With about five seconds left in one of the most emotionally charged sub-state championship games in the Wichita area, Andover Central junior Xavier Bell took flight.
He soared for a left-handed, and-one dunk over Maize South junior Trey Reid to help secure a 55-50 sub-state title and clinch the Jaguars’ fourth straight trip to state. But after the dunk, Reid stayed down.
After Bell landed, video shows what can be seen as a shove that sent Reid about five yards. Bell was issued his second technical foul of the game and was ejected. Reid suffered a knee and achillies injury, he said.
Bell and Reid said they are friends. Bell said he would never intentionally hurt someone he sees as “family,” and said he was trying to catch Reid, not throw him to the ground.
After the dunk, Bell celebrated back toward midcourt. About 10 seconds later, he realized Reid was still down as parents and trainers rushed to his side. Elation quickly turned to sorrow on Bell’s face.
As the teams lined up to give handshakes after the game, Bell re-entered the gym from the locker room. Maize South fans began to boo him for what they perceived as a malicious act on Reid.
Bell made his way through the line and got to Reid, hugged him and as he walked away, began to cry. Bell said those weren’t tears of joy.
“I was sad,” he said.
Later, both players took to Twitter as discussion mounted. Bell reiterated his intention was not to hurt his friend.
“Trey, once again bro, I’m sorry, and I love you,” Bell tweeted.
Reid said he believed Bell was not looking to take him out.
“Me and X went at it all night,” Reid tweeted. “It’s just the physicality of the sport. Me and him have played together and against each other for years.”
The moment was a cap to a game that featured multiple technical fouls and a fourth quarter lead that was never more than three points until the final seconds.
Maize South beat Andover Central 70-66 on the road Feb. 12; it was the Jaguars’ second loss of the season and left a sour taste in their mouths.
The AVCTL II rivals played for a third time with the series split a game a piece. With so many experienced players on the court, it made for high quality entertainment and a massive payoff, senior Easton Leedom said.
“This is by far the most happy I’ve been after a win,” he said. “All four years, and this is the best I’ve ever felt.”
Andover Central coach Jesse Herrmann and the Jaguars haven’t missed a state tournament since 2015, but this season marks the first in Class 5A. Last year, they finished fourth in 4A-Division I, losing to eventual champion Bishop Miege in the semifinals
Herrmann said this year’s road to state was different because of the route.
“I’ve been coaching for 20-something years, and this side of the state is as loaded a bracket as I’ve seen,” he said. “Every team that was in the games today are potential state champions. Every one of them can win it.”
Bishop Carroll has been looking for its bona fide leader and looks to have found it on cue.
Senior point guard Carsen Pracht pushed the Golden Eagles to a second straight Class 5A sub-state championship Saturday with a 62-49 home win over McPherson, last year’s 4A-Division I runner-up.
Pracht was everywhere for Carroll like All-State selection Luke Evans was last year on the Eagles’ state championship run. He was efficient and consistent in his passes and shots. He organized his team on both ends of the floor and served as the vocal leader.
Carroll coach Mike Domnick said there are a lot of similarities between he and Evans ahead of the state tournament.
“He does so much more than just score, and that’s why it’s fun to watch him play,” he said. “He makes very few mistakes. We’ve got some nice pieces, but if you don’t have the leadership, you don’t have the guidance, that one guy you can look to, it’s a quick exit.”
Pracht had seven points in the first two minutes. Before the first timeout, he had more points than all but six other players finished with. He said that was key to jumping on one of the most historic programs in Kansas.
The home-court advantage almost wasn’t there Saturday, Pracht said. McPherson brought what seemed like half the city for the schools’ first meeting in Wichita since before 1975. The Golden Eagles were playing against more than a team.
“We got here an hour and a half early, and their fans were already filing in,” Pracht said.
The Carroll senior was key to last year’s title. He served as the primary ball-handler and at times the top scoring option. But Evans had control of the strings as the team’s only senior.
This year, Carroll will bring four seniors to the tournament: Pracht, Gunner Lynch, Cade Becker and Carson Lee. Just a month ago, Carroll struggled with leadership and it showed with a pair of losses to South and Southeast.
Domnick said that has changed, and they are dangerous for it.
“About three-fourths into the season, coach Dom started to get onto us seniors to be a bigger leader,” Pracht said. “And I took that to heart.”
‘Dare to be different’
The Derby seniors have never known any different.
The Panthers’ girls basketball team clinched its fourth consecutive Kansas Class 6A sub-state championship Saturday with a breezy 60-40 win over Lawrence. The Derby class of 2019 will go down with four trips to state in football and girls basketball.
“It’s just about being uncommon; that’s what coach preaches to us every single day,” senior point guard Tor’e Alford said. “Today our words were, ‘Dare to be different.’ Four straight, that’s being different.”
Brown began to cry after the Panthers’ win. It was her final game on the Derby court, a place that has helped her become a high school All-American and a state champion. She said it was only the second time she has cried in a Panthers uniform.
The first came last year in Derby’s state semifinal win over Wichita South that was decided seconds before the buzzer.
“It kind of hit me in that fourth quarter,” Brown said. “I didn’t really think about it coming in, but towards the end when I knew we had it, I just got a little emotional. It’s been a great four years here, so it’s just kind of bittersweet.”
Derby coach Jodie Karsak and the Panthers are looking to repeat as state champions, something that hasn’t happened in 6A outside of the City League since Leavenworth won a pair in 1988-89.
Karsak has led Derby to 43 straight wins, but she said her group of seniors, including Brown, Alford and guard Aliyah Myers, has been nothing short of outstanding.
“These girls are so smart, and they play so well together,” Karsak said. “Half the things they do, I don’t even draw up. They just read each other. We’ve always got a game plan, and they buy into it 100 percent.”
Maize is one of four undefeated boys basketball teams left in Kansas.
The Eagles won their Class 5A sub-state championship with a 53-47 win over Eisenhower on Saturday. The next highest undefeated title-winner came in 3A.
Maize has brought in one player since the nine seniors were freshmen. They have grown from within and maneuvered through one of the toughest schedules in Kansas, beating three state tournament qualifiers and three others that reached their sub-state finals.
Maize opened its stellar season with Eisenhower and beat the Tigers by 25. Since then, Eisenhower turned into a legitimate contender winning five its previous six games ahead of Saturday’s championship game.
Junior guard Jordan Vincent has entered the All-State conversation, scoring 24.8 points per game, which was third among all players in the Wichita area through the regular season.
Coach Chris Grill said the Tigers deployed a strong game plan. Through the first quarter, Maize’s top two scorers, seniors Caleb Grill and Brandle Easter were held scoreless.
“We’ve always found a way to win the close ones,” Grill said. “We always seem to play well in the second half of games we’ve struggled in. This one was no different.”
Last year, Maize lost on its home court in a sub-state final to Salina Central. Since then, the motto has been redemption. They achieved it Saturday, reaching state for the first ime in five years, but are looking for more, Grill said.
“This year felt a lot like last year,” he said. “Offensively we weren’t great through three quarters. But I think for these guys, this is a huge accomplishment.”
Red bird rock
Jan. 26, Cheney was handed its first loss of the season in the championship game of the Wildcat Classic in Haven, to Haven.
Saturday, the Cardinals delievered the Wildcats’ final loss of 2019 with a 60-52 redemption win in their Class 3A sub-state final. Cheney coach Rod Scheer said after losing in the midseason tournament, he told his group it could see Haven again.
“We’ve been through that atmosphere,” he said. “The crowd, the band, and I think that helped us a little bit. The didn’t play afraid.”
Cheney came out the opposite of how it did in its semifinal game against Halstead. Thursday night, the Cardinals were 3-of-37 in the first half. Saturday, they scored 22 points in the first quarter.
One of the more undersized teams in the Wichita area, Cheney relied on its speed and shooting ability from sophomore Kylee Scheer and senior Destinee O’Shea, who combined for seven three-pointers. But Haven’s size caught up in the second quarter.
Cheney scored two points in the second frame and was down 47-39 with about five minutes to go. Scheer said the Cardinals hit four straight three-point plays, including ghree and-one buckets, to snare the lead.
With the win, the Cardinals have reached state for the second time in three years. In 2017, Cheney reached the 3A title game before losing to Hugoton. Scheer said this group has been through the Haven sub-state, so it can go through anything.
“Two years ago, there were seven teams with a winning record,” he said. “Going through this, especially at Haven, to beat them at their place, the kids did an amazing job. Four of those teams could have made it. I hope we can represent our sub-state because it was a hell of a one.”
Thunderbirds are real
Circle girls basketball coach Brian Henry knew the reality of the 2018-19 season.
“Returning so many players off last year’s team, this was a make it to state or bust kind of season for us all along,” he said. “It’s kind of a relief off our shoulders, and we have an opportunity now.”
They didn’t bust, beating Pratt 50-33 in their Class 4A West sub-state championship game.
Circle needed a team effort Saturday to reach state for the third straight year. In each of the past two seasons, Circle’s season has ended at the hand of Bishop Miege.
The Thunderbirds would need to beat 19-1 Baldwin first to have a crack at the Stags.
“We had a lot of people that needed to step up tonight, and we had a lot of people that did step up tonight,” Henry said. “We hope to take an extra step this year.”
Plain and simple
Kody Kasselman didn’t request film on any of the teams in his group’s sub-state tournament until it was over.
The Garden Plain girls basketball coach believed in his team and knew it performed well without worrying about the team in front of it. Instead, he wanted his girls to focus on themselves, and they did Saturday with a Class 2A sub-state title win over Conway Springs in its building, 34-28.
“It’s Conway,” Kasselman said. “It’s always a battle.”
The Owls are the defending 3A champions. They know how to win in March and have started to show it late this season. Garden Plain has won nine of its last 10 games, including one of 3A qualifier Cheney and another over 4A Andale.
Kasselman’s team has reached the state tournament three out of the past four seasons. He said it never gets old, but it never gets easy either.
“We had kids step up that needed to step up at certain times,” he said. “They grinded. They grinded though it.”
The winners were:
- Wichita Southeast, boys
- Maize South, girls
- Goddard, girls
- McPherson, girls
- Wichita Heights, girls
- Trinity Academy, boys
- Andale, boys
- Augusta, boys