Andover Central girls opens the season with big win over Maize South

Lionel Tipton

MAIZE – New season, same old Andover Central girls.

The Jaguars picked up Tuesday night where they left off in March, using a 23-point third quarter and hitting 10 three-pointers in breezing to a 64-30 season-opening victory at Maize South.

Andover Central, which finished 21-1 when last season’s Class 5A tournament was canceled, took control from the start and steadily pulled away from the Mavericks.

But even without any spectators in the building, the Jaguars still faced a “tough crowd” – head coach Stana Jefferson.

“I was pretty disappointed in our half-court defense,” she said. “They wanted to get out, and they wanted to press, but Maize South got in our heads a little bit. The girls have to adjust a little bit quicker to the zone (Maize South coach Ben Hamilton) runs. That is a great zone, and it really looks like a great zone when your kids aren’t making their shots.”

Maize South was held to just three points in the final quarter.

Not bad for a team that only has two seniors. Maize South also was very young – only one senior on its roster – but the Jaguars kept their poise, forcing 22 Mavericks turnovers – eight in the first quarter.

By contrast, Andover Central committed just six turnovers in the game.

“(Forcing turnovers) helped us, because I think we were pretty sloppy with the ball,” Jefferson said.

Andover Central had its guns blazing after the halftime break, hitting half of its three-pointers in the third quarter, a period in which it outscored the Mavericks 23-12. Junior guard Ellie Stearns hit three of her four three-pointers in the quarter, and senior Bailey Wilborn and sophomore Maddie Amekporfor hit one each.

But even that didn’t fully impress Jefferson.

“How many did we miss? 40?” she quipped.

Jefferson is well aware of her team’s firepower.

“I’ve got a lot of kids who can step up and start hitting shots, and it’s going to be a different kid on a different night,” she said. “And slowly, by the end of the season, I hope we’re working on all cylinders.”

And the Jaguars were even down a couple of players as well – one in quarantine, and another with a concussion.

“This is the ‘Year of the Bench,’” Jefferson said.

Stearns finished with a team-high 18 points, followed by steady junior Brittany Harshaw with 17, including two three-pointers. Wilborn’s three three-pointers helped place her in double figures with 13 points.

With all that said, Jefferson had to confess that she liked the performance, at least a little.

“For an opener, that was good,” she said.

Harshaw’s steady game pleased her coach.

“I thought she played a good game from the offensive side to the defensive side,” Jefferson said, “and we will keep figuring each other out.”

Wilborn began Andover Central’s scoring with a three-pointer from the right side, and the Jaguars never trailed after that. Their largest lead was the final 34-point margin.

“I thought Bailey did a great job of trying to control the game as a point guard and maintain her composure,” Jefferson said. “Her and Jaden (Newfarmer), my seniors, they’re just great leaders.”

Jefferson said Amekporfor felt a bit winded Tuesday night, which affected her game (nine points).

“When she really starts exploding, and really getting into it, we’re going to get a ton better also,” Jefferson said.

So, perhaps Jefferson was pretty impressed with the performance after all.

The Jaguars will stay on the road Friday, traveling to perennially tough Heights as part of the Greater Wichita Athletic League-AVCTL Challenge.

Andover Central 14;10;23;17 – 64

Maize South 7;8;12;3 – 30

Andover Central: Stearns 18, Harshaw 17, Wilborn 13, Amekporfor 9, Newfarmer 4, Rogers 3.

Maize South: Lowe 15, Warren 5, Clay 4, Kennedy 3, Uehling 2, Burke 1.