Over the course of a 20-game season, every championship-chasing team will face a few games where it doesn’t shoot well.
Tuesday was one of those games for the Eisenhower boys basketball team, as an off-shooting night was made even more difficult by a superb game plan by Kip Schultz and Maize South.
“I can’t remember the last time Dylan Vincent didn’t make a three in a game,” Eisenhower coach Steve Blue said of his team’s leading scorer. “I thought Maize South had an excellent game plan and played really well and then we just didn’t shoot it very well. So I was very happy that we were able to fight through that kind of adversity.”
It’s true: Eisenhower pulled out a 55-51 victory over Maize South, improving to 16-1 on the season without one of its usual efficient offensive outings. The victory not only kept Eisenhower atop the standings in its sub-state by one game over Liberal, but it also secured the AV-CTL Div. II championship outright.
In six seasons under Blue, Eisenhower has now won four league titles.
“It means a lot to our kids and it’s mean a lot to our program,” Blue said. “We talk a lot about winning a league title and how it’s an indication of being a consistent team throughout the season. It’s one of those things we really like to focus on. It’s big for us to be league champs. But we still have to secure that No. 1 seed for sub-state, so we can’t stop now.
Maize South led 15-9 after the first quarter and led for the majority of the game until Eisenhower’s Jeff Wake drilled a three-pointer to tie the score at 51. On the following possession, Eisenhower’s pressure was able to force a five-second call and the Tigers ran a set play that found Vincent on a backdoor cut for the go-ahead basket with 10 seconds left.
Maize South called a timeout to draw up a play, but Matt Pile stole the in-bounds pass and finished the game off with a dunk. Pile finished with a season-low nine points, while Vincent led the Tigers with 15.
The Mavericks had three scorers in double-digits with Ethan Hartig (12), Ethan Richardson (11), and Nolan Vennis (11).
Maize South dropped to 7-10 on the season, but this remains a dangerous team. Seven of the 10 losses have come by single-digits and Maize South is just 2-4 in games decided by five points or less.
Kapaun 81, Northwest 72 — Kapaun scored 28 points in the fourth quarter to pull away from a close game and can now clinch at least a share of its first City League championship since 2005 on Friday against Carroll. Chris Meitzner scored 30 points to lead Kapaun (14-3), while Mitchell Woodward (18), Thomas Wells (13), and Mark Hutton (11) all scored in double-digits. Northwest (5-12) was led by 21 points from Jalen Smith.
South 67, East 52 — A close game turned into a comfortable double-digit victory for South in the fourth quarter when the Titans out-scored East 22-10. South remained in contention for the City League title, but just barely: the Titans are two games behind Kapaun with just three to play. South does play Kapaun in the season finale next Thursday, but would need either Carroll or East to pull off an upset over Kapaun to have a chance for a tie. Malcolm Tate led the Titans (13-4) with 19 points, while Jariah Taylor (15) and Remy Lemovou (12) were also in double figures. East (10-7) was led by 15 points from Emilio Valentin.
Derby 64, Salina South 60 — This was a crucial road win for Derby (13-4) to remain in a tie for the top seed in its sub-state. Josh Clavin led the Panthers with 22 points, while Nyjee Wright added 16 and surpassed the 1,000-point career scoring mark in the game.
Andover Central 61, Andover 48 — The Jaguars (6-11) snapped a three-game slide with an emotional rivalry victory, as they out-scored Andover 22-12 in the fourth quarter to pull away in a close game. The difference in the game was a big-time performance by Andover Central’s Braden Belt, who exploded for a game-high 27 points. Andover (7-10) was led by 15 points from Chase Oberg.
Arkansas City 56, Valley Center 49 — Don’t look now, but Ark City is now 9-8 and C.J. Jennings has that team playing some of its best basketball in a really long time. Ark City has a nice win over Conway Springs, one over Andover, and now a season sweep over Valley Center. The win also keeps the Bulldogs as the No. 5 seed in their sub-state, just a half-game up on Bishop Carroll and a full game up on Goddard. Ark City won the final quarter 13-8 to pull away for this win, as Cooper Pierce scored a team-high 15 points. Valley Center (7-10) was led by 22 points from Tyler Brown.
Andale 54, Clearwater 44 — A strong third quarter brought Clearwater within a point of Andale entering the final quarter, but Andale won the fourth quarter 17-8 and pulled away for the win. Andale (15-2) had three in double-figures with Easton Hunter (12), Grant Fairchild (10), and Codi Urbanek (10), while Clearwater (7-10) was led by 14 points from Kincaid Liebenberg. Andale will now play Collegiate on Friday and can take a step toward winning a share of the league championship if it can hand Collegiate its first loss of the season.
Garden Plain 57, Douglass 56 — The Owls just keep winning. Even after scoring just two points in the first quarter, Garden Plain finds a way to rally to take the lead and then hold onto it in the final quarter to win its sixth straight game. After a 3-9 start, Garden Plain (9-9) has shot up the standings in its sub-state and is now tied with Cheney for the No. 4 seed. The Owls had a balanced scoring attack in victory with Cody Hendryx (12), Alex Mannebach (12), and Matt Pauly (11) all in double-figures.
Trinity Academy 64, Belle Plaine 56 — Trinity Academy took a step closer to winning the Central Plains League championship with a solid win over an much-improved Belle Plaine squad on the road. The Knights (15-2) were led by 19 points from Luke Prohaska and can clinch at least a share of the league title on Friday with a victory at home over Chaparral.
South 50, East 29 — South held East to 14 points through three quarters to remain undefeated and win its 48th straight game to improve to 17-0 on the season. The Titans can now clinch at least a share of its fifth straight City League championship on Friday against Heights. South had three scorers in double-figures in Tre’Zure Jobe (15), Kyla Callins (11), and Loan-Anh Johnson (10).
Bishop Carroll 62, Southeast 31 — Carroll held Southeast to 18 points in the final three quarters and overwhelmed Southeast to improve 14-4 and put the pressure on Maize (14-3) and Goddard (14-3) in the final week and half of the season as those three battle it out for the top seed in their sub-state. Brynn Maul and Allison McFarren each scored 12 points for Carroll.
West 69, North 37 — Since West had two starters become eligible for the second semester, the Pioneers have ripped off nine straight victories and are undefeated since Dymond McElrath and Destiny Pittman have started playing. West (12-6) has secured its first winning season in over a decade and seem to be a heavy favorite to advance to state, as well. The Pioneers were led in this game by 23 points from Mikayla Shaw, as they were playing without leading scorer Brianna Johnson.
Kapaun Mt. Carmel 51, Northwest 40 — Kapaun turned a close game into a comfortable victory by out-scoring Northwest 17-8 in the fourth quarter. Kapaun has now won three in a row and remained in competition for the No. 5 seed in its sub-state. Brenna Monty and Anna Roulston each scored 18 points for Kapaun, while Northwest (5-12) had three in double-figures in Alexis Snodgrass (14), Madison Surmeier (11), and Dejanae Arnold (11).
Newton 41, Hutchinson 30 — Newton shut out Hutchinson in the first quarter and then coasted to the victory, improving to 14-3 and staying in the hunt for a potential share of the AV-CTL Div. I title with a match-up against frontrunner Maize coming next Tuesday. The Railers were led by 14 points from DesiRay Kernal.
Maize South 57, Eisenhower 31 — Since its mid-season tournament, Maize South has won six of its last seven games now and improved to 11-6 on the season. Sierra Mortensen led the Mavericks with 17 points and Lauren Johnson added 15, while Mallory Miller scored 15 points for Eisenhower and surpassed the 1,000-point scoring mark in her career.
Andover Central 49, Andover 43 — After winning just three games last season, Andover has really improved under first-year coach Clint Cornelsen. The Trojans were able to push their cross-town rivals, taking them into double overtime but the Jaguars eventually prevailed. But Andover (6-11) has already doubled its win total from last season and are starting to play its best close to the postseason. Andover Central (10-7) was led by 22 points from Jewell Bolden and Ryann Stearns added 11, while the Trojans were led by 20 points from Kylee Gaddis.