Gibbs grad Barry Brown Jr. delivers for Kansas State

Barry Brown Jr., right, of Kansas State celebrates after Thursday's win over Kentucky. [Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]
Barry Brown Jr., right, of Kansas State celebrates after Thursday's win over Kentucky. [Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]
Published March 23 2018
Updated March 23 2018

Barry Brown Jr. had the ball in his hands with 21 seconds left. The Kansas State guard saw the lane open up, drove to the basket and lofted a layup past the outstretch arms of 6-foot-7 Kentucky forward PJ Washington.

There was still time left, but that shot by Brown Jr. turned out to be the winning one in Kansas State's 61-58 win in Thursday's Sweet 16 matchup.

Brown Jr., a former standout at Gibbs, finished with 13 points, none bigger than the two he scored in the waning seconds.

"The sea just parted," Brown Jr. told the NCAA's Andy Katz. "I took what they gave me and tried to maneuver the ball around so that their guys couldn't block it and I was able to get it up and make the play."

Brown Jr. started perfecting those one-handed layups in the driveway with his father when he was 5.  Those sessions would often last well past 11 p.m. Brown Jr. wanted to quit, but his father wouldn't let him stop until he got it right.

Layups were not the only thing in Brown Jr.'s offensive repertoire. He also was adept at hitting 3-pointers. As a senior with the Gladiators in 2015, Brown Jr. scored 36 points, including a stretch of six straight 3-pointers, to lead his team to a win over Golden Gate in the region final.

"Barry wants the ball in his hands in the last seconds of a game," Gibbs coach Larry Murphy said. "He wants to take that final shot. The reality is those are going to miss more than they go in. That doesn't matter to him. He wants to take them and believes he will get it done."

Murphy was in Atlanta for Thursday's game. So, too, was Brown's family.

They watched as Kansas State jumped out to a 13-1 lead. By halftime, the Wildcats were holding on to a 33-29 advantage.

"We just wanted to keep fighting at that point," said Kentucky's Kevin Knox II, a former standout at Tampa Catholic who finished with 13 points. "We were down 12 early, but we knew we still had a lot of game left. They made their run. We made our run. We wanted to make sure we kept the game close going into halftime. We wanted to come out and fight in the (second) half, but we didn't get the result we wanted."

Related: Barry Brown Jr., Kevin Knox II square off in Sweet 16

In the end, Kansas State made the shots — and stops — it needed. Afterward, Brown Jr. rushed to the stands to celebrate.

Four years ago, Brown Jr. led Gibbs to the state semifinals.

On Saturday, he can lead Kansas State to its first Final Four appearance since 1964.