The loss of Caden Kickhaefer hurt Salina Central boys basketball the last two games.
He returned in a big way.
The senior poured in a career-high 27 points, classmate Reed McHenry added 22, and the Mustangs picked up a 61-56 win over Andover Central Friday night at the Brickhouse. Salina Central improved to 5-9, 3-4 in the AVCTL-II while Andover Central dipped 2-7, 2-5.
Kickhaefer opened the contest with a pair of threes. However, neither team could create separation as the first eight minutes saw eight lead changes and three ties.
Andover Central built the most substantial lead of the half, on top by five in the second, 20-15. Salina Central battled back to tie up the contest at 20-all. From there, it was more back-and-forth action, resulting in a 26-26 stalemate at intermission.
Both offenses struggled to get going in the third period. The Mustangs logged the first field goal with three minutes off the board. Salina Central built a five-point cushion before Andover Central’s first bucket with 3:25 to go in the third.
Junior Nolan Puckett drilled a three to hand the Mustangs their largest advantage, 34-28. Still, Andover Central didn’t go away. The Jags clawed back to knot up the game at 41-41 with a last-second shot to end the third.
Kickhaefer sparked the decisive charge the Mustangs needed. Kick buried his fifth three and followed with a three-point play to spark a 16-7 spurt that ended the game.
#1 ANDOVER CENTRAL 66, #4 SALINA CENTRAL 56
Salina Central’s response from Tuesday’s loss was encouraging.
However, the effort wasn’t enough.
The top-ranked team in 5A grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and turned them into crucial second-half points as the Jags clawed past the Mustangs, 66-56. Andover Central increased its win streak to 34 consecutive games, improving to 13-0 this season. Salina Central fell to 10-4, 5-2 in league play.
Salina Central scored the first four points before a 9-0 spurt by Andover Central. Mustangs sophomore Mykayla Cunningham willed Salina Central back within one with a three-point play. Andover Central senior Bailey Wilborn immediately went down the floor and was fouled from 40 feet away from the rim with a tenth of a second remaining in the first. The Maine commit nailed all three free throws, handing Andover Central a 16-12 lead after one.
After surrendering a trey to open the second, Salina Central went on an 13-2 run, spearheaded by junior Aubrie Kierscht, to slingshot ahead of Andover Central, 25-21. Salina Central was limited to just two free throws the rest of the half, falling behind 28-27.
The play of the third quarter combined with the crowd atmosphere made it feel like a state tournament game. Salina Central logged 17 points compared to Andover Central’s 21. Along the way, Salina Central secured an advantage twice, but ultimately, it was Andover Central ahead through three.
Offensive rebounds swung things in favor of Andover Central. The Jags capitalized after misses while the Mustangs missed some shots at the rim. That created a 9-4 run that gave Andover Central a 58-48 lead, which would be enough for the victory.
Wilborn finished with 16 points. Creighton commit Brittany Harshaw netted 17 points, 15 coming in the second half. Junior Ellie Stearns paced the Jags with 18 points.
Kierscht led the Mustangs with 24 points. Cunningham finished with 13.
Salina Central hits the road all next week, starting with a trip to Eisenhower on Tuesday. Pregame at 5:45 on Sports Radio 1150 KSAL.