Maize sends Buffaloes home for good
Maize, KS (westernkansasnews.com)-For more than a decade of his educational life, Matthew LeBegue spent his school days doing math problems and reading books in the confines of his living room. His basketball team was the Homeschool Warriors, and his dreams of playing high school ball in the public system seemed farfetched. Fast forward 11 years, and the homeschool kid turned playoff hero singlehandedly carried Maize back to the state tournament.
“We couldn’t stop him (LeBegue) all night,” Garden City Head Coach Jacy Holloway said. “He was so physical down low.”
That physicality was fueled by a type of gusto; a bravado that no one, not even his own teammates could match. And it started from the jump as LeBegue scored 11 of his career-best 30 points in the first quarter, making a living bullying defenders in the low post and helping lift the Eagles to a 61-48 victory over the Buffaloes at Maize Gymnasium in the 6A Substate Championship Game.
“We had some nerves early on,” Holloway said. “That was pretty apparent.”
Maize jumped all over the Buffaloes to start, pushing out to a 6-0 lead. In fact, at one point the score read: LeBegue 11, Garden City 5. And it was on from there.
After the Buffaloes tied the game at 13 in the second quarter, it was LeBegue answering the bell; drilling a 3-pointer from the top of the key, giving the Eagles the lead for good.
“We talked about our defense the entire second half of the season,” Holloway said. “The dribble penetration killed us. Then add the low-post game from LeBegue, and we had no answer.”
That lead swelled to as many as 10 at 27-17 with 3:10 left in the first half before Maize (14-8, 6-4) took an eight-point advantage into the break. That’s when Caleb Tramp took over.
Tramp, who scored 13 points in the first half, went to work early in the fourth. His dazzling drive over Jacob Shultz resulted in a left-hand layup and a foul. The senior missed the ensuing free throw but Jose Acosta was there for the stick back, cutting the Eagles lead to 43-39 with 6:10 to play.
“We had our chances,” Holloway said. “But give Maize credit; they answered every run.”
Four straight Eagle points following Acosta’s layup made it an eight-point contest; that is until Tramp jogged down court and buried an uncontested triple from the left wing that cut it to five. Garden City (13-9, 6-3) eventually pulled within four with 3:15 left. That’s as close as they would get as the Eagles closed the game on a 10-1 run.
“These seniors were an awesome group,” Holloway said. “We’ve made the substate finals three straight years; that’s an accomplishment in itself, and they should be proud of that.”
Tramp finished with 26 points; three shy of tying his career high. Jose Acosta was next in line with seven points. Jared Koster scored just two points on 1-of-5 shooting.
Cortlin Standifer scored 11 points to pace the Eagles. Ky-Sean Johnson, who missed his first six shots, finished with seven points, including a dagger 3-pointer in the final three minutes.
Tip ins: Garden City never led in the game…Maize’s largest lead was 13…This was the Eagles first ever victory over the Buffaloes (Garden City leads the all-time series 2-1)…Maize hasn’t lost a home playoff game since 2011…The Buffaloes haven’t won a postseason game on the road since 2002-2003…Garden City fell to 3-6 in their last nine substate final games