On Thursday night at the Brickhouse, the Salina Central basketball teams began play in the 41st edition of the Salina Invitational Tournament. The Lady Mustangs had no problems against Concordia, rolling to an easy victory while the Central boys fought hard, but ultimately succumbed to the talented Andover Trojans, ranked 2nd in the latest 5A KBCA poll.
In the girls game, Central quickly left no doubt as they scored the game’s first 18 points before Concordia could buy a basket. Sophomore Aubrie Kierscht set the tone by nailing her first two three-pointers and recording several deflections and steals within the Lady Mustangs’ full-court press which completely took the Lady Panthers out of the game early. Kierscht would hit three treys in the opening quarter as Central led 26-2 after the first quarter.
The big lead allowed head coach Chris Fear to play his subs for a significant amount of time. One of those reserves, senior Sara Opat, provided a spark with a pair of threes, and the defensive pressure led to fast break opportunities for senior Kadyn Cobb and freshman Mykayla Cunningham. Concordia was able to get a pair of threes from Kendall Reynolds, but not much else as Central led 48-13 at the half.
The starters played just a few minutes into the second half, and the bench took care of the rest in what would wind up being a 67-27 Central win. Coach Fear switched from his primary man-to-man defense to some zone looks, just to get a feel for how it looked.
Kierscht led all scorers with 20 points. Cunningham had ten off the bench, and Cobb along with sophomore Hampton Williams each had nine for Central. Reynolds had 15 to lead Concordia, who fell to 1-6 overall. The victory moved Central to 8-1.
Central moves into the winner’s bracket where they will next play Buhler, who defeated Wichita West 42-33 earlier in the day. The game will be held at Mabee Arena at Kansas Wesleyan University, tip-off is set for 6:00 pm.
Meanwhile, the Mustang boys, seeded eighth in the tournament, had the daunting task of not only the top seed in the event, but the state’s #2 team in 5A, the Andover Trojans.
Early on, Andover built a small lead and sustained it thanks to tough defense. Their full-court press was effective and when the Mustangs got into the half-court offense, they were not able to find many easy looks. After a quick four points, senior Jevon Burnett picked up his second foul and had to go to the bench. Junior Reed McHenry tried to keep Central close, by scoring six first half points, but Andover was able to get the lead to double figures by the half at 26-16.
On two occasions in the 3rd quarter, the Mustangs got within five points, the last being at 32-27. But the Trojans had an answer every time, and built the lead back to ten by the end of the period at 42-32.
In the early moments of the fourth quarter, frustrations mounted as a pair of fouls went uncalled, and while trying to plead his case, Central coach Ryan Modin was given a technical foul. The wind seemed to come out of the sails of the Mustangs, who were within 11 at 48-37 with just over five minutes left. Andover then slammed the door with a 12-0 run in less than two minutes to build a 23-point lead. Central continued to show great hustle and fight, but would fall by a final of 67-46.
Burnett was hot in the second half, hitting three treys and finishing with 19 points, all but four of those coming in the second half. McHenry added 11 for the Mustangs, who fell to 3-6 overall. Andover moved to 9-0.
The loss puts Central into the consolation bracket where they will be at the Brickhouse on Friday afternoon for a 4:30 pm tip against Liberal, who fell to Abilene earlier in the day, 75-55.
SIT GIRLS RESULTS FROM THURSDAY: Liberal 54, Andover 21; Salina South 44, Abilene 40; Salina Central 67, Concordia 27; Buhler 42, Wichita West 33
SIT BOYS RESULTS FROM THURSDAY: Andover 67, Salina Central 46; Abilene 75, Liberal 55; Salina South 67, Concordia 40; Wichita South 53, Buhler 51