The Salina Central boys basketball squad fell to third-ranked Maize both times in the regular season. Last time the Mustangs were at Maize High School, they fell behind 21-0.
In the biggest game of the 2017-18 campaign, the Mustangs returned the favor.
Central used an 18-0 explosion to grab a 16-point advantage, locked down Maize’s leading scorer, and held on for a 40-30 victory to claim the Class 5A Sub-State championship. Salina Central goes to the Kansas Expocentre for the third consecutive year, this time as the No. 6 seed with a 16-6 mark.
Following a bucket by Maize senior Antonio Espinoza to start the contest, Central answered with 18 consecutive points. Half of the points came from junior Harper Williams, who willed the ‘Stangs to an 18-2 cushion with 2:10 to play in the opening quarter.
Maize (17-5) struck back, using stout defense to limit Salina Central to one bucket in the ensuing 10 minutes. The Eagles also forced seven second-quarter turnovers, trimming the deficit to 20-13 at the break.
Offense came at a premium to open the second half with both teams combining for 13 points. Maize junior Caleb Grill, averaging 17.3 points per game, made one of his two field goals for the game to pull the Eagles to within four. Central turned to a pair of juniors, Brogan Richardson and Mark Grammer, who each nailed a triple to keep the Mustangs ahead through three frames, 26-20.
Grill’s final shot came at the 5:20 mark of the game, a three cutting the deficit to 26-25. After a Central turnover, Grill had a chance to give Maize its second cushion of the game, but couldn’t convert at the cup.
SC’s Williams, the Salina Ortho Player of the Game, flew the other way and buried a monster trey with three minutes to go, propelling the Mustangs to a 30-25 advantage. The lead would never dip the rest of the tilt, punching Salina Central’s ticket to state for the 40th time in program history.
In addition to his outstanding defense, Grammer chipped in seven points. Maize junior Brandle Studevan Jr. paced the Eagles with 11 points.