Some of the shots Andover Central’s girls attempted in the first half against Paola on Wednesday weren’t the kind that will appear on the Jaguars’ season highlight film.
With Paola’s 6-foot-4 junior, Tiana Moala, roaming the lane, Central occasionally found itself shooting at a target it couldn’t see.
But the Jaguars weren’t making things any easier on Paola when it had the ball. And when Central’s Skyler Snodgrass caught the ball near the free-throw line and whirled and scored in one motion, Central soon led by five points at halftime.
“Yeah, I was probably lucky,” said Snodgrass, who led Central with 16 points in its 58-50 victory in the Class 4A-Division I quarterfinals at the Bicentennial Center. “Once we had a decent lead is when I felt a little more relaxed.”
The Jaguars shook their early jitters and played a solid second half in their first state appearance since winning the 5A title four years ago. Masen Stamp added 13 points and Katie Kretchmar had 11 points and 11 rebounds for Central (19-4), which will play Bishop Miege in Friday’s semifinals.
“We came out really, really tight, which I kind of anticipated just because none of the girls have been to a state tournament,” Central coach Stana Jefferson said. “Down the stretch, I told them, ‘You’re going to miss shots, but you can always rely on your defense,’ which is what I thought we did.”
After shooting 29 percent in the first half, the Jaguars climbed to 54 percent after the break to win their ninth consecutive game. Snodgrass scored 12 points in the second half and Stamp harassed Paola’s guards for five steals as Central led by as many as 16.
“I think that when we all get into our second level, our defense starts working,” Stamp said. “That just makes our offense turn on.”
Moala finished with 16 points and 18 rebounds for Paola (19-4), which finished fourth in 4A last season. The Panthers shot 36 percent (20 of 56), but made just 2 of 14 three-pointers.
“They’re quick, they’re athletic and they’re absolutely everything we expected them to be,” Paola coach Stuart Ross said. “We didn’t react well and we didn’t react smart.”
“The girls battled like crazy,” McPherson coach Chris Strathman said. “Those stats wouldn’t normally tell me that we’re going to be right there in the game.”
The Bullpups did it with three-point shooting, hitting six in the first half. When Hannah Willems and Abby Pedersen started the third quarter with threes, McPherson was 8 of 12 from long range and tied with the Stags at 29.
But Miege, looking for its 17th state title this week, adjusted and didn’t let McPherson breathe easily against its fullcourt pressure. The Stags forced 25 turnovers in the game and used a 10-0 run late in the third quarter to gain the upper hand.
“We are quick up front, and even our big kid can get up and down the court quicker than most post players,” Miege coach Terry English said. “All year long we’ve done a pretty good job of pressing people, and if we can do it without fouling, it’s good for us.”
Center Madeline Homoly scored 18 points, and guards Shelbe Piggie (14) and Kelsey Wolf (12) also reached double figures for Miege (20-3). But Lexie Villegas, the Stags’ lone senior, created her own havoc despite scoring just three points. She had two offensive rebounds that led to five second-chance points and two steals during the run that gave Miege the lead for good.
“That’s the way she is,” English said. “She does all the little things for us. She hits the boards hard and makes the steals on defense. She’s one of our best defensive players, and she pretty much held (McPherson’s Janae) Barnes in check the whole game.”
Pedersen led McPherson (17-6) with 18 points, including four three-pointers, and Willems had 13.
“We wanted to win and we thought we had a chance,” said Mulvane coach Kendra Banzet, a senior standout on the Wildcats’ last team that made it to state. “We just needed that one more person to step up offensively.”
The Wildcats (15-8) struggled with Lanie Page, Wamego’s 6-3 junior. She scored 27 points, including the first seven of the second half after Mulvane clawed its way to within five just before halftime. Page’s older sister, Kaylee, added 13 points and 12 rebounds.
“We kind of broke up our own rhythm with subs a little bit,” Wamego coach Jim Page said. “That was kind of my fault. You’re hopefully going to play three games in three days, so you don’t want to show everything and go empty after the first game.”
Aubree Burkhart scored 13 points and Destinee Donaldson added 11 for Mulvane, which couldn’t get closer than 10 points after Lanie Page’s flurry pushed the lead to 36-22. The Wildcats shot 30 percent from the field. Guard KaSandra Melick, who averaged 13 points during the regular season, scored four on 2-of-12 shooting.