Crusade continues: Kapaun wins Kansas high school basketball state title under Steve Eck

The Kapaun Mt. Carmel boys basketball team is back on top of the Kansas high school basketball world.

Thanks to a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback with clutch shooting for the ages, the Crusaders pulled out a 62-59 win over Kansas City Piper to claim the Class 5A state championship on Saturday evening at White Auditorium in Emporia.

It is the fifth title in program history and just the second in the last four decades, as Kapaun closed the book on a 22-3 season.

The championship only grows the legend of head coach Steve Eck, who engineered a Kansas high school dynasty with six 6A titles at Wichita South from 1988-96, left for what became a Hall-of-Fame career in the junior-college ranks, then returned to the City League sidelines three years ago.

The heroics of Corbin Johnson and William Thengvall, the duo who scored a combined 47 points, will go down in history at Kapaun after their efforts on Saturday.

After Piper rattled off a 9-0 run to open up a 52-48 lead with 3:18 left in the fourth quarter, Johnson rescued the Crusaders with his shooting.

It began with Johnson drawing a foul on a 3-pointer that sent him to the foul line, where he made three straight free throws. Piper scored again at the other end, but Johnson pulled up from four feet beyond the arc from dead center and buried a triple to tie the game at 54 with 2:26 left.

After Piper scored again to briefly take the lead, Johnson came off a screen to drill a 3 from the right wing to put Kapaun back on top, 57-56, with 1:12 left.

Piper answered with a pair of free throws to grab control of the lead again and bottled up Johnson on the perimeter, but that gave Thengvall an opening to attack.

Thengvall, who scored 17 of his game-high 29 points in the first half to carry Kapaun, once again came through in the clutch. After Johnson drew a pair of defenders, Thengvall attacked and finished a driving score while being fouled. The three-point play with 41 seconds left put Kapaun in front for good, 59-57.

Trailing 62-59 with 14.8 seconds left, Piper had one final chance to tie the game and it found a relatively open 3-pointer that could have forced overtime. But the shot missed and Kapaun rebounded to secure the championship and set off a wild celebration in front of more than 4,000 fans in Emporia.