VALLEY CENTER – It wasn’t easy for Maize South to reach the winners bracket of the Valley Center January Jam.
But once the Mavericks did, there wasn’t much that could stop them.
Junior guard Payten Ricks scored 26 points and senior forward Kade Kordonowy added 24 on Saturday as Maize South rolled to an 89-68 victory over Northwest in the championship game.
Senior center Alex Martin added 21 points for the Mavericks, No. 7 in the Class 5A coaches rankings. With Ricks cutting through Northwest’s defense, and Kordonowy and Martin dominating inside, Maize South pulled away after an early second-half challenge from the Grizzlies.
“They were guarding me too close,” said Ricks, whose penetration produced four three-point play opportunities – three of which he converted. “Once you rip past them, if you can keep them on your hip, it’s an easy basket.”
Both teams made getting to the basket a priority. The Mavericks proved to be more efficient. They shot 48 percent from the field (32 of 67) and outrebounded Northwest 48-36.
“They’re just too big,” said Northwest coach Bryan Chadwick, whose team missed an opportunity to reach the .500 mark after a 1-4 start. “They’re too big and athletic and disciplined.
“They’ve been together forever and they know their stuff.”
Northwest (5-7), which got 21 points from guard K’veion Richard, surrendered 28 second-quarter points and trailed 42-25 at halftime. But less than three minutes into the third quarter, the Grizzlies had cut the deficit to 50-40 and had momentum.
Ricks, a 6-foot point guard, played a big role in stopping the Grizzlies’ charge.
He scored the next nine points for the Mavericks, including five on a possession in which Northwest’s Daylin Johnson committed a personal foul and received a technical.
When Ricks hit the last of three free throws, Maize South’s lead was back to 59-42.
“The kid has taken everything we’ve told him, and he realizes he’s the motor,” Maize South coach Kip Schultz said. “When he gets the corner, he’s either going to get the foul, he’s going to dish or he’s going to get to the line and we’re going to shoot two free throws.”
Kordonowy, who scored 11 second-quarter points, finished with a team-high 12 rebounds. Martin added 11 rebounds and the Mavericks surpassed their point total from Friday’s 78-36 semifinal victory over Valley Center.
Both games were different from the 56-53 victory over Topeka Seaman in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
“We communicated on defense, we had fun and we stepped up the intensity,” Ricks said.
Jackson made two three-pointers during and 18-3 run that gave the Bears a 48-39 lead with 2:25 remaining. Tyler Brown scored 17 points for Valley Center (3-9).