Even when Andover Central’s lead reached nine points with 5:35 left in the second quarter Friday, Jaguars coach Jesse Herrmann knew his team needed more to conquer two-time Class 4A boys basketball champion Bishop Miege.
But that would be the Jaguars’ largest lead, and the Stags whittled it to four at halftime and took the lead for good when the fourth quarter began, then went on to a 58-47 victory.
Coming back is easier when your team sports an athletic front line.
“They threw the high-low (offense), and when you’ve got 6-8, 6-9 going against 6-3, 6-3, it’s hard for us to stop,” Herrmann said. “We did a good job in the first half, but I’m proud of our guys. We battled. Second half, they just found something that, as hard as we fought, they kept getting it in. Give them credit.”
Miege’s heralded 6-foot-9 junior Jeremiah Robinson-Earl had a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds. Fellow junior Spencer Jones had a double-double of his own with 10 points and 11 boards.
Bishop Miege coach Rich Zych was just relieved his team was able to survive, crediting Andover Central’s effort.
“They did a good job of defending,” Zych said. “We had to be more patient. The whole key to that is hitting some shots and easy looks. We were 0 for 11 at one time shooting threes.”
Miege (21-3), which outrebounded Andover Central 17-5 in the second half, will advance to play the Arkansas City-McPherson winner on Saturday at 6:15 p.m.
Once Miege began to assert itself in the second half, its rebounding totals skyrocketed, many of which came off of stickbacks of missed shots. But Miege also shot 55 percent in the second half, so often stickbacks weren’t necessary.
Herrmann said Miege’s rebounding was a critical factor. Fifteen of Miege’s rebounds were on the offensive boards.
“That’s the story right there,” he said. “That’s 21 more possessions. Size was the biggest difference. A lot of those, there’s nothing you can do: They can get higher, they’re bigger, they’re stronger.
“There’s some we could have made plays on, but for the most part it’s just them being bigger.”
Facing such a huge size deficit, Herrmann gave 6-3 sophomore Xavier Bell the primary defensive assignment on Robinson-Earl, giving up 6 inches.
“They did a good job covering Robinson-Earl,” Zych said. “(Bell) is a good player.”
Bell finished with 15 points, and junior Braden Belt hit four three-pointers for a team-leading 16 points.
Andover Central (18-5) will face the Ark City-McPherson loser for third at 2.
McPherson 54, Arkansas City 44: The top-seeded Bullpups (22-1) slogged their way through an ugly game to get to Saturday’s final at 6:15 against two-time defending state champion Bishop Miege and its imposing front line.
McPherson did just enough to get the job done. After shooting in the 30s for most of the game, it ended up shooting 41 percent from the field for the game – and had to shoot 53.3 percent in the second half to reach that.
Junior Jake Alexander spearheaded the McPherson attack with a game-high 23 points, followed by 6-8 Ben Pyle’s 17 points.
Arkansas City (18-6), which will face Andover Central for third place at 2 p.m., saw its 14-game winning streak come to an end. It was led by Cevin Clark’s 19 points and eight rebounds.
Every time Arkansas City threatened – it never led in the game – McPherson had an answer, stretching its lead to as much as 13 points with 1:39 to play.