Girls basketball advances to semifinals

Abby McCoy, Sports editor

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The girls basketball team isn’t done with their season quite yet.

The sixth-seeded Eagles defeated the No. 3 seed Mill Valley 44-37 in the first round of the state tournament Thursday at the Expocentre in Topeka.

“We came into this tournament as a celebration for our season,” coach Jerrod Handy said of the Eagles, who are 17-6. “We just wanted to have a good time. … I think the girls really truly enjoy the game.”

The Eagles will play in the semifinals at 3 p.m. Friday, taking on second-seeded St. Thomas Aquinas. The Eagles fell to Aquinas in the championship game last year. Only three Maize players who played significant minutes are back this season.

“Losing four major seniors on our team challenged all of us to step up, whether we are upperclassmen or not,” junior Alexis Cauthon said. “We are trying to live on this legacy of Maize basketball and coming to this state tournament and playing our hearts out for everything.”

After a low-scoring first half Thursday — the Eagles led 8-7 after one quarter and the teams were tied at 13 at halftime — the Eagles surged in the second half.

“We tried to make some adjustments,” Handy said. “We started driving on them better in the second half. They are such a good defensive team, it’s hard to get to the rim. Halie [Jones] started driving harder, Sydney [Holmes] hit a shot in the corner there, you know, just some key baskets as we were playing.”

The Eagles led 23-18 after Holmes’ three at the end of the third quarter. The built the lead to 31-21 with 4 minutes left in the game before Mill Valley came charging back.

The Jaguars turned up the pressure and cut the lead to 35-32 with 2:11 to play. That was as close as they got, though, and the won the game at the free-throw line in the closing minutes.

After making 2 of 3 free-throw attempts in the first half, the Eagles went 19 for 22 from the line in the second half, many of those coming in the final minutes.

Cauthon and Jones, two of the returning players from last year’s team, led the Eagles with 10 points. Hanna, the only senior on the squad, scored five.

“Last year, I had a role, but it wasn’t a big one,” Hanna said. “Now I know that I have to score, step up and be a leader.”

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