Frequently, a young team will wilt under pressure when faced with adversity.
But Andover Central, which has just one senior starter, displayed a huge amount of poise when Kansas City Piper’s three-pointers began to fall, and Central held on for a 68-60 victory Thursday in its Class 4A-Division I boys quarterfinal.
Jaguars coach Jesse Herrmann credited a fourth-place finish last year at state as the No. 8 seed with an 8-14 record helped the maturation process.
“Last year, we were a ‘young’ young team; this year, we’re an ‘experienced’ young team,” he said. “That game we just won, a lot of times last year we wouldn’t have won that game.
“We brought back the core of our team from what was kind of a Cinderella run at the end of last year, making the final four.”
Sophomore Xavier Bell led the way for third-seeded Andover Central (18-4), scoring 21 of his game-high 26 points in the second half. Included in his total were 9 of 10 from the free-throw line.
“They were spreading out on us, and ‘X’ is really good about getting by his guy,” Herrmann said. “A lot of times this year, he’s gotten real good about making decisions on whether to kick to one of our shooters or take it himself.
“(Thursday) the basket was there quite a bit for him in the second half, and so that’s what their defense kind of dictated that we do.”
The first half was a battle, as the margin hovered around the 3-to-4 range, capped with Andover Central leading, 28-23, at the break.
Piper (15-7), which hit just 27.6 percent of its first-half shots, put its fate in the hands of the Bates brothers, junior Trey and freshman Tamar, and got back in the game as the two hit five three-pointers each. Trey hit three in less than two minutes of the third quarter. The last one gave Piper its only lead of the second half, 43-41, with 1:42 left in the period. Bell hit two tying free throws, and the Pirates outscored the Jaguars, 20-15, in the quarter.
Tamar finished with 18 points, and Trey had 15.
“They made 14 ‘3s;’ we took a big punch in the mouth,” Herrmann said. “They took the lead late in the third quarter, and our guys just took it, stayed poised and then made a run.
“That’s a pretty good punch in the mouth, and being able to stay poised and finish the game.”
Herrmann said he was amazed at the Pirates third-quarter shooting.
“In the third quarter, they just didn’t miss,” he said. “We felt like we had a comfortable lead, and most of it was them hitting pretty good, guarded shots.”
The marksmanship from three-point land kept Andover Central from running away.
Also among the young scorers who returned from last year are two juniors: Braden Belt, who finished with 16 points, including four three-pointers; and Easton Leedom, who finished with 10 points.
In Friday’s semifinals, the Jaguars will face No. 2 seed Bishop Miege (20-3), which ousted Labette County 65-49 in Thursday’s opening game.
No. 1 McPherson 64, No. 8 Spring Hill 43: McPherson (21-1) hit 65 percent from the field and outscored Spring Hill (14-9) 25-14 in the first half and cruised in its tournament opener.
Not surprisingly, 6-8 senior Ben Pyle spearheaded the Bullpups’ attack with a double-double of a game-high 26 points and 12 rebounds, sinking 8 of 10 field-goal tries and 8 of 11 free throws. McPherson advanced to a semifinal matchup Friday with the winner of Thursday’s late game between No. 4 Arkansas City (17-5), which has won 13 straight, and No. 5 Wamego (16-5).
Junior Jake Alexander finished with 16 points.
Spring Hill was led by Nathan Ewing’s 14 points and Justin Weber’s 12.
KC Piper — T. Bates 18, T. Bates 15, Covington 10, Jackson 6, Yoder 6, Shelley 3, Barnes 2
Andover Central — X. Bell 26, B. Belt 18, E. Leedom 10, S. Parnell 7, N. Crawford 5, J. Washington 2
Spring Hill — Ewing 14, Weber 12, Feeback 8, Steging 6, LaPlante 2, Towles 1
McPherson — B. Pyle 26, J. Alexander 16, J. Alexander 6, J. Kinnamon 5, M. Alexander 4, D. Labertew 3, C. Stufflebean 2, K. Hoppes 2
Arkansas City 45, Wamego 29: The fourth-seeded Bulldogs outscored No. 5 Wamego 28-10 in the second half and advanced to a Friday semifinal against top-seeded McPherson.
Junior Cevin Clark scored a game-high 29 points for Ark City (18-5), which held the Red Raiders (16-6) to 28.6 percent shooting from the field. The Bulldogs were only slightly better hitting 32.4 percent.
Wamego 12 7 2 8 – 29
Arkansas City 13 4 13 15 – 45
Wamego – Cooper 4, Dillon 10, Fritz 4, Jayson Ebert 7, York 1, Keller 1, Delforge 2.
Arkansas City – Clark 29, Spencer 1, Wilson 9, O’Toole 2, Stewart 2, Fiorentino 2.