan emerged as winners Tuesday and will face each other tonight at 7:30 for the region championship.
The Panthers defeated Arts & Sciences 63-60 in the first semifinal. The Buccaneers beat Copper Basin 66-51 in the second.
The girls' final is scheduled tonight at 6 with Van Buren County taking on Arts & Sciences.
The host Patriots' largest lead in the first half was 8-2. The Panthers' largest was the five-point lead they took to the locker room at halftime.
Sale Creek (18-9) then scored the first four points of the second half to make it 36-27, which was the closest to a double-digit lead there was in the game.
CSAS went to work from there and regained a one-point lead shortly after the start of the fourth quarter and went up by four a little more than two minutes later. But Sale Creek flipped things around and led 61-57 after Cody Daniel made the second of two free throws with 29.1 seconds remaining.
The Patriots, who went 5-of-6 from the free-throw line in the last 2:34, also went more than five minutes without a field goal until Brandon Houston made a 3-point shot from in front of the CSAS bench to cut it to one with 16 seconds to play. But the Panthers got a free throw each from Daniel and Janow in the waning seconds before Spencer Hodge blocked the Patriots' long inbound attempt with 1.4 seconds showing to preserve the victory.
"I thought in the fourth period our consistent ball pressure was the difference," Sale Creek coach David Helton said. "When we went to our 1-3-1 [defense] in the last two minutes, I think they were very confused. The driving angles they'd had weren't there; the passing angles weren't there. And it hurt them especially with the couple they had on the bench."
Helton was referring to Patriots starters Joshua Carter, who fouled out with 23 points with a little more than a minute to play, and Nick Moore, who had fouled out a couple of minutes before that.
Helton said his team's bench play was a key factor, particularly from a defensive standpoint. And Hodge, a reserve, led the Panthers' scoring with 20 points. Janow added 18.
Shunn Moorer gave Carter scoring support with 15 for CSAS.
Boyd-Buchanan (26-3) took a 10-0 lead on Copper Basin and mostly led by double digits the rest of the way.
"That was big, especially in a game like this," Bucs coach Cole Rose said of his team's quick start. "We had some shots go down early, and I thought our defensive effort in the first quarter was fantastic.
After that 15-4 first quarter, the game was relatively even the rest of the way. Boyd-Buchanan did manage to outscore the Cougars in every quarter, but by one, one and two points over the last three.
"Boyd-Buchanan has got a good ball team," Copper Basin coach Tim Kidd said. "Just when you think you're getting back in the game, they hit a free throw or a jump shot or make a good defensive play. They're a good team. I expect them to go far."
Five Bucs scored at least eight points each, led by Q.D. Cox with 14. Justus McMillan scored 13 and Zach Jenkins totaled 11.
Karson Swinehart paced the Cougars with 17 points. Tyler Limburg contributed 11 and Tanner Wilcox chipped in with 10.
"Copper Basin has a good team," Rose said. "They earned their way here. They made some tough shots, especially down the stretch, that made it harder on us to put it away."
Copper Basin ends its season 16-8. Kidd said he was told the berth in a region semifinal was a first in program history.
"I'm so proud of my boys," Kidd said. "Nobody expected us to do anything."
• Meigs County 73, Wartburg 58: At Wartburg, the Meigs boys followed the girls' team from Monday in reaching the Region 2-A final. Zy Moore and Levi Woods scored 22 and 21 points for the Tigers (28-4), and Bryson Baker scored 13 in Tuesday's game.
The Lady Tigers won Monday in overtime, 41-36 over Oliver Springs, as Emileigh Swafford scored 27 points.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.