After beating Piper on Thursday night, The Andover Central boys basketball team advanced to face Bishop Miege on Friday night in the 4A-1 state semifinals in Salina.
Miege is the defending state champion in class 4A-1, and has been the favorite to win the tournament again this season.
The Stags feature 6'9" four-star forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who is ranked by ESPN as the No. 35 player in the class of 2019. Miege clearly had a height advantage, but Central was no intimidated and showed no sign of backing down.
Miege won the tip and scored an easy basket just seconds into the game. Xavier Bell answered with a basket to tie it. Miege was unable to get much offense going thanks to Central's zone defense. The Jaguars defense was able to help on Miege's star player and stay in the game. With the game tied at 14 late in the first quarter, Xavier Bell drove through contact and laid it in and proceeded to knock down the free throw to give Central a 17-14 lead.
Miege suffered from some foul trouble in the second quarter. Andover Central continued to shoot the ball well, while Miege finished the first half 0-for-9 from behind the arc. Central took a 28-24 lead into the half.
After missing nine straight threes on the first half, Miege knocked down four threes to open the second half and took a 36-33 lead.
Braden Belt knocked down back-to-back threes to give Central a lead again. The Jaguars led 41-40 going into the fourth quarter.
Bishop Miege opened the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run to go up 48-41.
Miege’s star forward was getting frustrated, as Central was preventing him from getting the ball and denying him from scoring as much as he is used to. The frustration was visible when he picked up a technical foul midway through the fourth quarter. Xavier Bell knocked down two free throws to bring cut the Miege lead to five. Miege was able to knock down free throws in the final minutes to prevent Andover Central from regaining the lead as the Stags escaped with a 58-47 win.
Braden Belt knocked down four threes and finished with 16 points. Xavier Bell added 15.
“I thought we executed the game plan pretty well,” said Andover Central head coach Jesse Herrmann.
“In the first half, we got a little bit luck when they missed quite a few of their threes. They were just too long for us to handle and down the stretch that was the difference. They had great possessions and we had some we kind of left on the table and that was when they made their run.”
Andover Central will face Arkansas City at 2 p.m. on Saturday in the third place game.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” said Herrmann.
“We were 5-3 after the Eisenhower game and we weren’t sure where our identity was. We had a talk, and since then we’ve played together really well, and we played hard. Those are the two things we ask them to do and it translated into a bunch of wins. It’s been a fun ride. Unfortunately we ran into a team that was just a little bit too big for us.”