The Salina Central Mustang basketball teams took the floor at Maize on Tuesday night for a AVCTL-I matchup. The schools would wind up with a split as the Lady Mustangs won a thriller decided in the final seconds, while the Maize boys pulled away in the second half to best Central.
In the girls contest, Central had to battle foul trouble, and a myriad of missed free throws and turnovers just to stay close in the first half. Maize also struggled at the line in the opening half, they went 6-of-16 while the Lady Mustangs shot 7-of-17 from the charity stripe.
Central trailed 26-24 at the half, and then began the third quarter with a 10-0 run to take a 34-26 lead. However that lead would not be safe for long as Maize responded by attacking the Lady Mustangs’ zone defense with dribble drives to the basket. Maize would briefly re-take the lead, but Central got three treys from senior Kadyn Cobb to help open up the offense, and they would go to the fourth quarter with a 46-42 lead.
The Lady Eagles would close the gap and the final minutes were played to a one-possession game all the way to the end. Turnovers would rear their ugly head down the stretch as Maize guard Kyla Frenchers recorded two steals leading to layups, and then she hit a three from the left wing to give her team a 58-57 lead with just over a minute to play.
Central came up empty on their next possession and with 32 seconds to play, were on defense and had only three team fouls. They needed to foul four times in a very short time frame in order to get the ball back if they could not get a turnover. Maize took care of the ball, and with ten seconds to play, Cassandra Onwugbufor stepped to the line after the seventh team foul was committed. She would miss the front end and Central sophomore Hampton Williams rebounded and pushed the ball up the floor. Coach Chris Fear called timeout with 3.6 seconds left, and drew up a play.
On the inbound, sophomore Aubrie Kierscht came open and as she put up a three-point shot, was hit and fouled with 1.6 on the clock. Kierscht would nail the first to tie the game at 58. However the second foul shot bounced off, and the partisan crowd of Eagle fans got loud. But Kierscht shook off the miss, and swished the third shot to give Central a one-point lead.
Maize would get a long inbound pass down to Onwugbufor, but her off-balance turnaround jumper came up short at the horn, and the Lady Mustangs escaped with a 59-58 victory.
Cobb led the way with 15 points, 11 of which came in the second half. Kierscht battled through a tough shooting night to still score 14 points, and Williams put up 13 for Central, who improved to 5-1 overall while Maize fell to 4-4. The Lady Eagles have played one of the toughest schedules in the state, and clearly showed they are a good team.
In the boys game that followed, Central would start a bit slow, then use a 9-2 run to lead 12-9 after one quarter of play. From that point on however, Maize would seize control. They out-battled the Mustangs on the boards and going after loose balls. Their three-quarter-court press slowed the advance of the Central offense, which took them out of rhythm and led to turnovers.
Central was still in the thick of things, down 26-22 at the half, but the offensive struggles were magnified in the third quarter as the Eagles outscored the Mustangs 17-7 in the period for a 43-29 lead going to the fourth.
The Mustangs fell behind by as many as 16 but were able to shave half of that lead off. Junior Reed McHenry’s three brought Central within eight at 49-41, but that was close as they would get and Maize would go on to win 57-43. The defeat dropped Central to 2-4 overall, while Maize improved to 4-4.
McHenry led the Mustangs with 17 points, but was the only Central player in double figures. Sophomore Nolan Puckett chipped in with nine points.
Central will next play Campus at home this coming Thursday in a makeup from last Friday, when the games were postponed due to inclement winter weather.