Andover Central girls' basketball falls in 5A title game

Central finishes the last two seasons a combined

Charles Chaney
Butler County Times Gazette
Andover Central's Brittany Harshaw (22) goes in for a reverse layup against St. Thomas Aquinas's Charlotte O'Keefe (24) in the second half of the Class 5A state championship game in Emporia, Kansas.

EMPORIA, Kansas—All good things must come to an end. 

On Saturday, the Andover Central Jaguars saw their 45-game winning streak fall in the Class 5A state championship game to St. Thomas Aquinas as the Saints win their fifth consecutive state championship.

The last time Central had seen a loss was in December 2019 at the hands of McPherson in overtime. Since then, the Jaguars has mowed over opponents all season, including 12 ranked opponents throughout various classes. 

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No. 13 turned out to be unlucky for Andover Central as St. Thomas Aquinas won 52-44.

'If we had a couple more minutes, we would have won that game'

Aquinas jumped out to an 19-point lead in the third quarter and unlike on Thursday’s semifinal game, Central’s run came a little too late. The Jaguars were able to cut it to as low as six in the fourth quarter.

“I really feel if we had a couple more minutes, we would have won that game,” Andover Central Head Coach Stana Jefferson said. 

The Jaguars struggled to rebound all evening long, something that has plagued them throughout the season when faced with similar size. They have been able to combat it with their 3-point shooting. However, that was left back in Andover as they went 5 of 24. 

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Aquina’s Beatrice Culliton picked up every rebound and found herself at the rim all afternoon, as she scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the win for the Saints.

“We knew they had size and the shots just didn’t fall tonight,” Jefferson said. “You live and die by the three.”

Central went nearly 5 minutes without a basket in the first half

Central (24-1) would go almost five minutes without a basket that spanned from the first and into the second quarters. During that time, Aquinas used their size to eight straight in the paint. Then, Catherine Goodwin topped it off with a three to put Aquinas ahead 22-11 with 5:05 remaining in the first half. 

Aquinas led 30-14 at the break.

The Lady Saints came out and went on a quick 8-3 run, forcing a Central timeout as Aquinas had their largest lead of 36-17 with 6:03 remaining in the third.

“We really tried to improve our guarding in the second half,” Jefferson said. “I thought we were a little too timid in the first half and we made it really easy for Aquinas.”

Andover Central made a late push cutting it do seven with 1:36 remaining when Brittany Harshaw nailed a three from the top of the arc. However, the Jaguars could not find the bottom of the net to pull any closer, missing back-to-back 3s within a 30 second span after missed Aquinas free throws that would have pulled them within one.

“I’m so proud of her and what she did for the team,” Jefferson said. “We’ll work on some stuff and it’s going to be 24/7 beast mode for her next season.”

Central girls' basketball returns a large portion of its scoring next season

Harshaw finished with 18 points, 15 of them coming in the second half. 

Ellie Stearns had 12 points for the Jaguars.

Central returns a large portion of their scoring in Stearns, and Maddi Amekporfor will return and continue to be a dominant post presence. However, replacing the leadership of Jaden Newfarmer will be a tall task. 

“Jaden Newfarmer and Bailey Wilborn will be really tough to replace,” Jefferson said. “We’ve got some younger kids that have worked really hard that mad us as good as we are because of the practices.

With everything COVID-19, this group responded to everything that was thrown at them. From their season to be canceled, to having little to no fans. They dealt with a lot of the same issues most teams had to go through but they handled it with grace and funneled it all into a massive win streak that will sit in the lore of Andover Central for years to come. 

“We’re going to have a great off season and fill some really big shoes,” Jefferson said. “Hopefully, we’ll have a really good team next year.”

HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS

CLASS 5A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP

ST. THOMAS AQUINAS 52, ANDOVER CENTRAL 44

St. Thomas Aquinas;14;16;14;8;—;52

Andover Central;9;5;15;15;—;44

St. Thomas Aquinas (20-2) — Goodwin 3-4 2-3 9, McPherson 5-9 0-0 10, C. O’Keefe 2-6 1-2 5, Skelton 2-7 3-5, Culliton 7-13 2-3 16, Schenck 1-7 0-1 2, Grimes 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 21-47 8-14 52.

Andover Central (24-1) — Wilborn 2-9 0-0 5, Sterns 5-11 0-0 12, Newfarmer 2-5 1-2 5, Harshaw 5-20 6-7 18, Amekporfor 2-6 0-0 4, Wheatley 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 16-52 7-9 44.

3-point goals — St. Thomas Aquinas 2-7 (Goodwin 1-1, McPherson 0-1, Skelton 1-5); Andover Central 5-24 (Wilborn 1-8, Stearns 2-4, Newfarmer 0-1, Harshaw 2-10, Wheatley 0-1). Rebounds — St. Thomas Aquinas 40 (Culliton 14); Andover Central 27 (Harshaw 7). Total fouls — St. Thomas Aquinas 8 , Andover Central 15. Fouled out — Andover Central: Wilborn.

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.