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Maize girls pull out OT victory

Published Feb. 25 at 11:34 p.m. | Last updated Feb. 26 at 6:53 a.m.

Freshman Brianna Johnson knew her legs were all wrong when she went up for the shot in the final seconds of overtime against unbeaten Salina Central. She knew, though, as soon as the basketball left her hands that the shot was good.

Johnson’s basket as the buzzer sounded Tuesday night gave Maize the 51-49 win over Salina Central to improve to 15-4 and move into a tie for first place with the Mustangs in the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail Division I.

“The team passed me the ball, and I seen what was on the clock. Gotta score. Pulled up. That’s all I had,” said Johnson, who had five points and converted a key three-point play in the fourth quarter.

Twenty minutes after the game, Maize junior forward Keiryn Swenson was still giddy with the win.

“I keep playing it in slow motion in my head,” Swenson said. “I knew it was going in.”

The moments before Johnson’s shot, though, were nerve-racking for Maize coach Jerrod Handy.

“I was hoping she’d shoot it earlier than that,” said Handy, whose team had the ball for the final 23.7 seconds of overtime. “It came down to the wire. I was hoping she knew how much time was on the clock. As soon as she shot it, you could tell, she thought it was going in.”

The win was gratifying for multiple reasons.

There was the three-point loss at Salina Central (18-1) on Jan. 14 that was now avenged.

A league title is a possibility; Maize needs to beat Newton for the second time this week to finish in a tie with Salina Central.

And then there’s those other close losses, such as the two-point loss to Wichita South at Koch Arena on Jan. 4.

“This is unbelievable,” Handy said. “We needed one of those. We’ve lost four of them like that. Really close games where we felt like we made the mistake. Finally it came around for our time.”

The most fascinating matchup of the game was Salina Central senior Shaelyn Martin, a Kansas State signee, up against Swenson, who has made an oral commitment to Tulsa.

Swenson finished with 20 points, Martin had 16 — both scored nine in the fourth period and overtime.

And then there’s senior Emily Wood, who had 18 points and four three-pointers, who Johnson was responsible for guarding late.

“You give her about two inches, she’s going to shoot,” Handy said of Wood.

With the score tied at 20-all at half, Salina Central took a 31-23 lead late in the third period with a run that included threes by Wood, Brooke Peters and Martin.

Maize rallied, starting a 7-2 run with a driving layup by Daley Handy, who finished with 13 points.

Down 37-31 midway through the fourth, Johnson got her three-point play and Handy hit Maize’s only three of the game.

“I told them at halftime, it’s going to be who makes the run at the right time,” Jerrod Handy said. “We were down like six or seven in the fourth quarter and got back and held on to the momentum.

“I thought the girls just really stepped up. We knew to get the ball to Keiryn, get the ball to Keiryn, Brianna stepped up.”

The loss was disappointing for Salina Central.

“It’s tough,” coach Geoff Andrews said. “But we needed a game like that, where we had situations where we talk about out-of-bounds plays are important, free throws are important, boxing out is important, every defensive possession is important.

“When you’re winning by an average of 30-something points a game, we haven’t had any games with those situations. We can create them in practice, but it’s not the same as playing Maize.”

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Maize614816751

Salina Central: Wood 18, Mayfield 6, Martin 16, Peters 3, Morris 1, Driver 3, Bradshaw 2.

Maize: D. Handy 13, Swenson 20, Johnson 5, Byrd 6, McClure 4, J. Handy 3.

Brianna Johnson hits the game-winner for Maize.

Final 35 seconds of regulation

Video of Maize fans

Maize freshman Brianna Johnson

Maize junior Keiryn Swenson

Maize girls coach Jerrod Handy

Salina Central girls coach Geoff Andrews