Two years ago, Katelyn Day lived in Burrton (population 904) and was set to play basketball at the Class 1A level.
After a family move took her to the outskirts of Wichita, the sophomore spent her Tuesday night delivering the most important shot of the season to clinch Andover’s first league title in 17 years.
“There’s no way,” Day, still a small-town girl at heart, said of ever conjuring up a situation like that back in Burrton.
Back then, Day didn’t possess the confidence to rise, flick and swish a corner three-pointer in a game with so much at stake like Tuesday’s 51-43 victory over Valley Center.
The sophomore would have guessed one of her two turnovers in the fourth quarter or maybe even a missed shot would have stripped her of her courage. Not now.
“I used to be not so good at that, honestly,” said Day, who finished with 10 points. “But the coaches have talked to me and I know I’m hurting the team when I get down on myself, instead of elevating myself.”
The shot was the culmination of Day’s confidence, steadily built up this season through encouragement and reassurance from coaches and teammates.
It embodied the effort it took from the Trojans (15-4) to win Division II of the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League.
“We worked all throughout high school for this,” Andover senior Sydney Tilson said. “In big games this season, we all just stepped up. It wasn’t just one player, it was all of us.”
Valley Center (12-7) certainly qualified as a big game and even led 28-22 at halftime.
Andover was another victim of the Hornets’ extended 1-3-1 defense, as Valley Center’s length forces lofted passes and its quickness often leads to stealing them. Andover finished with 19 turnovers.
“We weren’t the attackers like we normally are,” Andover coach Max Hamblin said. “We weren’t doing that in the first half, we were… well, I don’t know what we were doing.”
But the Trojans quickly erased the deficit and led for the final 10 minutes of the game. Valley Center had three chances in the fourth quarter to tie but never did.
Andover’s Jaylyn Agnew led all scorers with 20 points, while Valley Center’s Megan Barnes scored 12.
“I certainly don’t feel any sense of victory, at all,” coach Daniel Smith said. “But I feel like we’re to the point where we’re respected. We’re going to be a tough play at sub-state.”
Hamblin can vouch for that.
If it wasn’t for Day’s three-pointer to push Andover’s two-point lead to 48-43 with 1:13 remaining, he knows he might be saying something different.
“It was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa… OK,’” Hamblin said. “We’ve been talking to her all year about that confidence. She can make shots like that, she just has to have that confidence.”
Valley Center: Wedekind 9, Johnson 3, Barnes 12, Coleman 8, Williams 3, Webber 6, Bosken 2. Totals 15 (4) 9-15 43.
Andover: S. Tilson 4, Agnew 20, Day 10, K. Hallmark 13, Bruner 4. Totals 18 (6) 9-19 51.