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Maize makes school history in Emporia, wins program’s first state championship

Published: Mar. 14, 2021 at 1:22 AM CST
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EMPORIA, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - In Maize’s first appearance in a boys state championship game in program history, the Eagles once again played as a cohesive unit to roll to a 55-43 victory over Topeka West in the 5A championship, bringing home the program’s first title.

Maize finished the season with a 23-2 record and without a loss to a 5A team.

“All season no one cared who put the ball in the basket, no one cared who made the crazy play,” Maize Senior Jacob Hanna said. “We just cared that we won, that’s the most important thing and when you only care about winning and you’re not selfish about it, you win a lot of games.”

After a fast start from both teams, Maize found themselves trailing after Topeka West went on a 6-0 run to end the first quarter up 12-10. But that would be the last lead of the night for the Chargers, as the Eagles opened the second quarter on an 8-0 run and held Topeka West to just three points in the period to lead 22-15 at the half.

The momentum only continued for the Eagles in the second half, as Maize would outscore Topeka West 22-17 in the third quarter, leading by as many as 14 at one point.

Zander Putthoff hit his fourth three of the second half to make it a ten point game with four minutes to play, but that was as close as it would get for the Chargers, as the Eagles held West at bay to come out on top with a 12 point victory.

“It’s really rewarding, these guys have come a long way,” Maize Head Coach Chris Grill said. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we started out the season 4-7 last year, this year we finished the year at 8-2 and 23-2 all together.”

Maize defeated Topeka West 55-43 in the 5A championship to bring home the program's first state...
Maize defeated Topeka West 55-43 in the 5A championship to bring home the program's first state title(KWCH12)

“It’s really special what these guys have accomplished, where they’ve come from and how well they played together and overcame things. They battled through a lot of stuff this year not just with COVID, I’m very proud of them and I don’t know that there’s a more together team than these guys.”

Maize showed that sense of togetherness and unselfishness all season, with multiple players contributing double digits on any give night, but it would be sophomore Avery Johnson who spurred momentum early for the Eagles in the 5A championship, leading Maize with a game-high 17 points.

“I didn’t get a chance to play last season but seeing how much it took from them losing our season, coming out this year we wanted to win it for them,” Johnson said. “Last year in the second half of the season we all started building bonds. We go hard in practice every day and we’re all good friends...we just got this bond on and off the court. When you build bonds and chemistry off the court it just translates, as you can see.”

Senior Winston Bing added 11 points for Maize and the Eagles finished the night shooting 42.7% from the field, 50% from the three and 57% from the free throw line. Maize also outrebounded the Chargers 32-17.

Marque Wilkerson and Trevion Alexander led Topeka West with 13 a piece, while Zander Putthoff added 12 for the Chargers, who ended the season at a 21-3 mark.

Not only did the Eagles make school history winning the program’s first title, but the victory also made for a moment the Grill family will never forget, as former Maize standout and UNLV sophomore Caleb Grill was in the stands to watch his dad and brother, sophomore Kyle Grill, bring home the title.

“It’s really special to have Caleb back for this, two years ago we got third and for him to see his brother do it and finish it and actually be here in the gym...it makes it super special for everybody,” Grill said.

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