Andover started three sophomores on Friday night against a McPherson team that lost by three points in last year’s 4A-I state championship game. The young Trojans battled hard, and came out with a 66-64 overtime win over the No. 7-ranked team in 5A in their season-opener in front of their home crowd.
“They handled everything that came at them extremely well for being so young. I’m extremely proud of them,” said Andover head coach Martin Shetlar.
Andover jumped out to a 10-4 lead to start the game, but McPherson’s Jake Alexander closed the first quarter with six straight points to tie the game at 10 after one quarter.
Andover outscored McPherson 12-8 in the second quarter to go up 22-18 at the half.
Andover extended their lead in the third quarter, thanks to 11 points from junior Harper Jonas. Heading into the fourth quarter, Andover held onto a 40-30 lead. McPherson came storming back and tied the game at 57 on a Jake Alexander three with less than a minute to go. Andover slowed it down for the final shot and sophomore Jack Johnson drove to the rim for the potential game-winner, but came up short as both teams finished with 57 at the end of regulation.
McPherson scored the first points in overtime to take their first lead since a 17-16 lead early in the second quarter. Andover quickly responded with a bucket by Harper Jonas to tie it. Seconds later, Jonas hit a circus shot while falling to the ground to give Andover a 61-59 lead. After a three-pointer from McPherson’s Jake Alexander, Harper Jonas hit a pair of free throws to give Andover a one-point lead with 1:14 to go. After McPherson missed the front end of a one-and-one with under a minute to go, McPherson was forced to foul and Andover was able to knock down three of four free throw attempts in the closing seconds to hang on for a 66-64 win.
“They never backed down,” said Shetlar of his young squad.
“There was a time we were up ten… [McPherson] came back, and we didn’t even flinch. They always believed that they would win, and they did.”
Harper Jonas led the Trojans with 24 points. Senior Andrew Gagnon added 17, and sophomore Jack Johnson finished with 11.
McPherson’s Jake Alexander scored a game-high 29 points in his senior debut. Cody Stufflebean and Max Alexander added 10 each.
Last year, Andover opened the season with a huge win over Maize, but then had an up-and-down season, according to Shetlar. The Trojans will try to avoid repeating last year’s mistakes and improve to 2-0 as they face another ranked opponent in 4A No. 10 Andale on the road on Tuesday, Dec. 5.
McPherson will look to bounce back with a win over Andover Central at the roundhouse on Tuesday. The Jaguars will come to McPherson ranked No. 5 in 5A, but the roundhouse is one of the toughest places to play, and not many visiting teams leave McPherson High School with a win.