Varsity Basketball

Central girls rally behind Bias

It's difficult to consider Andover Central's 2008-09 girls basketball season a disappointment, even though it ended without a state tournament appearance.

Point guard Tiffany Bias took it personally, though, and that's probably why the Jaguars are entering the Class 5A tournament in Salina with a 22-0 record and the top seed. They meet Shawnee Heights (9-12) in Thursday's quarterfinals at the Bicentennial Center.

Bias was the first-time leader of the Jaguars after they lost Bailey Gee (now at Missouri) and Brittney Chamberlin (Hutchinson Community College) following their 2008 4A championship.

Bias guided Central to a 17-5 record, but it lost in a sub-state final to Bishop Carroll.

"It was a big (emotional) effect," Bias said. "You take on a big role and you have three seniors (including Libby Walker) leave the team. It's a new experience and you learn from that and build on it."

Last year's season might have been an overachievement, even though it followed three top-three finishes at state.

Bias, an Oklahoma State signee, gave Central a chance to win every night. But departures put surrounding players in bigger roles than they were accustomed, and the Jaguars relied on a group of young players with little experience.

Those players, including seniors Kaitlin Tennyson and Maddie Chapin, have grown into their roles, the young players have improved, and every Jaguar has adopted Bias' killer instinct.

"Tiffany is such a strong player and strong competitor," Central coach Stana Jefferson said. "She's the type of kid that can make anybody else around her better. Her leadership qualities are just out of this world."

This season's Jaguars aren't much like the 2008 title team. Bias averages 20.5 points, 7.4 assists and 5.5 steals, but she's the only Central player who provides flash.

What past Central teams offered in Division I talent, this one matches in grit. One knee injury ended the season of post player Brae Stiverson and another threatens to keep forward Cami Gee out of the state tournament.

"We have to dive for every loose ball," Jefferson said. "We might not be the prettiest team that we've had, but we're going to play the hardest."

If that message isn't received from Jefferson, it's delivered again by Bias when the games begin.

The response from her teammates can't be argued. It's nearly impossible to match Bias' energy, but the Jaguars manage.

Tennyson is a versatile scorer whose ability to drive draws defensive attention away from opposing post players. Gee uses effort to crash the backboards, and Sarah Potter and Chapin can supplement the offense Bias provides.

"That's what point guards are supposed to do, is make everyone better," Bias said. "You have to practice hard to want to succeed. They're all understanding and they all come in to work hard. That makes it easy for me, to have a team that wants to work hard and wants to push each other."

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