With one senior, Maize South’s girls are learning something new each time they play basketball.
Tuesday’s performance is a positive sign that the Mavericks are headed in the right direction following a dominating 65-23 victory over winless Nickerson.
Team leader Mariah Suchan, strong and physical inside, led the Mavericks with 13 points and several assists. McKenna Poynter, the Mavericks, senior, chipped in 11 points while leading the defensive effort. Showing nice balance, Maddie Nestor, Taylor Mannis and Alexa Brockel each chipped in eight points.
Maize South (4-4) will compete at the Pratt Tournament of Champions next week with a ton of confidence after shooting 68 percent the first half off 19 of 28 shooting.
“We like to get the ball inside and moving it around,” said Maize South coach Mike Domnick. “Our comfort level is getting better and the girls are working better together. The girls played a consistent game tonight and played with confidence. We can compete with most teams.”
The Mavericks converted several Panther turnovers into easy transition baskets and scored off second-chance points. The Mavericks finished shooting 58 percent on 30 of 52 field goals.
“When we’ve played the teams we can compete with, we’ve played really well,” Domnick said. “We’ve got two veterans who have played a lot of varsity basketball in Poynter and Suchan and everyone else is still figuring out the speed of the game and how to play at this level. Suchan is a high-end player that averages a double, double. She leads us in scoring, run the floor and plays great defense.”
Nickerson had decent looks at the basket, but shot 5 percent on 1 of 20 first-half shooting to trail 41-5. Erin Nuss scored the Panthers’ first-half basket. The Panthers finished with 23 turnovers against the Mavericks’ aggressive zone defense.
The Mavericks lost a two-pointer to Goddard Eisenhower and lost decisively to Andover, Salina Central and Andover Central.
“We have played three really good teams and lost a last-second game to Goddard Eisenhower,” Domnick said. “We got off to horrible starts in all of those games and then competed better. Teams that are tall and physical have given us some trouble when we don’t get our share of rebounds.”
Nickerson (0-10) was paced by junior Paige Stewart with 10 points and several assists. Marissa Stewart and Erin Nuss each chipped in five points. Cheyenne Lewis grabbed seven rebounds.
“We gave up too many rebounds and our turnovers gave them too many runouts,” said Nickerson coach Charles Smalling. “We continue to play hard. We need to rebound and control our turnovers to compete. We did that better the second half.”
The Panthers executed better with a running clock in the fourth period, outscoring the Mavericks 10-9. The Panthers finished 8 of 39 from the field, 20 percent.
“We took a lot of good shots,” Smalling said. “I want them to take the shot and be confident when they are open for a shot and we did that tonight. I’d like for us to get the ball inside more. I was excited about the way Cheyenne Lewis played tonight. She’s worked hard in practice and that showed tonight.”
Nickerson played a triangle-and-two defense and mixed up several zone defenses to give the Mavericks a chance of pace. But the Mavericks’ balance and teamwork proved too much to handle. The prettiest play of the night was a give-and-go between Austyn Nestor and Mannis that Nestor converted.
The Panthers will play three games next week at the Haven Classic.
“We’ve showed good poise and have stayed together as a team. We’re continue to work to get a little better and that’s what I’m looking for,” Smalling said. “But we obviously want to get a win too.”