By JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
WINCHESTER, Ill. -- For two minutes Thursday night, the Payson Seymour boys basketball team played with championship intentions.
The next 30 minutes, the Indians played just to survive.
After bolting to a 7-0 lead over fifth-seeded North Greene in the semifinals of the 91st annual Winchester Tournament, top-seeded Payson saw the Spartans run off six straight points and keep it to a two-possession game for the first three quarters.
Ultimately, it took an 8-2 run to gain separation and allow the Indians to win 51-44 and advance to the championship. Payson (13-2) will play the winner of Friday's semifinal between third-seeded Waverly and seventh-seeded Liberty in the championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday.
"We started out with more intensity at the beginning," Indians senior Jake Voss said. "Then we took our foot off the gas and let them back in the game."
Payson coach Brian Rea felt the energy change.
"We played with energy and we played together and moved as one," Rea said. "Then we stopped doing it. We stopped doing it after we thought, ‘Oh, this is pretty easy.' They started attacking us more, and we got lazy."
The Indians never trailed after Voss, who finished with a game-high 22 points, capped the opening 7-0 run when he converted a three-point play with 6 minutes, 18 seconds left in the first quarter.
North Greene (8-5) never could find a way to wrestle the lead away, but stayed in the game by scoring on second-chance opportunities as Reed Rusten finished with 14 points and five rebounds.
One of the reasons the Spartans never took the lead was their shooting. North Greene went 17 of 51 from the field.
To open the fourth quarter, the Indians sealed the game by slowing things down. Payson focused more on ball movement and pushed its lead to 46-36 with 2:37 remaining.
"It helped late in the game especially," Rea said. "We were starting to dribble the ball too much and were easy to guard. Then we started spreading it out and cutting more and wore them out a little bit."
Lance Buhlig had 14 points and a team-high five assists for Payson.
"We found each other and ran the floor like we're supposed to do," Buhlig said. "When we're playing well, we run the floor well and see each other for buckets and that's what we did in the first quarter."
In consolation action, Griggsville-Perry outscored Greenfield 14-3 in the second quarter and cruised to a 64-37 victory.
Levi King led the Tornadoes (7-10) with 19 points.
Meanwhile, Jacksonville Routt outlasted Western 37-34. Izack Hively led the Wildcats with 13 points.