2019 Girls State Basketball Tournament Preview

Ulysses is back for the first time to state in 37 years. (courtesy photo of Ulysses HS)
By: Conor Nicholl for Sports in Kansas w/ Chet Kuplen
Mar 5, 2019

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Previewing all 48 teams in the state tournament this week. For pairings visit the mainpage. 

State Basketball Tournament Coverage is brought to you by American Implement, Nex-Tech Wireless and Labette Community College. Click on their name to visit their websites or see our ad on the Sports in Kansas website.

Class 6A

Liberal (22-0) – Liberal bumped up from Class 5A after it finished third at state last winter. The Redskins captured its first state wins since 1987 and finished 23-2. This year, Liberal returned its top two players in junior point guard Katie Horyna and junior post Machia Mullens. They have combined to average around 30 points and 11 rebounds a contest. Liberal defeated Garden City, 46-18, in the sub-state title game. The Redskins have enjoyed their best record since the ‘70s. The Redskins have a strong supporting cast with senior sharpshooter Whitney Hay (Bethany basketball signee), senior Kim Alarcon (Barton soccer), sophomore Aubrey Warden and juniors Reagan Watt and Audrey Gilmore.

Derby (21-0) – Derby took second two years ago and is the defending Class 6A state champion, the first girls’ basketball crown in school history. The Panthers lost only to McPherson last winter and set a goal for an undefeated crown this year. The program has won 43 straight games. Derby has 6-foot-6 post Kennedy Brown, the first McDonald’s All-American from a KSHSAA school in state history. Brown is the defending 6A Player of the Year and Oregon State signee. Her best friend, senior point guard Tor’e Alford, is a Missouri State signee. Brown averages 17.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.8 blocks a contest. Senior Aliyah Myers is also a strong player with 9.1 points, 2.5 assists and 2.5 steals a contest. Alford, one of the state’s best passers, is at 8.3 points, 4.3 assists and 2.7 steals. Junior Sydney Nilles delivers 7.7 points and 5.5 rebounds. Derby has won every game by at least nine points and allows just 29.5 points a contest.

Washburn Rural (20-2) – Rural is one of six teams that are taking both boys and girls teams to state, along with 6A Olathe North, 4A Kansas City Piper, 3A Eureka and 1A Central Plains and 1A Hanover. Carly Bachelor is one of the state’s best players and has signed with Creighton. WR has a strong supporting cast with senior Shelby Ebert and junior Kasey Hamilton. The Junior Blues finished third at state last year. Rural defeated Wichita South in the sub-state, 50-39. The Junior Blues led by 13 early in the third quarter, but South came back to tie at the end of the third. Bachelor, a consistent double-double the last two years, had 18 points and 12 rebounds in the South victory.

Topeka (20-2) – Topeka has delivered one of the state’s biggest turnarounds after a 7-14 season last season. Senior guard Jaryn Benning keys a team that tied with Washburn Rural for the Centennial League. Topeka defeated Manhattan for the sub-state title game, 51-42, the third time the Trojans beat Manhattan this year. Six-foot freshman NiJaree Canady has been a significant force and finished with 18 points in the win. Benning tallied six, while Talayah Thomas scored nine, Laryn Murray had eight and Lilly Smith scored six. Topeka is at state for the first time since 2002. Canady averages 20.6 points and 10.4 rebounds, while Benning is at 13 points, 7.2 rebounds and two steals a game.

Olathe East (18-4) – Olathe East senior Makenna Winemiller collected first team all-league honors from Sunflower Smack, a media entity that regularly covers the conference. OE won the Sunflower League with an 11-1 mark and had the league’s best defense with just 34 points allowed overall, easily the top unit. She had 13.5 points with 2.8 assists. East is at state for a fourth straight season.

Olathe North (16-5) – Junior LeLe Love, also a first team selection, helped ON to a 10-2 mark in league play, which tied Olathe South for second in the conference race. Love delivered 14.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.1 steals. Leyanna McGinnis finished with 10.2 rebounds a contest, second-best in the league. ON is at state for the first time since ’97.

Shawnee Mission Northwest (16-6) – Senior Hannah Black, a second team selection, helped SMN go 9-3 in league play. Black averages 12.3 points and 5.7 rebounds. Molly Kaemmer is at 11.7 points and 9.6 rebounds. SMNW has recently made state in ’12, ’14, ’15, ’16 and ’18.

Olathe Northwest (15-7) - Senior Sarah Beth Gueldner, a Drake commit, led the Sunflower League in scoring and earned first team all-league honors by SS. She averages 22 points a contest. ONW had the conference’s top offense with more than 55 points per game in conference play and has made state for the second time in three years.

Class 5A

McPherson (20-1) – McPherson, the defending 4A-I state champions, have continued to roll on after graduating Taylor Robertson, the best shooter in Kansas history and now playing for Oklahoma. The Bullpups have won nine state titles, made the state championship game 15 times and have reached the state tournament 32 times, all second in state history to Bishop Miege, according to Kansas historian Carol Swenson. In sub-state, the Bullpups defeated Bishop Carroll, 53-32, and earned high praise from 14th-year coach Chris Strathman. He told reporters that it was the hardest he had ever seen his team play from the start of the game to the finish in his career.

Versus the 5A bracket, McPherson has never played Maize South, Blue Valley Southwest, Schlagle or Wichita Heights in school history, according to McPherson broadcaster Jim Joyner. Overall, Mac is 5-3 all-time at state versus Goddard, Aquinas and Topeka Seaman. McPherson has won 18 straight contests. Lakyn Schieferecke and Grace Pyle are among the key players for the Bullpups, who have qualified for state four straight years.

Goddard (20-2) – Goddard, at state for the first time since ’16 and second occasion since ’09, have only lost twice to Maize South. The Lions went 11-10 last year and have enjoyed a great improvement this season behind a much better offense. Three players average double figures: junior Kade Hackerott at 15 points a contest, and senior Torri Vang (10.9) and sophomore Brooke Sullivan (10.2). Goddard defeated a veteran Hays High squad, 38-33, in the sub-state title game. The Lions allow just 31 points a contest. Goddard has never won a girls’ basketball title.

Wichita Heights (20-2) – Heights captured the City League title and has one of the biggest marquee victories with a tournament win against Washburn Rural. The Falcons have ranked as 5A West’s top scoring offense for most of the season. Heights defeated Maize, 45-44, in a classic sub-state title game that was decided on a game-winning free throw with under a second left by Falcon sophomore Laniah Randle. Maize finished 18-4. Heights is back to state for the first time since ’13. At that point, Heights was one of the state’s premier programs with with perfect seasons in ’11 and ’12 and seven all-time state championships.

St. Thomas Aquinas (17-4) – Aquinas, the defending 5A state champion, has captured seven titles under coach Rick Hetzel. The Saints have reached the state tournament 25 straight seasons after a 55-28 win against Lansing. Aquinas has not lost a first round game since ’14, its only first round loss since ’08.

Maize South (17-5) – Maize South has dominated the storylines for the last week with the transfer case surrounding Zayda Perez and KSHSAA. Perez had to miss the first game of sub-state, an 82-25 victory against Arkansas City. She was cleared to play just before the 61-44 sub-state finals win versus Salina Central. South has not lost this year, but had to forfeit five games because of Perez’s transfer status. Perez is in her first season after she came from Valley Center. The Mavericks’ losses dropped them in the first round game versus Aquinas, which could be the de facto state title game.

K.C. – Schlagle (17-5) – Schlagle is at state for a fourth straight season, though has lost in the first round each time. Schlagle last made the final four in 2002. The Stallions defeated Bonner Springs, 60-32, and Spring Hill, 63-54, in sub-state.

Blue Valley Southwest (16-6) – BVSW dominated its sub-state with 54-25 win against St. James and a 72-29 win against K.C. Sumner Academy. This marks BVSW’s second state tournament appearance behind 2015.

Topeka Seaman (16-6) – Seaman defeated DeSoto, 52-33, in the sub-state title game and have won eight straight contests. Senior Taylor Russell scored 12 points in the championship game.

Class 4A

K.C. Piper (21-0) – Ryan Cobbins has cleared 1,000 career points and was mentioned as a McDonald’s All-American candidate. Piper has taken third in Class 4A the last two seasons and its only loss last season came in the state semifinals against Bishop Miege. Coach Shane Stout has enjoyed a great career with a 293-132 record in stops at Republic County, Liberal and KC Piper. In sub-state, the Pirates easily handled Tonganoxie (82-14) and Chanute (58-26).

Bishop Miege (21-0) – Miege lost in the 4A-I championship game last year, and, along with Derby, Liberal and Central Plains, are currently on the short list for the best girls’ basketball team in Kansas this year. The Stags have won games in Arkansas and St. Louis against quality competition and have beaten rival St. Thomas Aquinas twice. Miege has significant Division I talent with Ashton and Payton Verhulst, Johnni Gonzalez and Faith Hawthorne. As well, freshman Emajin McCallop has provided a spark. Miege rolled over Fort Scott (72-12) and Paola (91-27) in sub-state. The Stags have captured 20 all-state championships and are 33-2 in first round games in school history with legendary coach Terry English. At one point this year Miege was ranked in a national top 25 poll. While the field is loaded, the Stags are the heavy favorite. 

Baldwin (19-1) – The defending 4A-II state champion, Baldwin is prolific from long range. The Bulldogs are the No. 1 team in Kansas in 3-pointers made per game at 6.7. Three players, all seniors, pace Baldwin in scoring: Macey Frost (13.7), Kayla Kurtz (12.7) and Kate Ogle (10.8). Frost is arguably the state’s best shooter with 71 treys on 41 percent accuracy. Ogle is also at 41 percent from long range, though 9 of 22 from beyond the arc.

Abilene (20-2) – Abilene defeated Wichita Trinity, 43-27, in the sub-state title game. The Cowgirls heavily rely on its two seniors: Sydney Burton (Kansas State track) and Hannah Willey (Washburn basketball commit). Abilene received 15 points from Burton and 11 by Willey in the sub-state title game. Beth Holmes tallied nine and Abi Lillard had eight.

The Cowgirls, helped by a strong steal rate, have a seven-win improvement from a 13-8 mark last year. Willey is at 17.6 points, five rebounds and 2.8 steals a game. Burton stands at 16.2 points, six rebounds, 3.8 steals and 2.9 assists. Willey has shot 40 percent from long range. Together, they have combined for 239 made free throws and both shoot at least 74 percent from long range. Abilene last made state in ’16 and ’17.

Nickerson (19-3) – Nickerson held off Rose Hill, 58-51, to capture sub-state. Senior Madison Ontjes scored 13 points, while freshman Kieryn Ontjes tallied 16 points, and Alex Altum had a game-high 18 points. The Panthers reached the 4A-II state tournament last year with a 12-11 mark. This season, Nickerson has missed standout post Morgan Stout the majority of the season with a knee injury. Before ’18, Nickerson last made state in ’96 and has a turned around a program that lost 51 straight games in a skid that ended in 2015. First Brittany Warner and now Jon McLean have led the massive improvement.

Ulysses (18-4) – Ulysses continued one of the best seasons – if not the best – in school history. The Tigers won the GWAC for the first time in school annals and then defeated Wamego, 35-21, to advance to the state tournament. Ulysses, led by Gina Ballesteros, is headed to state for the first time in 37 years. The Tigers have enjoyed a four-win improvement from last year.

Circle (17-4) – Circle lost to Bishop Miege in the first round of the Class 4A, Division I state tournament last year and again gets the Stags in the first round this year. The T-Birds are in their third straight state tournament trip. Circle held off Pratt, which had been ranked in 4A, 50-33. Circle has no player who averages in double figures, but has four with 8.5 to 9.7 points per contest, led by senior Alyson Potter, a Southern Illinois University signee. Carissa Beck, a Butler County commit, averages 8.6 points and is one of the Kansas’ best shooters in recent state annals.

Eudora (16-5) – Eudora, the No. 5 seed, pulled a slight upset against No. 4 seed Labette County, 36-17, in the sub-state title game. This marks the Cardinals’ third appearance all-time at state after ’92 and ’09. LC had made the state tournament four straight years, but Eudora’s zone gave Labette problems. Harper Schreiner delivered 13 points, and Reagan Hiebert scored 12.

Class 3A

Cheney (21-2) – Cheney is back to state for the first time since ’17 and second occasion since ’11. The Cardinals won the state title in ’10. The Cardinals avenged a tournament loss to host Haven earlier this season. In the Haven sub-state title game, Cheney defeated the Wildcats, 60-52. Sophomore Kylee Scheer averages 16.9 points, four rebounds and 3.5 steals a contest. Senior Destinee O’Shea delivers 10 points and 6.1 rebounds a game.

Norton (21-2) – Norton last made a final four in 2001 and is at state for the first time since ’08. The Bluejays, under coach George Rossi, in his 30th year with the program, won the Mid-Continent League tournament and finished second in MCL regular season play to TMP. The road loss to the Monarchs represents the only defeat against a Kansas team this winter. Senior Taryn Kuhn, who has signed with Bethany, averages 15 points and 4.2 rebounds a game. Sophomore Tessa Hauser is at 11.1 points and 6.8 rebounds, and her sister, senior Hadley, is at 10 points and nine rebounds a contest.

Eureka (20-3) – Eureka continued the greatest sports season in school history. A week after the Tornadoes won the 3-2-1A wrestling title – the first athletic state crown in school annals – both basketball teams qualified for the state tournament. Legendary coach Shelly Hoyt, who won a then-state record 107 straight games with Hoxie, is in her second year with Eureka and led the Tornadoes to its first state tournament. Senior Kylie Vinson is a key player. Eureka has recovered from the EF3 tornado that took the high school roof last summer.

Nemaha Central (20-3) – Alleigh Kramer has helped the Thunder rank No. 1 in 3A the majority of the year. Last year, the Thunder lost in the first round to Royal Valley, 51-48, at the Class 3A state tournament. They also graduated a Division I player in Laura Macke who went on to Kansas State. Nemaha got to the state tournament in a loaded sub-state field that they dominated and were ranked second entering. They knocked off Maur-Hill-MA (56-22), rival Sabetha (61-36) and Marysville (46-31). Top seeded Pleasant Ridge lost in the semifinals to Marysville, the sub-state runner-up to the Thunder. 

Clay Center (18-4) – Clay Center has reached state six times, including four in a row from ’14-17. Clay Center won the 4A-II title in ’16. CC finished second to Abilene in North Central Kansas League play. The Tigers lost to Abilene twice, to Hesston in the Hillsboro tournament and against Marysville. Long known for defense, CC squelched St. Marys (47-16) and Riley County (26-21) in sub-state.

Royal Valley (18-5) – RV fell to Garden Plain, 49-39, in the Class 3A state championship game last winter after an upset-filled run in the state tournament. In the first round, RV defeated Nemaha Central, 51-48, who they had lost to twice in the regular season. Then, RV pulled another upset in overtime against TMP. This season, Royal Valley has been high in the state rankings behind returners Mary Broxterman and Kiikto Thomas. Twin move-ins from Colorado – Mahpiya and Wakiyan Irving – have helped, too. Broxterman averages 13.9 points and 9.2 rebounds a game.

Scott City (17-6) – Scott City has made three state tournaments in school history – the last three years. Last year, SC lost to Haven, 60-50, in the first round of the Class 3A. Scott City was fourth in 4A-II in 2017. SC defeated Cimarron, 50-37, in the sub-state title game. Emily Weathers had 20 points on 8 of 9 shooting, and Brynn McCormick scored 11. Coach Sarah McCormick has engineered the massive turnaround.

Columbus (16-7) – The Titans are back at state for the first time since ’15 and third occasion since ’07. Columbus opened the season 0-2 and has ended with six straight victories, most notably wins against Baxter Springs (42-38) and Cherryvale (63-46) in sub-state. Columbus had lost to Baxter Springs, 52-51, in overtime on the road Feb. 12. Columbus had beaten Baxter, 40-31, on Jan. 11. Junior Karsyn Youngblood leads the team with 16.7 points and 13.6 rebounds a contest, while senior Macy Gray is at 12 points a game.

Class 2A

Alma-Wabaunsee (20-3) – The Wabaunsee girls finished second in 2A two years ago and then surprisingly lost in sub-state last winter. This year, the Chargers enter the state tournament as the likely state favorite. Wabaunsee features an experienced core led by senior Abby Oliver (Washburn signing) and junior Madelyn Hutley. Both players have started since their freshmen years. As well, Alyssa Lohmeyer and Alexis Hafenstine joined the team this season and gave Wabaunsee great depth and athleticism. Wabaunsee took second to Garden Plain in 2A volleyball in the fall. Wabaunsee easily defeated Northern Heights, 59-43, in the sub-state title.

WaKeeney-Trego Community (19-3) -  WaKeeney-Trego was expected to be much improved this season, and the Golden Eagles have broken through with its fourth state appearance, first since  ’05. The Golden Eagles feature sophomore Lili Shubert and junior Libby Frost, along with an airtight defense. Coach Donnie Shubert won a state title with the Trego boys in 2006 before he took over the girls’ program last year. Trego has permitted only 33.3 points a contest and have held its last three opponents to 26, 22 and 26 points. In the sub-state title game, Trego held Plainville junior Aubree Dewey to just 11 points on 5 of 25 shooting. Overall, the Cardinals went 11 of 51. Dewey averaged 28 points a contest this year.

Sterling (19-4) – Sterling has been a traditional power under coach Jill Rowland and have captured at least 18 wins six times in the last seven  years. Sterling defeated Inman, 54-27, in the sub-state title game and have cruised down the stretch with its last four victories by at least 15 points. The Black Bears have not lost since a 69-34 defeat versus Central Plains on Jan. 8. Sterling last made final fours in ’13 and ’16 and last reached a title in ’99.

Garden Plain (18-4) – Garden Plain is the defending 3A state basketball and 2A volleyball champions. Junior Abby Gordon leads with 12.5 points and 5.5 rebounds a game, while senior Lauren Danahy averages 10.9 points and 4.9 rebounds a contest. The Owls average just 52.2 possessions a contest, slower than many top teams, but are highly efficient with .93 points per possession. The Owls own a 56-48 road win against Sterling on Dec. 13 and also defeated Cheney, 25-24. GP earned a 34-28 sub-state championship win versus rival Conway Springs.

West Elk (18-4) – West Elk pulled a slight upset with an overtime sub-state win against Colgan. WE reached state last season. Before ’18, the Patriots only other state trip came in 1990. West Elk fell to Valley Heights, 50-33, in the first round of state in 2018. Senior Macy McClendon averages 15.8 points and 8.9 rebounds, and junior Megan McClendon is at 12.6 points and 3.8 rebounds a contest.

Jackson Heights (17-5) – The Cobras are back to state for the first time since ’99. JH was the third seed in an upset-filled Valley Heights sub-state. Top-seeded Jefferson County North lost 44-42 to Atchison County in the semifinals. In the bottom half of the bracket, JH defeated second-seeded Valley Heights, 52-44. In the finals, the Cobras easily beat Atchison County, 56-39.

Stanton County (17-6) – Coach Trevor Siebert has led the Trojans to a big improvement. The Trojans combined for 21 victories in the last three years and have a nine-win jump this winter behind an experienced squad. SC has no seniors. Junior Rylie Cook has averaged 11.4 points, while sophomore Jordyn Tucker paces with 2.6 assists, and junior Chloe Chenoweth averages 7.1 points and 6.2 rebounds. In the sub-state title game, SC defeated Sublette, 42-36. On Feb. 19, the Trojans lost at Sublette, 59-38, and also fell to Sublette, 43-39, on Jan. 14. This time, Sublette led 13-2 after the first quarter before Stanton County outscored the Larks, 16-6, and 18-10, in the final two quarters. SC limited Sublette to 22 percent shooting en route to its fourth ever state appearance, first since ’99.

Heritage Christian (9-12) – The only team with a losing record in the state tournament, Heritage Christian defeated Pleasanton, 49-48, on a half-court buzzer-beater in the sub-state championship game. Junior Aysa Bennally leads with 11.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.8 steals a contest.

Class 1A

Central Plains (25-0) – Central Plains looks to continue its bevy of records behind coach Pat Stiles and junior point guard Emily Ryan, who holds several Big 12 offers. CP broke the state record for consecutive victories with its 108th straight last Saturday at Rawlins County at Barton County Community College. CP is the only team to win five straight state titles and is looking for No. 6 this weekend. Ryan is over 30 points a game for the second straight year, but her supporting cast of Avery Hurley, Delaney Rugan, Addison Crites and Rachel Lamatsch is veteran-laden and talented, too. CP has an average margin of victory of 52 points.

Rural Vista (24-0) – The Heat with a highly experienced senior class, returns to state for the third straight season, though lost in the first round in the last two years. RV had one senior in ’16-17, and none in ’17-18. Seniors Lauren Campuzano, Jessyka Barten and Jordyn Sanford have been key players since their freshman years. Juniors Hannah Riedy and Holly Brockmeier have also played significantly since they were freshman. RV defeated Frankfort and Emilee Ebert, a Missouri State signee, in the sub-state title game, 60-43. In the last week, Barten signed to run cross country at Kansas Wesleyan.

Olpe (23-0) – Olpe is one of the all-time great programs under Jesse Nelson, the all-time winningest coach in Kansas history. Nelson picked up career win 900 in a sub-state title game rout against Caldwell, 55-26. The Eagles have made eight title games and have qualified 28 times, third in state history behind Miege and McPherson. Olpe sophomore Maya Bishop had 12 points and replaced senior Karly McDougald, who suffered a sprained ankle, in the starting lineup. Senior Emma Miller scored 19 points.

Coldwater-South Central (23-2) – South Central has earned back-to-back final four showings, including third place last winter, under coach Tim Rietzke, who has coached more than 40 seasons with SC. Senior point guard Bri Rutherford has more than 1,700 career points. Senior forward Jordyn Jellison has been a key starter the last three years. SC has just one loss to a Kansas school and just three defeats total in the last two winters.

Thunder Ridge (21-2) – Thunder Ridge came out of the highly competitive WaKeeney sub-state that featured three teams that won at least 20 games. TR beat Otis-Bison in the semifinals and then knocked off previously undefeated Golden Plains in the sub-state title. The Longhorns took fourth behind South Central in 1A-I last winter. Senior forward Libby Hardacre and senior point Layne Pettijohn lead a balanced effort. Senior Mariah Stauffer has recovered from a back injury that caused her the majority of volleyball and early season basketball to play well down the stretch for veteran coach Darren Grauerholz.

Hanover (22-3) – Hanover is the two-time defending Class  1A, Division I champion. Senior Macy Doebele is one of the state’s most accomplished athletes and has cleared 1,500 career points and signed with Washburn. Junior Tianna Lohse is a three-year starter is an elite player who hit the game-winning shot against Olpe in the finals two years ago. Hanover faces Olpe in the first round this season.

Waverly (20-3) – Waverly went to state in ’15-17 and captured the 1A-II state title in ’17 after it reached the final in ’16. Waverly took second in their regional to advance to sub-state, however they lost to state power Olpe in their regional 58-34, who is undefeated. They still showed their tougheness by getting through a loaded sub-state at Butler Community College knocking off Chase County, who was 19-2 entering, 33-29, then Argonia, who was 21-2, with a score of 53-50.

Montezuma-South Gray (21-4) – South Gray is back at state for the first time since its three-year run from ’08-10. The Rebels reached the state title game all three seasons and won in ’08 and ’10. SG, unranked all season in 1A, defeated Spearville, 41-40, in the sub-state title game. SG had fallen, 58-49, to the Lancers on Dec. 14, but Spearville had battled injuries down the stretch. The Rebels have not lost since Jan. 26.

Hannah Askew averages 12.8 points and 8.9 rebounds. Christy Wiebe finished with 17 points versus Spearville and has averaged 12.9 points a contest. Wiebe has dramatically improved with 16.2 points per game in the last 11 games. Emma Jantz is at six points a contest and is one of the state’s leaders in assists (3.7) and steals (3.2).