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Kit Ndeti (11) of Eisenhower shoots for two in the first quarter at Eisenhower High School for the 5A sub-state finals on Friday night in Wichita Kansas, March 7th, 2014. PHOTO BY MARC BROWNING Marc Browning/The Wichita Eagle | Buy this photo

Eisenhower gets its elusive 5A boys tournament berth

Published March 7 at 11:07 p.m. | Last updated March 8 at 11:42 p.m.

In the year following Eisenhower ending one game short of the Class 5A boys basketball tournament, the Tigers chose not to put it behind them.

They kept it at the forefront of their minds, vowing to remember the devastation they felt when their season ended prematurely.

A week after the loss, they were back in the gym, shooting, shooting and shooting some more.

“We worked a lot harder, put more hours in the gym, practices have been more intense,” senior Trevon Evans said. “Coach (Steve Blue) didn’t want it to happen again. He told us at the beginning of the year that it’s going to be a different year.”

Eisenhower beat Maize South 68-54 Friday night in the Class 5A sub-state title game to advance to the state tournament Wednesday in Topeka.

Eisenhower improved to 20-1 and is 57-8 in the school’s three seasons.

“We’ve been thinking about this ever since last year, the Kapaun loss,” said Brennan Stemple, one of six Eisenhower seniors. “This has been our goal.… It’s an amazing feeling. We’ve put a lot of work into this.”

Stemple had 11 points, hitting three three-pointers, while Evans finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Senior Tyler Buchanan had 21 points, 18 in the second half, and 11 rebounds.

Eisenhower also out-rebounded Maize South 48-28.

When asked to compare this team with last season’s, Evans didn’t hesitate to point to Buchanan.

“We didn’t have Tyler,” said Evans of Buchanan, who moved from Indiana last summer. “Tyler’s a big part of this team. I’m so happy and thankful he came. He’s just a great player, and we really couldn’t have done it without him this year. He’s such a great asset to this team.”

Buchanan has come off the bench all season, a fact that Blue likes to point to as an example of his unselfishness and commitment to the team.

“Every time he got the ball, he was huge,” Blue said. “Maize South made a couple runs at us, but he seemed to be the one to step up and make plays.”

Eisenhower snatched a 10-1 lead in the first 4:16, getting consecutive threes from Stemple and Bailey Strunk. Maize South finally found its offense and rattled off eight unanswered.

The Mavericks got within 16-14 in the second quarter with two free throws by Payten Ricks, but Stemple hit a three. Ricks finished with a team-high 17 points.

They were within 32-29 after a Kellen Filby basket, but then Evans sparked a 7-0 run with a three.

Maize South’s final charge was to get within 44-38 in the final 30 seconds of the third quarter. But it was Buchanan who scored nine straight points, including a three with 6:29 to go.

“I think that Eisenhower was the key tonight,” said Maize South coach Kip Schultz, whose team finished 16-6, a school record for wins. “They outplayed us. They outboarded us. They broke down our defense and kicked and hit a bunch of threes.

“They played exceptionally well. Give all the credit to Eisenhower tonight.”

It’s still a painful loss for a program that made great strides. In Maize South’s first four seasons, the Mavericks were 17-66.

“It just hurts when they put that much time in, in the offseason, and you finally jump that hurdle and several others, and you get beat by a better team,” Schultz said.

Maize South815151654
Eisenhower1217172268

Maize South: Kordonowy 4, Martin 2, Barney 6, Filby 2, Ricks 17, Mormando 2, Domnick 3, Koster 12, Washington 6.

Eisenhower: Evans 17, Stemple 11, Morris 5, STrunk 5, Southworth 8, Buchanan 21, Pile 1.

Eisenhower fans

Maize south fans

Eisenhower senior Trevon Evans, 17 points, 13 rebounds.

Eisenhower senior Brennan Stemple, 11 points, three three-pointers

Eisenhower coach Steve Blue