Central survives Maize rally, advances in 5A girls bracket

Andover Central will play Salina Central for the third time this season.

Charles Chaney
Butler County Times Gazette
Andover Central junior Ellie Stearns goes in for a layup against Maize on Monday, March 8 in the first round of the Class 5A State Tournament. Stearns scored 21 points in the 56-52 win.

ANDOVER, Kansas—They’ve been in this situation before and they didn’t flinch. On Monday evening in the first round of the Class 5A State Tournament, the unbeaten Andover Central Jaguars didn’t flinch once again.

Senior Jayden Newfarmer jumped a passing lane with 20.1 seconds remaining to force a turnover to secure the game for the Jaguars. While Newfarmer may not get the points in the book. She’s always in the right place at the right time. 

Newfarmer's defensive stop and with Ellie Stearns scoring 21 points, the Jaguars once again took down another highly ranked opponent to advance to the Class 5A State Semifinals for the second straight season with the 56-52 win over Maize. 

“We made some errors tonight but I cannot take away from my kid’s fight tonight,” Andover Central Head Coach Stana Jeffferson said. “They could have been like ‘holy crap what just happened’ when we went down and they stayed composed like we always have.”

Maize (18-3) took a 41-40 lead when Sydney Holmes scored with 6:30 remaining in the game. Andover Central immediately called a timeout.

“We just talked about focusing on our defense,” Newfarmer said. “We focused on getting our heads together, pick each other up and play defense and came back and took the lead.”

Stears split a pair of free throws to tie the game and then Bailey Wilborn give Andover Central the 46-44 lead with 3:45 remaining. 

“Since last year, we’ve talked about ‘you have to mature into the game’, and tonight I thought we did that,” Jefferson said. 

After Wilborn and Holmes traded tough 3s to tie the game at 49-all, it was Stearns who came up big again for the Jags. Harshaw found Stearns wide open under the net for the easy lay up with 2:17 remaining for the 2-point lead. 

From there, it was a defensive stand after stand that helped secure the game. 

“We focus on our defense,” Stearns said. “We have to get stops and then go score.”

Newfarmer had a deflection with 1:59 remaining that ricocheted off the fingers of Maize’s Baylee Miller for the turnover on the Eagles. Wilborn would hit her free throws to push the lead out to a 53-49 lead with 1:01 remaining. 

Andover Central (23-0) led for a majority of the contest, only trailing for a combined three minutes in the game. Once Maize took the lead, Maddi Amekporfor scored on an up-and-under bucket then Wilborn hit her third three of the game to give them the lead back. 

With Harshaw sitting on the bench with two fouls, the Jaguars found everyone chipping in as Braden Wheatley hit a three and then drew a charge as Andover surged to their largest lead of seven. 

Central led 25-21 at the break. 

Harshaw scored all five of her points right out of halftime, going right to the rim and then getting open for a corner three to push Andover Central’s lead back to a 7-point advantage when Maize kept pushing. 

However, Maize’s Kyle Frenchers and Sydney Holmes never let the Eagles go quietly into the night. They both finished with 19 points on the evening. Frenchers scored seven straight to start the second half and Holmes nailed a three to bring Maize to within 32-31 with 2:26 remaining in the third. 

After Maize’s Olivian Wedman left with an injury early in the fourth quarter, the duo scored 12 of the 17 points in the fourth quarter. 

However, the Jaguars made sure it wasn’t enough. 

Wilborn scored 11 of her 17 in the fourth quarter, including the two back-to-back 3s. She also finished off the free throws at the end to seal the game. 

Then, Newfarmer’s defensive stands put the finishing touches on the game. 

“We came out with the ‘dub’, Newfarmer said. “That’s all that matters.”

For Andover Central, they will head to Emporia to play Salina Central in the semifinals on Thursday at 3 p.m. inside White Auditorium. It’s a step the Jaguars missed out on last season after their first round win. 

Thursday will mark 365 days since the Jaguars last played their first round game against De Soto.

“It’s going to be a great feeling, walking up the steps at White Auditorium after what we went through last season,” Jefferson said. “I know these girls have been waiting for the moment just as much as I have.”

Andover Central 56, Maize 52

Maize—12;9;14;17;—52

Andover Central—18;7;15;16;—56

Maize (18-3): Frenchers 7 (1) 2-2 19, Holmes 3 (3) 4-6 19, Lambert 0 6-6 6, Wedman 1 2-4 4, Miller 2 0-0 4. TOTALS: 13 (4) 14-18 52.

Andover Central (23-0): Stearns 5 (3) 2-3 21, Wilborn 0 (4) 5-5 17, Amekporfor 4 0-1 8, Harshaw 1 (1) 0-0 5, Wheatley 0 (1) 0-0 3. Newfarmer 1 0-1 2. TOTALS: 11 (9) 7-10 56.

Charles Chaney has been the Sports Editor for the Butler County Times-Gazette since Aug. 2019. You can reach him at cchaney@butlercountytimesgazette.com or on Twitter at @ChuckChaneyBCTG.