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4A girls: Andover Central’s energy works for third-place finish

Published March 15 at 3:31 p.m. | Last updated March 15 at 3:32 p.m.

SALINA – Andover Central coach Stana Jefferson dropped her basketball team off at the Bicentennial Center a little over an hour before game time Saturday morning and headed off to find a cup of coffee.

“I’m a coffee machine,” Jefferson said. “I’ve figured it out. There’s not going to be any energy anywhere else in this building.”

Third-place games at the state tournament are usually all about whose juices are flowing. Jefferson was a bundle of jittery energy during the Jaguars’ season finale, and so was her team. Central committed 24 turnovers for the second straight game, but rolled past Kansas City Piper 61-43 in the Class 4A-Division I tournament to complete a 20-5 season.

“We knew we had to come out with a lot of heart and passion in that third (tournament) game,” said Central junior Brooke Pedersen, who matched Masen Stamp with a team-high 15 points. “At this point, everyone’s legs are tired and everyone is ready to get that last game, and we came out with a lot of pride to try to end the season on a good note.”

The Jaguars’ quest for their third state title was derailed by Bishop Miege on Friday in a 64-52 semifinal loss. Central, which has reached the final four in all five of its state appearances, led from start to finish against Piper (20-5).

Central offset its turnover issues by holding the upper hand in almost every other phase. The Jaguars made 8 of 14 three-pointers, outrebounded the Pirates 32-26 and held them to 36-percent shooting.

Pedersen, a 5-foot-8 junior, made three threes. One came after the Jaguars committed turnovers on six consecutive possessions in the third quarter, and pushed Central’s lead to 37-21.

Jefferson was excited about a charge Pedersen took early in the fourth quarter with Central leading 50-32.

“I’ve made bets with people that she would take a charge before she graduated,” Jefferson said. “That’s what everybody was pretty excited about.”

As the Jaguars maintained a double-digit lead in the second half, they started to enjoy it. Jefferson substituted for senior starters Katie Kretchmar (10 points, 11 rebounds) and Skyler Snodgrass, a Wyoming signee, with 1:15 to play.

Senior reserve Stephanie Givens entered the game in the final minute and hit a three for Central’s final points.

“You can come back in a noon game the next day after missing a chance at going to a state championship and pack it in,” Jefferson said. “I think it shows a lot of character about teams that come back ready to play, and I was proud of this group today like I have been the whole season.”