South 55, Andover 52
A year ago, the Salina South boys simply were not ready to compete with a team as gifted as the Andover Trojans, who went undefeated in 2019-20 and came into Saturday’s SIT title game sporting a top five 5A ranking and a 10-1 record. Andover handled South to win the tournament in 2020, but this edition of the Cougars has gained experience and the talent has grown, and that combination helped them overcome the Trojans to win South’s first boys SIT title in ten years.
The game was played with great pace in the first half. Devon Junghans got the Cougars started with three trifectas from the outside and the teams hit a high percentage to finish the first quarter tied 18-18.
Then the Cougars went ahead in the second period with a combination of great offense, whether in the half-court or the fast-break, plus a terrific effort on the defensive end where they finished possessions by cleaning up the boards. A.J. Johnson and Te’Jon McDaniel were particularly active, helping the Cougars outscore the Trojans 19-8 in the period for a 37-26 halftime lead.
Andover would make a push in the third. Just the night before, they had outscored Buhler by 34 points in the second half to win 80-56, so the Cougars were prepared to see the Trojans come back. South became stagnant on offense and lost the rhythm they had established in the first half. Little by little, the Trojans chipped away. South led 43-38 at the end of the third.
Led by Dallas Baptist commit Jack Johnson, Andover would take a pair of leads in the fourth quarter, but they were short-lived. This was where the Cougars displayed how far they had come in a year. They scrapped and clawed, and retook the lead heading into the final minutes.
South guard Devon Junghans, who handled the ball well against the pressure of the Trojans, went to the free throw line and made four straight to give the Cougars a 55-50 lead with less than 20 seconds to go. Andover came back with a hoop to make a three-point game. Junghans was fouled again with eight seconds to go, but missed the front end of a one-and-one. Andover called timeout with 6.0 on the clock, looking for a shot that would force overtime.
The Cougars attempted to foul Andover point guard Kaleb Gaddis as he brought the ball into the frontcourt, so he could not set up for a three-point shot. They were not able to commit the foul, but as Gaddis got past his initial defender, he was forced to his left by McDaniel and threw up a tough shot that bounced off the back iron. Colin Schreiber got the rebound and the horn sounded. For the first time since 2011, the Cougars were champions of the SIT.
Junghans led South (8-0) with 17 points, Josh Jordan put in 12 and McDaniel had 11 off the bench. Schreiber and Johnson each collected ten rebounds. The Trojans (10-2) were led by Jack Johnson, who scored 19.
The Cougars will get back to action next Tuesday with a road trip to Buhler.