By AMY HOUSTON
10:47 PM CST, January 8, 2013
The Maize High School girls hosted Salina Central on Tuesday and won the battle of ranked basketball teams.
Undefeated Maize is the No. 2 squad in Class 6A, according to the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association. Salina Central, now 5-3 overall, is ranked No. 8 in 5A.
The teams were evenly matched through three quarters Tuesday. The fourth quarter started with a 26-26 tie but Maize prevailed 43-32.
The Eagles used a mix of man-to-man and zone defense in the final stanza. They also capitalized on the free-throw shooting ability of senior starter Paige Lungwitz.
“Our strategy was we were going to run a lot of sets for Paige and try to get her to the free-throw line,” said Maize coach Jerrod Handy.
The plan worked. Maize led 30-28 with 5:16 left in the game, and the Eagles scored six unanswered points to increase their advantage to 36-28. Lungwitz was responsible for five of the six points in that spurt.
Salina Central stopped the surge when junior Shaelyn Martin sank a free throw and, soon after, scored a bucket. She narrowed the gap to five, 36-31.
However, the Mustangs resorted to fouling down the stretch, and Maize hit seven of eight from the stripe in the final 1:10. Lungwitz, who holds the school record for free throws, went eight for eight in the final quarter.
Handy said coaches had emphasized free throws during practice this season, and although they were crucial to the Eagles’ victory Tuesday, Handy also credited the defense.
“I really liked our man-to-man defense,” he remarked.
Lungwitz scored a game-high 17 points Tuesday. Sophomore Keiryn Swenson followed with 14. Martin led Salina Central with 12 points.
Maize will play at Andover Central and Olathe Northwest next week before competing in a midseason tournament at Shawnee Heights. Olathe Northwest is the No. 8 team in Class 6A.
“Our schedule gets tough,” Handy said of the next couple of weeks. “It just keeps getting tougher and tougher.”
To prepare for the upcoming challenges, he continued, the Eagles must get in better shape and improve their defense, both man-to-man and zone.
Maize topped Andover Central by one point in January 2012. The Eagles beat Olathe Northwest in Maize, but they fell to the Ravens in a rematch at state semifinals. Olathe Northwest, the state runner-up, finished last season 23-2.
Copyright © 2013, Catch It Kansas