For the third consecutive season, the Salina Central boys made a trip to the Class 5A state tournament.
Unlike the previous two campaigns, the Mustangs are staying in Topeka.
Junior Mark Grammer poured in a career-high 17 points, the defense limited Wichita Heights to a near season-low in points, and Central picked up its first state win since 2009 after a 54-46 victory over the Falcons at the Kansas Expocentre. Heights’ 46 points was the second-lowest output of the season, barely surpassing the 44 scored in the Sub-State championship against Emporia.
Grammer started the contest hot, drilling three of his four triples in the first quarter. Meanwhile, the Falcons were 2-of-12 from the floor, falling behind 14-4 after one.
Wichita Heights bounced back, trimming the deficit to six twice before settling with an eight-point hole at the half. The Falcons found their stride early in the third, getting to within four before a 6-2 answer by Central to make it an eight-point lead again for the Mustangs, 30-22.
After hitting just two treys in the first half, the Falcons turned to the power of the three-ball, making three in the third stanza, knotting up the score at 37-all heading into the final period. Heights would grab its first lead out of the chute in the fourth, but Central junior Brogen Richardson connected on a three, his only make of the game, to put the Mustangs ahead 40-39 with 7:05 to play.
Following a cold streak, Heights took the advantage with 4:24 remaining, 41-40. Central looked inside for the response, getting four straight points from senior Ethan Kickhaefer, including two monster free throws at the 3:00 mark. The rest of the team followed his lead, going a perfect 10-for-10 at the charity stripe to close out the game.
Grammer was the lone three-point marksman, making four of Central’s six threes as the Mustangs were 6-of-22 from beyond the arc. Central’s saving grace was only turning the ball over eight times while going 18-of-21 at the foul line. Junior Harper Williams added 11 points while senior Ethan Speer provided 10.
Wichita Heights was paced by senior Curtis Profit with 14 points. Junior Izaiah Hale had 11. Leading scorer Devin Davis was held to seven points on 3-of-10 shooting.
Salina Central takes on No. 2 Pittsburg on Friday. The Purple Dragons took down Seaman 59-40 in the opening round of state. Tipoff is at 8:15 pm with pregame at 8 on Sports Radio 1150 KSAL.