One down, two more to go: Eagles defeat St. James 83-56

Maize improves to 23-0 and will play in the state semifinals Friday

It didn’t take long for the Eagles to catch fire Thursday in the first round of the Class 5A tournament.

Maize defeated St. James Academy 83-56 in Emporia to advance to the semifinals. The Eagles, who improved to 23-0, will play Andover Central at 4:45 Friday for a chance to play for the state championship.

Within the first 15 seconds, senior Caleb Grill started the scoring in style with an alley-oop from Brandle Easter Jr.

“That was one of our best games — top to bottom,” Grill said. “I’m excited about how we played. I thought we played a really good basketball game.”

Grill scored 23 points, 17 in the first half.

Coach Chris Grill thought the team did a fine job of maintaining focus and energy.

Sometimes you can have a lot of energy and get a little goofy,” Grill said. “But I thought those guys had a lot of energy and stayed focused throughout the night, and they’ve done it the last few days in practice.”

Maize led 17-14 after the first quarter and built the lead to 37-25 at halftime.

As good as the Eagles played in the first half, they came out even stronger in the third quarter. They entered the fourth leading 60-40.

St. James struggled to defend senior Devon Koehn, who scored all 12 of his points in the second half.

“We went right into Devon and he got us maybe six straight points and that really separated us I think,” Chris Grill said.

Koehn said he was proud of the way the team played.

“We just won 20-plus in a state game; that’s pretty hard to do,” Koehn said. “We just can’t underestimate any team. We can’t go easy on the next two games just because we won today.”

Senior Cade McGaugh, who was injured at the start of the season, scored 14 points. He scored two consecutive three-point baskets in the fourth quarter.

I did physical therapy a lot to get back and play with my brothers,” McGaugh said. “Senior season, I wasn’t really too worried. Let’s go get this state championship.”

Caleb Grill said the Eagles will need to lock down defensively in the next round of the tournament.

“I thought we did a good job defensively, but we missed some shots,” Grill said. “But you are going to have those things sometimes; we’ve just got to improve for the game tomorrow.”

Andover Central (20-3) advanced to the semifinals with a 78-61 victory over Pittsburg.

Senior Chase Schreiner, who scored 11 points, said the Eagles are confident going into the semifinals.

“We just have to play our game,” Schreiner said. “If we play our game, no one can stop us. I’m not satisfied yet though. We got two more, two more to go.”