ANDOVER, Kan. - Entering the weekend, the sub-state final between Maize South and Andover Central was one of the most anticipated in Kansas.
The two AVCTL-II rivals faced off twice during the regular season, each winning in each other's gym. The rubber match Saturday lived up to its billing, but a play to end the game was all anyone could talk about after.
With Central holding a 53-49 lead, Xavier Bell got the ball with an open court in front of him and saw the opportunity for an exclamation point, a thunderous dunk that sent the Jaguar student section into a frenzy.
But on the play, Maize South's Trey Reid went for the block of Bell, and came down hard, injuring his knee on the fall. In the process, it appeared that Bell may have shoved Reid to the ground as both players came down. Bell was immediately hit with his second technical foul of the game and ejected. According to Bell, nothing malicious occurred.
"It happened so fast," Bell said after the game, "because he hit me and I tried to catch him when I was falling back but it looked like a shove. So then I felt real bad when I seen him still down so I had to just make sure he was okay."
Here's a clean look at what happened to end the Andover Central/Maize South game along with comments from Xavier Bell afterward where he says Reid is his best friend. Intentional shove or not? You be the judge. pic.twitter.com/6MpMvkxCn2— Matt Henderson (@KWCHMatt) March 3, 2019
When the buzzer sounded, Bell returned to the court for handshakes and immediately went to check on Reid, hugging him and wishing him the best moving forward.
"That's my best friend," Bell added.
The two shared an exchange on Twitter as well, with Reid saying "Me and him have played together and against eachother [sic] for years, he did not purposefully try to hurt me."
Bell responded, calling Reid "family," adding that "it was never intentional, obviously in the heat. I would never try and hurt a player/ let alone family on purpose."
Jaguar coach Jesse Herrmann also commented after the game, saying that "was an emotional way to end the game; that was as hard fought as any game we played this year."
It was a moment that took people away from talking about what happened in the game's first 31:58, a show between two 5A powers that might have been one of the best games to happen in the Wichita area all season long.
Andover Central jumped out to a lead early, going up 10-4 in the first and taking a 10 point advantage midway through the second quarter. Then Reid took over for the Mavs, quickly scoring five points out of the timeout to make it a 24-19 game, Maize South eventually cutting in to a 1 point game at halftime, 29-28.
Then the entire second quarter was a back and forth affair, neither team holding a two possession lead for the entire period. It was Maize South that was back on top, however, taking a 43-42 lead to the final frame.
The fourth quarter was more of the same, the two teams trading buckets, until a Bell jumper got the Andover Central lead to 50-47. Maize South's Kael Kordonowy answered to cut it to 50-49 with 1:20 to play, but that's as close as the Mavs would get. Central hit three free throws to get the lead up to four, before Bell's dunk sealed the Jaguars fourth straight trip to state in a 55-50 victory.
Maize South sees their season come to an end with a 16-6 mark as sub-state runner up. Andover Central will advance to play in Emporia next week, holding a 19-3 overall mark ahead of seed announcements in 5A.