Andover Central downs Garden City in NIT opener

Newton, KS-Matt Pfeifer called the Newton Invitational the most stacked tournament in all of Kansas. After one glance at the bracket, it’s hard to argue against that.

Thanks to a strong first semester, the Buffaloes earned the No. 4 seed in this year’s field, but their first-round opponent was no ordinary No. 5.

Freshman Brittany Harshaw poured in a career-best 26 points, Jaden Newfarmer recorded her first double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Andover Central beat Garden City 52-38 in the opening round of the NIT Thursday night at Ravenscroft Gym. It was the Jaguars sixth straight win following an the program’s first-ever 0-2 start.

“In the first half, we gave them way too many open looks from 3,” Pfeifer said. “We made some adjustments in the second half, but that’s a big reason we fell behind.”

Andover Central’s long-distance shooting was on full display in the first quarter. Harshaw, Newfarmer and Bailey Wilborn drilled three straight triples, spearheading a 9-0 run that gave the Jaguars a 14-5 edge. They were up 14-7 after one.

“I know we didn’t shoot the ball well, but I like how they competed tonight,” Pfeifer said.

In the second period, Elyssa Salazar kept the Buffaloes afloat, scoring seven straight points, including a 3 from the wing that kept it a seven-point game. But Andover Central answered with an 8-2 spurt, capping it with two free throws by Harshaw that gave the Jaguars a 31-18 advantage with 1:36 remaining in the first half. It was 33-21 at the intermission.

“She (Harshaw) is only a freshman, and she’s a really good player,” Pfeifer said. “She wasn’t really efficient tonight, but she got her points. She’s only going to get better.”

The Jaguars stretched their lead to 14 midway through the third before the Buffaloes finally made their run. Symon Simmons and Julie Calzonetti hit consecutive buckets, Keyhana Turner drained four free throws, and Garden City cut the deficit to seven, 39-32 going to the fourth. They held Andover Central scoreless the final 3:00 of the frame.

“We just made an adjustment and guarded the 3 much better in that third quarter,” Pfeifer said. “That’s what changed for us.”

Unfortunately, Garden City couldn’t stop Harshaw in the final quarter. The freshman scored nine points including a backbreaking 3 to begin the stanza. She added a layup, where she challenged Calzonetti, and a midrange jumper that put the Jaguars up 14 with 2:55 left.

Andover Central won by double figures despite shooting just 34 percent (20-of-58). It was the fifth time this year that Stana Jefferson’s team shot below 40. Wilborn chipped in eight points on 2-of-4 from downtown.

The Buffaloes, who missed eight of their first 10 shots, finished the night 13-of-42 (31 percent). They were led by Turner, who scored 11 points and pulled down four rebounds. Calzonetti tied a season-high with 10 boards, and Salazar totaled seven points but was just 3-of-12 from the floor.

Next up: Garden City vs. Newton-Friday, Jan. 25-4:30 p.m. pregame; 4:45 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM: and KWKW mobile app