MVP!

Xavier Bell attempts to shoot a free throw in the Ralph Miller Classic Championship. Andover Central would go on to a three-peat at Chanute High School Saturday.

ROBERT MAGOBET

Nobody in the tournament could guard Andover Central’s Xavier Bell. And that was once again the case for Shawnee Mission South in the 48th annual Ralph Miller Classic Championship game on Saturday at Chanute High School.

Bell’s dominance led to Andover Central (6-5) three-peating in the tourney after a 56-48 win over Shawnee Mission South, completing a 3-0 record in the tournament. Bell, who has verbally committed to Drexel University, scored 27 points, while Ty Herrmann and Kaden Wilson had nine apiece.

Teams in the tournament knew when playing Bell, multiple defenders had to try to disrupt the talented guard, as the 6’3’’ wing player can handle well and drive right or left, or can pull up if defenses sag back too much. 

These capabilities drew many double- and triple-team coverages. But Andover Central head coach Jesse Herrmann had an adjustment for those kinds of defenses.

While Bell brought the ball up most of the time, the 20-point-per-game scorer would pass the ball off before resetting and catching the ball on the block, where many times he power pivoted for an easy layup.

“So I knew they were going to do that before the game – our coaches did really well scouting them – I feel like my teammates honestly helped me out, moving around, get into open spots, so when I did have the ball and it did collapse like that, I could rely on them to kick out and find open guys,” Bell said after the game. “I just stay focused. Got to stay locked in. At any moment, anybody can get hurt, so you gotta look next man up in any moment. The lead could change, they could go on a big run, we could go on a run when we don’t make anything, so we just got to stay down and stick to the game plan and hopefully hope for the best.”

Shawnee was hoping to build on a 31-25 halftime deficit. Doing their best to answer the bell, Shawnee’s Blake Pottoff had two 3s and Ike McLey had one, too. 

With the score at 41-37 Andover late in the fourth, Bell was able to reverse pivot in the lane to make an easy layup as he was fouled. He made the score 44-37 after hitting a free throw at the charity stripe.

Andover’s Ty Herrmann also completed a three-point play after he was fouled, which extended the score to 47-40 after a made 3 by Shawnee in the fourth.

Hermann said he needed to strategize Bell in the post.

“He creates a ton of attention. I mean he is such a good scorer. X (Bell) is a great teammate, too, and we keep talking about him getting to the basket. If they’re collapsing on him, if I was guarding him, I don’t know how I would guard him, but I would definitely have to commit more than one guy to him,” Herrmann said. 

“He’s getting good at kicking and making decisions and we have shooters that can make. We struggled to make shots so far this year, but I am proud to win. The first night we shot the ball well, and we really didn’t shoot the ball well the next two nights from 3. I’m proud to win kind of gritty games.”

Andover shot 44 percent from the field and 30 percent (three 3s) from downtown with six turnovers. Shawnee was 34 percent from the field and 39 percent (eight 3s) from beyond the arc with just four turnovers.

Potthoff scored 18 for Shawnee.

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