Tuesday night probably wasn’t the best time for Andover Central girls coach Stana Jefferson to earn sympathy for what she calls the Jaguars’ “height issues.”
Size may have been a concern before Central’s game at Maize, but it was no longer evident afterward. The Jaguars controlled the paint offensively and dominated it on defense to beat Maize 51-39.
Becca Schulte and Katie Kretchmar combined for 26 points and 22 rebounds while holding Maize star Kieryn Swenson scoreless in the second half.
With no player taller than 5-foot-10, Central found ways to defend Swenson and two other 6-foot Maize players, mostly with help defense that rebuffed several entry passes.
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“Katie and I just know that no matter who we’re up against, as long as we stick to our fundamentals we can take anyone,” Schulte said. “We just go in with no fear and go in as confident as can be. We come in with a good mindset, don’t be afraid of anybody.”
Swenson scored 14 points in the first half, overcoming Central’s quick defensive rotations to get behind the Jaguars for lob passes, but often those passes were batted away and stolen.
The Eagles never adjusted to Central’s teamwork, and for most of the second half Swenson was non-existent. She didn’t score or grab a rebound, missing one three-pointer in the third quarter and one in the fourth.
“I was surprised,” Schulte said of Maize’s inability to change the plan for Swenson. “She’s an outstanding player, and I was nervous to go up against her, for sure.”
That left Daley Handy to pick up the slack, and she scored 13 second-half points, but no other Maize player scored until the final two-plus minutes.
“We came in with the mindset that we have to shut down the paint and keep them out of the middle,” Schulte said. “We work every day on closing out and being really strong on the outside, so getting into help was something we really had to focus on and work on, because that’s something (Swenson) is really good at. She’s a great player.”
The Jaguars were just aggressive in the paint with the ball as without it. Though two three-pointers by Brooke Pederson helped Central begin to pull away in the third, the Jaguars found consistency through Schulte and Kretchmar, who combined to make 9 of 11 shots.
“My posts work real well together,” Jefferson said. “They like a little high-low, they’re great passers. It makes them even better ballplayers. I told them before the game that if we outrebound this team, we have a chance to win.”
ANDOVER CENTRAL: Stamp 7, Pederson 9, Snodgrass 9, Schulte 12, Kretchmar 14.
MAIZE: Swenson 14, D. Handy 15, Bird 6, McClure 2, Roland 2.