SALINA – After years of taking talented teams to the Class 5A girls tournament and winning a lion’s share of titles, Bishop Miege coach Terry English has brought a young, havoc-wreaking group to the Bicentennial Center this week for Class 4A-Division I’s inaugural run.
The Stags’ meal ticket is a 2-2-1 full-court press that generates turnovers — forced and unforced – and leaves opponents gasping.
Andover Central spent the entire first quarter caught in Miege’s web in the 4A-I semifinals on Friday. The Jaguars ultimately found their footing, but an early 20-point deficit proved to be too much as Miege won 64-52 behind sophomore guard Shelbe Piggie’s 26 points.
Miege (21-3), the state’s winningest girls program with 16 championships, will go for No. 17 on Saturday against unbeaten Wamego. Wamego (24-0), which won the 4A title last March, ran its winning streak to 39 games with a 52-39 victory over Kansas City Piper in the other semifinal.
Central, 4A champion in 2008 and 5A winners two years later, tried to reach a state title game for the fourth time. But after committing 12 first-quarter turnovers and trailing 23-5, the Jaguars were just trying to survive.
“I did see some panic in our face,” Central coach Stana Jefferson said. “It’s been a long time (since that happened to) this group. Usually, they stay pretty composed.”
Piggie was the ring leader of Miege’s press. She finished with six steals and helped harass Central guard Masen Stamp into nine turnovers.
“We were all freaked out and I don’t know why,” Stamp said. “We knew they had that press. We walked through it. We knew exactly what we wanted to do, but we didn’t execute it.”
When Piggie scored minutes into the second quarter, Miege led 27-7. But Central (19-5), which brought a nine-game winning streak into the contest, started chipping away after guard Skyler Snodgrass (18 points) hit a three-pointer.
The Jaguars finished the first half on a 13-2 run to pull within 29-20. Miege pushed the lead back to 42-25 on Tristen McFeders’ three-pointer midway through the third quarter. But Central launched its second run, twice cutting its deficit to three points. Snodgrass’ basket in the lane made it 49-46 with 4:29 to play.
“We got out of our offense and that hurt us,” English said. “Every time we were patient, we’d get the shot we wanted. But when we weren’t, they took advantage of it and got back in the game.”
Piggie, a 5-foot-6 sophomore, didn’t allow Central to complete the comeback. She scored 15 of Miege’s final 17, including layups off Central turnovers in the final 24 seconds to seal the victory.
Miege finished with 34 points off Central miscues.
“We’ve seen them play like three times this season,” Stamp said. “But until you’re actually in the game, you don’t realize how quick they are and how smart they are.”