EMPORIA, Kan. Andover Central has made it to the semifinals in state basketball three years in a row unable to get over the hump, until now. With a 74-66 win over Maize, the Jaguars say they are ready to take the crown in 5A.
Friday night's semifinal match-up was as advertised. Two talented teams went at it for a chance at a state title. Maize was unbeaten coming into Friday, riding an easy victory over St. James Academy on Thursday while Andover Central topped Pittsburg.
Maize was the top overall seed in 5A behind the play of seniors like Caleb Grill and Brandle Easter Jr. The pair had a strong showing in the semifinal game but it wouldn't be enough to top Andover Central. Grill had 22 points on the night while Easter Jr. added 15.
Andover Central paced the game behind Easton Leedom and Xavier Bell.
Leedom, a senior poured in a career high 34 points on 9-18 shooting from the field. He says he has been waiting on this moment his entire career.
"This is my first time winning this game. All three years I've made it to the semi's and lost so to win this one, my last one, it means everything. I shed a tear when I was walking out. It was amazing, just amazing," said Leedom.
Xavier Bell added 25 points for the Jaguars. Bell and Leedom were the only players for Andover Central to score in double figures.
""We put in all of the work like you said, from freshman year going 9-14 to last year making it to the semis to a game we could have won. Now to get here, we can finally go and claim what we think is ours."
Andover Central will play against Basehor Linwood for the 5A title, Saturday at 6:00.