KEARNEY – A layup, a clutch free throw and a defensive stop during the final 30 seconds of William Chrisman’s 66-63 nail-biting win over Winnetonka Monday night at Kearney High School secured a U.S. 24 Highway semifinal in district boys basketball Thursday.

Junior forward Gannon Ogle provided the layup with about 30 seconds left to break a 63-63 deadlock. He got the opportunity because the back row of Winnetonka’s zone pushed up toward Brett Pendergist, who had the ball, he said.

“He dished it off and I happened to make it,” Ogle said.

Pendergist then sank one of two free throw attempts with 11.4 seconds left to give Chrisman a three-point lead. It was the last of 15 points scored by the senior guard, who was among three Bears to finish in double figures. Alex Ball led Chrisman 17 and Chris Horn also scored 15.

Admittedly, Pendergist “was really nervous” when he went to the line.

“The first one, I put too much on, so I knew I could adjust – just put a little bit less on it just to sink the second one,” he said. “I’m glad I did it.”

After calling timeout with five seconds left, the Griffins tried to get a look for a game-tying 3-pointer. But Chrisman’s defense closed down on the perimeter, forcing Winnetonka to settle for a desperation attempt. The missed shot secured Chrisman’s meeting with Fort Osage at 6 p.m. Thursday at Kearney.

The desperation heave also capped what Bears coach Chad Wright called a “pretty ugly” win. But at this stage, the key is to “win and move on,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter what the score (is or) how it happens,” he said.

The down-to-the wire finish capped a seesaw matchup. Chrisman opened with an 8-0 run, but Winnetonka rallied and led 19-16 at quarter’s end. The Griffins edged the Bears 10-6 the second quarter to lead 29-22 at halftime. Chrisman responded by outscoring Winnetonka 24-16 in the third quarter to lead 46-45.

Both teams led during the fourth quarter. Winnetonka’s Julius Sebastiano sank one of two foul shots with 53.4 seconds left to force the Bears to pull it out with Ogle’s layup, Pendergist’s foul shot and the final defensive stand.

The Bears set up a third meeting with the Indians. The teams split their regular-season meetings, with Chrisman winning 74-70 at Fort Osage and then Fort Osage winning 69-63 in Chrisman’s gym.

“We just have come out, play our game and think we can win it,” Ogle said.

Wright, who was an assistant at William Jewell College, where he worked with current Fort Osage coach Josh Wilson, is “excited” about Thursday’s meeting.

“They’re playing really well right now,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to play one of the top teams in the city.”