By CONOR NICHOLL for Sports in Kansas - email: Cnicholl1@gmail.com
The last two weeks have seen several highly ranked teams lose, generally to non-ranked squads in their league. Hugoton girls, Jackson Heights girls, Phillipsburg girls, Larned boys and Haven girls are among those. Plus, a look at Haven’s Sara Yutzy, one of the state’s more underrated players.
Class 3A: Led by juniors and freshmen, unranked Hugoton girls improve defense, deliver three wins versus ranked teams, lose to Liberal by one
Hugoton girls’ basketball returned 72 percent of its scoring from a 7-14 squad, including 6-foot-1 junior center Jordyn Beard. She averaged 12.2 points and 12.1 rebounds last winter. This season, the Eagles added three highly touted freshmen: Mikyn Hamlin, Summya Adigun and Gianna Vos.
Hugoton opened 2019-20 with a 3-3 mark. The Eagles fell 59-42 at Liberal on Dec. 10 and 57-52 versus Dodge City a week later. Liberal remains undefeated and has ranked second in Class 6A the majority of the year. DC has been ranked in the top-10 of 6A part of the winter.
On Dec. 20, Hugoton lost, 61-56, in a Greater West Activities Conference road game to Scott City, then ranked fifth in 3A.
The Eagles followed with two victories, at Holcomb on Jan. 14, and versus Lindsborg-Smoky Valley in the first round of the Sterling Invitational on Jan. 21.
“We were kind of beating teams that we were supposed to beat,” Hugoton coach Emmanuel Adigun said.
Hugoton faced host Sterling in the Sterling tournament semifinals Jan. 23. Sterling was ranked second in 2A. The Black Bears had captured its own tournament the last two falls. Other than two losses to Central Plains, Sterling had not lost in the regular season since Dec. 13, 2018. CP currently has the longest winning streak in state history.
“For younger kids, it creeps in that doubt, are we good or are we just good enough to beat the teams that we should beat?,” coach Adigun said. “Should we beat high-level, high-ranked teams?”
Beard battled health issues and was cleared the morning of the Sterling game. Adigun wanted to sit her.
“You are more important to me than winning the basketball game,” Adigun said.
However, Beard wished to play and believed she could go 10 to 12 minutes maximum. Instead, Beard played just over 15 minutes and had four points, two rebounds, two assists and a block in a 53-44 upset Eagle victory.
Hamlin led with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while her sister, junior McKenna, tallied 15 points. Summya moved into the starting lineup with 14 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Hugoton held Sterling to 29 percent shooting and eventually won the tournament. Sterling has not lost since, is 14-2 and remains second in 2A.
“The win at Sterling really gave our kids the confidence,” coach Adigun said.
Since then, Hugoton has continued to pull upsets, and leads one of the state’s recent trends. Normally in February, the top teams crystallize their rankings and sub-state seedings.
However, this year, notably in Class 3A and 2A, multiple top teams have lost to lower ranked or non-ranked squads in the last 10 days. On the girls’ side, Hugoton, Jackson Heights, Phillipsburg and Haven all used improved defense in their wins. Larned boys had a strong offense in its Tuesday overtime victory against Haven, ranked second in 3A.
On Jan. 31, Hugoton nearly pulled another upset in its rematch against Liberal in a 41-40 loss. After a win versus struggling Ulysses, Hugoton defeated back-to-back GWAC ranked teams. Last Friday, Hugoton beat Scott City, 53-49 in overtime. The next day, the Eagles defeated Colby, 37-33. All three games came at home.
“The important thing for us has been our attention to detail and our productivity on the defensive end of the floor,” Adigun said. “My assistant coaches and I, we really want to focus on a defense that will allow us to be aggressive, yet make sure we are still in position, and I think that the girls have really bought into the execution on the defensive end, and I think that really helped us defend Liberal.”
Scott City and Colby are both 14-2, and Hugoton is 11-4. The three squads are all in the Cimarron sub-state. Colby senior standout Jill Stephens hurt her knee in practice last week and is expected to be out for the season. This week, Scott City is fifth, Colby sixth and Hugoton remains unranked in 3A. Colby hosts Scott City on Friday, and Hugoton on Feb. 21.
Among the state’s top-100 teams for all classes, Hugoton has played the hardest strength of schedule in 3A, according to MaxPreps’ statistical rankings. Hugoton’s SOS stands fifth for all classes.
“Those are two really good programs that have some really exceptional ball players, so the key for us was really just try to limit the amount of possessions, and then just try to make them guard us,” Adigun said.
Adigun, in his third season at Hugoton, leads Western Kansas Elite, a top summer basketball program. Before Hugoton, Adigun was previously the assistant for five years at Pratt and learned from then coach Dean Rausch. Now in his 38th year of teaching, Rausch is currently at Lyons and is most well-known for his stints at St. John and Pratt.
Rausch continually preached staying true to the fundamentals: move your feet, communicate, work together, help and recover, believe in your teammates, don’t ever fear playing hard.
“If you want to be great at something, you have to work on it all the time, and you have to maximize your kids’ ability within what you are doing,” Adigun recalled from Rausch. “You can never, ever lose sight of the fundamentals over a fad, and he always preached that. Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. They can get boring, they can get repetitive, but at the end of the day they always work.”
Hugoton had enjoyed great success with coach Andy Gillen and assistant coach Jeff Ramsey, including state titles in ’15 and ’17. In ’18, Adigun led the Eagles to third in Class 4A, Division II. Last season, though, Hugoton slipped back. Ramsey, known for long supporting area youth, has remained on Adigun’s staff. Adigun labeled Ramsey the state’s best assistant.
“He’s an incredible guy,” Adigun said. “He loves those young ladies as if they were his grandchildren, but most importantly, it’s bigger than basketball for him.”
This year, Hugoton significantly relies its juniors with Beard, guard/defensive stopper Molly McClure and McKenna Hamlin, and its freshmen trio.
Sophomore Breckyn Haar and senior Toby McClure are in the rotation. Beard is at 7.6 points and a team-high 7.2 rebounds. McKenna averages 7.6 points, while Molly leads with 39 assists.
“To start with the juniors, I think it’s important that people understand that they are really the biggest component to the growth of the young kids,” Adigun said. “Defensively, Molly McClure and Jordyn Beard are excellent for us, so they kind of carry the workload defensively for us, and McKenna does a great job of spacing teams out with her ability to knock down the open shot.”
Entering this week, Mikyn leads with 16.4 points per game, along with 35.5 percent shooting from long range. She is second with 6.1 rebounds a game. Summya, the coach’s daughter, delivers 4.9 points and 5.6 rebounds. Vos has nine points a contest. In addition to the numbers, Adigun has been pleased with Mikyn’s ability to contribute on both ends in ways “that doesn’t show up in the box score.”
“Mikyn Hamlin is a talented, talented young lady, but the one thing that I think a lot of people don’t talk much about is she is a great competitor,” Adigun said.
Hugoton led Liberal, which has won 50 straight regular season contests, most of the game and had a chance to win at the end. The Eagles limited Liberal’s Division I pair of Machia Mullens and Katie Horyna to a combined 19 points. Mikyn finished with 11.
“We really focused on just sprinting to the help, sprinting to the shooters, sprinting to our recovery zones, and I thought we did a terrific job of just contesting all of their shots,” Adigun said.
In the December loss to Scott City, Hugoton pressured the Beavers some, though SC’s talented trio of Emily Weathers, Brynn McCormick and Lyndi Rumford made plays down the stretch. Weathers has signed with Emporia State basketball, Rumford with Barton County, and McCormick is one of the state’s best sophomores.
In the second meeting, Adigun wanted Scott to “work for everything.” Hugoton played some zone, tried to take away high-low action and sprint to shooters. Adigun placed a “really huge” emphasis on rebounding.
Hugoton finished plus-12 on the glass versus the Beavers and plus-6 against Colby. Hugoton trailed the Beavers, 49-46, with just under a minute to play, but forced two turnovers and then held SC scoreless in overtime. Mikyn paced Hugoton with 17 points.
“If they beat us on the glass, it’s a 95 percent chance they will win the game,” Adigun said of Scott City. “And so we have to do an excellent job rebounding, getting all five girls to the rim, making sure we get a body on their athlete, and I just thought that we were relentless in our approach to rebounding. I was very excited.”
The following day, Mikyn tallied 24 points in the victory against Colby. Hugoton limited Eagle senior standout Hallie Vaughn, a 1,000-point career scorer, without a field goal. It marked Colby’s first competitive game without Jill Stephens, daughter of veteran Eagle coach Tom Stephens. On Tuesday, Hugoton beat 6A Garden City, 48-37, at home.
“Colby is a very, very good basketball team, with one of, if not the best coach in our league,” Adigun said. “They are fundamentally sound. They execute better than any team we’ve played. Losing Jill really hurt them.”
Class 2A: Jackson Heights girls give Jefferson County North first loss
Last season, Jackson Heights finished 17-6 and qualified for the Class 2A state tournament, its first trip since 1999. Seventh-year coach Dan Shupe, a JH graduate, has led a turnaround for the Cobras behind an experienced group of seniors and its matchup point zone defense. JH first tried the scheme several years ago.
“Give them a different look from what a lot of the teams we play usually see,” he said.
This year, JH features six seniors: Makenzie Kennedy, Jodi White, Abby Brey, Kylie Dohl, Grace Roles and Southern Raborn. The Cobras focus on not letting teams drive. Dohl called White “a really awesome defender.” JH’s players can play multiple spots.
“That is the point of a lot of our success,” Dohl said of the defense. “Something we put in my freshman year. We have run it a lot. I think that’s what helps us a lot. It keeps our legs fresh.”
Dohl is the school’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder with more than 1,130 career points. Dohl’s mom, Kristi, first coached the current seniors in fourth grade.
“A big thing is I have an awesome group of classmates, and we all decided when we were younger that this is something we wanted to turn around, and we wanted to be successful,” Dohl said. “And they are super competitive.”
Dohl is a four-year starter, White and Brey three years. Junior Amaya Marlatt is also a returning starter for a corps that has helped key the program turnaround.
“There’s a lot of pride,” Shupe said. “There’s a lot of people that have come back and established households in our community, and they are second and third generation kids that are coming through Jackson Heights now. I think that’s a big part of it.”
Jackson Heights opened the season with a 62-53 loss to Jefferson County North in its season opener. Both teams play in the Northeast Kansas League and are in the Horton sub-state. Since then, JH is 13-1 – including a 38-25 home upset win versus JCN on Feb. 4. After the upset, the Cobras have picked up three more victories.
“Anybody can win a certain game,” Dohl said. “So going into that knowing like, ‘Oh, we can do this’ was really important for us. I think it was a really big confidence booster for us. Because that was kind of our turnaround point of the season. We started playing together.”
Overall, JCN, with Missouri Western signee Josie Weishaar, is 15-1 and currently ranked fifth in 2A. Valley Heights, also in the sub-state, is 15-2 and eighth. JH remains unranked. Since the JCN loss, the Cobras have allowed just 26.5 points per game.
“Our kids are playing extremely good defense,” Shupe said.
Class 3A: Phillipsburg girls upset WaKeeney-Trego, in position for school history this week
Like Hugoton and Jackson Heights, Phillipsburg girls reversed a result from earlier in the season. The Panthers lost 45-31 to WaKeeney-Trego Community in the Mid-Continent League tournament championship game Jan. 25. Phillipsburg has generally run man-to-man defense.
However, coach Rachel Miller knew the Panthers needed to change its look for the rematch last Friday at Trego Community High School. A few days before the game, Phillipsburg installed a box-and-one against Golden Eagle standout junior Lili Shubert. As well, the Panthers ran a 1-2-2 zone.
“We all were like ‘What are you thinking?’ Phillipsburg junior Meredith Jacobs said. “Because we only play man, and then in weird situations we play zone, and so when she said ‘Box and one,’ we were like, ‘What’s a box and one?’ We never played that, so it was a lot of learning in two days, but we figured it out.”
Phillipsburg contained Shubert, received 30 combined points from freshman Taryn Sides and Jacobs, and earned a 47-40 victory. WaKeeney-Trego was undefeated and ranked No. 1 in 2A, This week, the Golden Eagles fell to fourth in 2A, while Phillipsburg remained unranked in 3A.
“I am not one to go away from man very often,” Miller said. “Because I like to try to just be really good at one. So I am really proud of our players, the way that they come out and play defense tonight. It was definitely a team defense.”
On Tuesday, the Panthers won at Hoxie, 42-30, for its second straight victory against a ranked team. Phillipsburg has defeated Hoxie, currently ninth in 2A, twice this year. Sides, like the Hugoton trio, is part of a highly talented freshmen class in Kansas. She has averaged around 18 points a game.
Phillipsburg, 12-10 last season, is 14-3 and holds a sizable lead in the Beloit sub-state. The Panther girls have never made a state tournament in school history. This week, Phillipsburg faces Norton and Thomas More Prep-Marian at home on Thursday and Friday.
Two wins should lock up the MCL regular season title. The Panthers have not captured a regular season league crown in more than 40 years.
Class 3A: Larned boys upset Haven behind seniors, barrage of 3s
Larned coach Jerrod Smith labeled himself “pretty blessed” to coach the current Indian roster. Larned has three highly experienced seniors with guards Mason Perez, Brock Skelton and Chance Sanger. All three are four-year players and three-year starters. Perez has signed with Fort Hays football. The trio has played together since fourth grade.
Larned, along with juniors Layton Crosby, Jack Stelter, Andreus Tucker and Dillan Smith, displayed crisp ball movement, strong team chemistry and plenty of 3-pointers in Tuesday’s 61-55 overtime home win versus Haven in Central Kansas League play.
“We have got a lot of time together in practice, and coach has been talking to us about keeping the ball moving instead of sticking, and it gets the defense on their toes,” Sanger said.
The Wildcats, ranked second in 3A, permitted its most points this winter. Haven dropped to 14-2. Larned, part of a six-way tie at tenth in 3A, is 12-3. Both teams are part of the Halstead sub-state that features Hesston (15-1, No. 1) and Lyons (14-2, No. 8). Overall, six teams are over .500 in the sub-state.
“They are a very good team,” Haven coach Lonnie Paramore said. “I am not embarrassed at all that we lost to Larned. … They are battle-tested, and they are going to be right there in that sub-state with us. Going to be three tough battles to get to the state tournament for whoever comes out of there.”
Sanger tallied 24 points as Larned sunk 9 of 23 on 3-pointers. In the season’s first eight games, Larned did not take more than 20 treys in any contest. Haven had to change from its normal 1-3-1 defense because of Larned’s shooting.
“They did a really good job making a lot of shots early, and we tried to mix it up a little bit, different defenses, because they were shooting it really well,” Paramore said.
“They never get out of it, but they did tonight, so that’s pretty good on our part,” Sanger added.
Overall, Sanger tallies around 15 points a game, while Skelton averages double figures. Skelton and Perez pace in rebounds, and Perez is the best defender.
“If they are in rhythm, I am fine with it,” Smith said of the treys. “And we have got Chance, and Brock, and a lot of these guys are pretty good 3-point shooters. And they’ve pretty much all got the green light, but they have to have an understanding that’s not what they need to settle for all the time. And on nights when they are not going in, we have got to use our athleticism to get the ball inside.”
Class 3A: Yutzy with big year for Haven girls; Wildcats playing challenging slate, up in rankings; huge game Friday
Haven senior Faith Paramore, a Division I Oral Roberts signing and 1,000-point career scorer, is one of the state’s well-known players. However, Wildcat senior Sara Yutzy is also delivering a fine season. Paramore, Yutzy and junior Maguire Estill are all 5-foot-11 and form a strong front line for the Wildcats. Yutzy has attracted some Division II, and significant NAIA and junior college.
“Sara is so coachable,” coach Dwight Roper said. “She has got a great attitude, good work ethic. Man, she is being recruited really hard. She has got a lot of people after her right now. She is going to have a lot of choices – good choices.”
Haven defeated Larned, 50-8, on Tuesday after another climb in the rankings. Haven (14-2) leads the Halstead sub-state. Halstead, ranked seventh in 3A girls, is 13-3.
In the Jan. 14 rankings, Haven was seventh and Halstead second. However, Haven defeated Halstead, 34-27, on Jan. 31. The Wildcats bumped to fourth in the Feb. 4 poll and to third this week. Haven has won 10 straight games.
Paramore is averaging around 17 points and seven rebounds a contest. Yutzy is around 14 to 15 points and eight rebounds a game. As well, Haven has had solid guard play with senior Kara Matteson, junior Carlee Arnold, and sophomore Reese Roper.
“She is going to be successful,” Roper said of Yutzy. “She works so hard. I don’t worry about Sara. She’s a great student in the classroom, and just a great kid.”
Among the state’s top-100 teams, Haven has faced the sixth-hardest schedule, according to MaxPreps.
“It’s been unbelievable really,” Roper said. “The schedule we are playing, we knew it was going to be difficult. … There was unknowns when we started the season, and we have gelled really well the last month really.”
On Friday, the Wildcats receive another big test at Nickerson (14-2, No. 5 in 4A). Haven is the only squad to beat Nickerson. The game will likely decide the Central Kansas League title.
“If you have a great season, you are going to win the league title along the way,” Roper said. “Our goal is to go to the state tournament. That’s our biggest goal, and we want to do something when we get there. But if you play good enough, the league title kind of falls into place for you, and we have got a legitimate shot at it. We know Nickerson is going to be very tough Friday night."
An update from Southeast Kansas
While we all know about the Parsons boys, Pittsburg boys, St. Paul girls etc., we have some other teams looking to be on the radar this season and some upsets here as of recent of the completely unexpected. In additional to several key happenings around the state another big one was Pittsburg High girls knocking off ranked Chanute on a Tuesday Buzzer Beater in the fourth quarter by Sophia Pinamonti. Pittsburg, led by head coach Kris Crotts, has won three of their last four games.
Labette County boys, led by first year head coach Bradley Agrabright, have turned some heads over their last five games. THe team hadn't won a league contest in two years and has now won back-to-back league games with victories over both Chanute (Friday) and Fort Scott (Tuesday). While it has been a season of ups and downs for the Grizzlies, they seem to be playing their best basketball as we approach the postseason.
Nobody seems to be talking about the Erie Red Devils in 2A boys basektball and we think you should be. With a down year that Colgan - however you can never count out any Wayne Cichon SMC coached team - is experiencing it could be the year to get up to the state tournament. Mark Bogner, Eric Dillinger and Matthew Vail are key players to watch for the Red Devils.
While the Raiders, led by head coach Scott Fields, aren't in the upset or unranked category as they are ranked in 3A, they may be a little bit under the radar. They are 14-0 against Kansas competition with losses coming to that of Adrian, Missouri and Blue Springs, Missouri (one of the biggest high schools in MO). Frontenac boys also are a bit under the radar and coming off a very solid win over Galena and team they lost to earlier in the season. Hayden Pile had a couple of buzzer shots to spark the Raiders. Both teams are more than capable of getting to a state tournament in 3A at the loaded and balanced Galena sub-state.
Uniontown girls are off to a solid season at 11-3 this season despite being upset recently by Southeast. We still feel like the Eagles are very much a factor in the Yates Center regional. Uniontown features one of the top multiple sport sophomores in Southeast Kansas in Danielle Howard. Don't sleep on Colgan either despite their 9-7 record as they play a bit better schedule than most of the schools in the 2A class. Also within that sub-state is Erie and Pleasanton, plus a Southeast team that has won three of its last four and just knocked off Uniontown.
Independence boys aren't talked about a lot because of their six losses but they should be. They feature 1,000 point scorer Davion Lewis and are one of the top teams in the Southeast Kansas Area. While they may not be a Parsons or Pittsburg, the Bulldogs hung around and gave Parsons all they wanted last time around. They meet again this Friday. Indy's losses include Pittsburg, Parsons, Rock Creek, Chanute, Collegiate and Mulvane. You can throw their record out as they can hang around with anyone.
The Galena boys sub-state is going to be a gauntlet to get through with the likes of Frontenac, Cherryvale, Galena, Columbus, Riverton, Fredonia and Baxter Springs that all have a shot to knock off anyone. Neodesha is the only team in the sub-state that doesn't have the opportunity to finish the season with a winning record.