Turbulent week ends in first-round exit for Maize South

EMPORIA, Kan. (KWCH) -- The Maize South Mavericks were emotionally exhausted by the time they arrived in Emporia Wednesday for the first round of the 5A State Tournament.

The team had been put through the ringer by the governing board KSHSAA the week prior, finding out their star player senior Zayda Perez would be suspended for the rest of the season and the team would have to forfeit six wins. This was due to an error in Perez's transfer paperwork from Valley Center to Maize South last year.

Maize South filed for an appeal and won its case last Thursday, allowing Perez to play in the sub-state championship game. However, the team would still have to vacate six wins -- dropping their perfect 20-0 record to 14-6.

Fast forward to Sunday, March 3rd: The 5A brackets are released with a puzzling number next to Maize South's record: 15-5, putting the Lady Mavericks as the five-seed in the tournament against three-time defending state champions St. Thomas Aquinas.

"It is a tough draw but we want to be the best and win the tournament and we basically said that we're going to play St. Thomas Aquinas eventually, whether it's Saturday or not, so let's go ahead and knock them off first round," Head Coach Ben Hamilton said.

Unfortunately for Hamilton and his Mavericks, they didn't knock off Aquinas. Instead, they fell 47-29 in the quarterfinal round.

Perez, who had been the center of attention last week, was grateful to be on the court for one final game.

"I'm just thankful for KSHSAA for giving me the opportunity to play one more time," she said. "I wouldn't change anything from this past season. We've been through a lot this past week and I'm so proud of [my teammates] and I just know they're going to go further without the seniors this year, so I can't wait to follow up with them."

She was also grateful for Andale giving her team their deserved win back. KSHSAA asked each of the first six schools on their schedule if they would like to give a win back, and only Andale agreed. Interestingly enough, none of the remaining teams (Andover Central, Andover, Arkansas City, or Salina South) are playing in the state tournament, so it would not have affected seeding in any way.

"I just really respect Andale for doing that because [head coach] Ted Anderson is actually the reason why I started basketball," Perez said. "Just knowing that he gave us that win, I have total respect for him."

St. Thomas Aquinas will look to win its fourth-consecutive state title as it takes on McPherson in the state semifinals Friday in Emporia.