By CONOR NICHOLL
In the previous several years, Class 4-6A were seeded out. This season, COVID-19 and KSHSAA’s decision elected to switch sub-states to geography, regardless of record. That has caused multiple high-quality teams to reside in the same sub-state, while some other sub-states are significantly weaker.
**Note all records from KSHSAA at time of seeding, unless otherwise noted***
A look at the majority of sub-states, including top teams, favorites, darkhorses, key players and regular season matchups that could affect sub-states.
At Dodge City, DC (19-1) will host Western Athletic Conference foe Liberal (17-3) for the sub-state title Saturday. DC has won eight in a row and has only split with McPherson for its lone loss. The Red Demons beat Liberal, 60-43, on Feb. 26, and 45-36 on Jan. 15. Dodge City has its balanced team with Camree Johnson, Amaya Perez, Kisa and Becca Unruh, and Lauren Gleason. Unruh is DC's all-time leader in career points, among other records. Ashley Carrillo has enjoyed a big season for Liberal. Perez and Liberal's Aubrey Warden have committed to Newman.
At Wichita Southeast, Derby (16-4) is the favorite, though Wichita Southeast is also in the sub-state. The Panthers were second, first, third and forever four in the last four years. The Panthers have played all but five early season games without standout sophomore guard Maryn Archer, who has committed to Arkansas. Sophomore Addy Brown has 18.2 points and 8.6 rebounds a contest.
At Washburn Rural, Topeka High (18-1) and Washburn Rural (15-2) are expected to meet for the third time this season after a pair of close matchups. Topeka High, undefeated last season, has lost only to Bishop Miege. Topeka High lost to Rural in the 6A title game in 2019. The Trojans feature guard Kiki Smith and Ni'Jaree Canady, who cleared 1,000 career points.
At Wichita Northwest, Wichita Heights (15-6) is expected to advance from a City League-centric sub-state. In the Olathe East sub-state, Olathe North (13-6) is the headliner.
For host Olathe West, the Owls moved into the sub-state championship game against a win against Lawrence. Bailey Collar had 22 points and Kenzie Hart delivered 10 assists. Collar has signed with Washburn, Hart with Missouri-Kansas City. OW is 13-5.
Shawnee Mission Northwest (19-0) is the heavy favorite in its own sub-state. SMNW is the lone team to beat Bishop Miege this season.
The Shawnee Mission South sub-state is one of Kansas’ best with Shawnee Mission West (16-2), Blue Valley North (14-6), Blue Valley (14-6) and Shawnee Mission South (13-6). Plus, Blue Valley North (14-6) was required to have a play-in game.
Possible upset alert in this sub-state with rivals Salina Central (16-4) and Salina South (8-12). SC has won seven in a row and averages 60 points a game. SC junior Aubrie Kierscht, who cleared 1,000 career points earlier this season, has 19.3 points a game. She is 70 of 144 for 49 percent from 3-point range. On Dec. 11, Central beat South, 67-39. On Feb. 2, South beat Central, 66-53.
On Friday, Andover Central (21-0) and Kapaun Mt. Carmel (13-8) will meet for the sub-state title game. AC has been the state’s best team, especially offensively, this winter. KMC has post Ella Anciaux, a Wichita State signing. Andover Central has averaged 65 points per game. Junior Brittany Harshaw has 18.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. She has committed to Creighton. Senior Bailey Wilborn has 13.7 points and has signed with Maine. Senior Jaden Newfarmer, who has signed with Washburn, has 6.3 assists a contest. AC has won 42 straight games.
Maize (17-2) and rival Maize South (13-7) will meet Friday in the sub-state title game in the Maize South sub-state. Maize has won four in a row. Maize beat Maize South, 51-38, on Feb. 9. Maize also earned a 51-31 victory on Dec. 17.
St. James (10-8) has played a brutal Eastern Kansas League schedule that has included two losses to Bishop Miege and two to Aquinas. SJA senior Faith Hawthorne, a top player since her freshman year, committed to Division II Maryville, located in St. Louis, in mid-February. She averages 9.7 points and six rebounds a contest. Senior Claire Worthington is a team captain, and sophomore Riley Bruggeman has 12.3 points and 5.4 rebounds a contest. SJA will face De Soto in the final of the De Soto sub-state.
On Friday, K.C. Sumner Academy (10-0) will face Bonner Springs (5-11) in the championship game at Sumner. The Sabres, which have one all-time state appearance, started in January because of COVID-19. Kansas City-Kansas teams also did not play fall sports. Sumner held off Mill Valley, 36-34, on Tuesday. Jordyn Rowe has delivered nearly 30 points a game. Allaina Spencer has averaged around four assists a contest.
On Friday, Lansing (15-3) and K.C. Piper (14-5) will meet for the sub-state title game. Lansing, with its great junior duo of Kamryn Farris and Caitlin Bishop, has captured six straight wins. Piper has standout senior guard Evelyn Vazquez, who has signed with Northwest Missouri State.
On Saturday, Nickerson (18-3) and McPherson (17-3) match up for the sub-state championship game. Nickerson has sophomore post Ava Jones, who has committed to Arizona State. McPherson, with limited height, has guards Kassidy Beam and Grace Pyle, a Pittsburg State signee and 5A Player of the Year. McPherson is the lone team to beat Dodge City. Both teams were forever four squads last winter. The teams have not met since Feb. 27, 2012, a 74-21 win for McPherson when Nickerson was in the throes of a multi-year losing streak.
Clay Center (19-0) is the heavy favorite at the Clay Center sub-state. CC has set a goal each year to lead 4A in scoring defense for coach Jeff Edwards. Clay Center has Reaghan Henry, Maddie Craig, Clara Edwards, Shelby Siebold and Marcy Hammel as the starting five. Hailee Bent is the sixth player. Edwards, a Division I South Dakota softball signee, has 21.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Hammel and Edwards are in the post, and the other four are guards. CC has permitted just 29.5 points per game and is 4A’s lone undefeated team. Clay Center has 13 assists on 18 made baskets a contest, which was a team point of emphasis. The Tigers have been an excellent offensive rebounding squad and have collected 40.8 percent of available offensive rebounds entering the week.
At Augusta, Circle (14-4) and Andale (15-5) will meet for the final Saturday. Clearwater (14-5) is a host site and has continued to have a nice season, though is 1-3 in its last three games. Sophomore Carli Carlson was hurt after 11 games and averaged a team-high 15.7 points per game. Freshman Elizabeth Tjaden and junior Brooke Berlin have enjoyed a strong year.
Miege (18-1) will face Baldwin (10-6) for the title game Saturday. Miege has Payton Verhulst, the state’s consensus best player and a Louisville signee. The Stags have one loss to a Kansas team in the last three years.
At Larned, Hugoton (19-1) is the significant favorite. The Eagles have its quartet of high-level standouts with sophomores Mikyn Hamlin, Summya Adigun and Gianna Vos, along with senior Jordyn Beard, a recent Tabor College signing. Hugoton won state in ’15 and ’17. Hamlin, with a Division I offer from Abilene Christian, broke Katy Heger’s school record for single season points. Heger tallied 406 en route to Miss Kansas basketball honors in 2017.
The Norton sub-state is highly intriguing with Phillipsburg (18-2), Norton (15-6), TMP (18-3) and Goodland (18-3). Phillipsburg has only lost to Norton and TMP this season. TMP has won eight in a row and has a plus-eight win improvement over last season. Goodland girls had a huge jump in volleyball en route to a final four showing.
A similar group has led the Cowgirls to a five-win jump this winter. Phillipsburg features plenty of height and sophomore point guard Taryn Sides, a Division I prospect. The Panthers went to state for the first time in school history last season. Norton has started five seniors, including Tessa Hauser, who has signed with Colorado Christian and has led the state in double-doubles. Hauser has 15.4 points and 10 rebounds per contest.
At Douglass, Cheney is 20-0 and has been ranked No. 1 all season. Eureka is 19-2 under legendary coach Shelly Hoyt. Cheney is state runner-up and forever four the last two seasons. Senior Kylee Scheer is back-to-back 3A Player of the Year. The Cardinals have won 31 in a row. Cheney has averaged 64 points per game. Scheer has 22.3 points and 5.6 rebounds a game. Senior Lexi Cline has made a big impact since she returned from injury. Cline has played in seven games with 3.3 assists and 2.4 steals a contest. Junior Brooklyn Wewe has 8.2 points, 4.5 steals, 3.6 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game. Cheney could matchup with Halstead (18-3) after a great regular season showdown at the Haven tournament championship game. Halstead, with Pittsburg State signing Kareena Gerber, is the favorite in Hesston.
Council Grove has Osage City (17-3), Silver Lake (9-10), Rock Creek (16-4) and Riley County (14-4). OC’s Hayden Serna has cleared 1,000 career points. SL has first-year coach Kyle Porter, who won a 3A title at Royal Valley two winters ago. RC has Ames Burton and Jessi Brummett. Rock Creek has won seven in a row.
The Sabetha sub-state is highly interesting. Nemaha Central (19-1) and Sabetha (19-2) were featured on SIK this winter. NC with seniors Cassidy Corby, Hannah Macke, Riley Rottinghaus and Kari Heideman, has taken just one loss in the last two seasons. They split against Sabetha this winter. Sabetha has standouts Leah Renyer and Melinna Schumann. The two longtime Big 7 rivals could meet up in the sub-state title game again. Big 7 foes Jefferson West (13-6) and Royal Valley (17-4 with the Irving sisters) also remain.
Riverton has Frontenac (14-2), Galena (11-8), Girard (15-3), and Cherryvale (14-6) with the first three teams coming from the CNC. Frontenac lost, 57-54, to Girard on Feb. 27. The Raiders also fell to Girard, 68-64, on Feb. 11.
At Wellsville, Osawatomie is 17-2 and Anderson County is 15-3. Osawatomie features the state’s leading scorer with Amiah Simmons, a Division II Biola (Calif.) signing. Simmons has averaged more than 30 points a game. AC’s Rayna Jasper has recently cleared 1,000 career points. On Dec. 17, Osawatomie lost, 61-60, to Anderson County. However, on Feb. 22, Osawatomie beat AC, 88-71.
The Spearville sub-state has featured great storylines with Sterling (20-1), Spearville (16-4), and Elkhart (19-2). Sterling has been ranked No. 1 most of the year with junior point guard Kali Briar. Spearville has overcome massive injury issues and has point guard Taegan Pedigo (5.9 assists) and Tessa Kuker (38 treys, 41 3FG). Elkhart senior Chevelle Ralstin has 13.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
The WaKeeney sub-state has four MCL teams left: WaKeeney (18-3), Hoxie (11-11), Smith Center (16-5), and Ellis (13-8), While WaKeeney and Smith Center are the favorites, Hoxie has beaten WaKeeney once this season and Ellis has knocked off Smith Center. SC won the MCL tournament title. WaKeeney has started to roll and has won 10 in a row, including 62-60 versus Ellis on Feb. 5, 37-27 against Hoxie on Feb. 9 and 56-42 versus Smith Center on Feb. 19. Senior Lili Shubert has cleared 1,500 points, 600 rebounds and 250 assists all in the same week in February. Trego is a final four and forever four team the last two years.
At Ell-Saline, Hillsboro (17-3) is the favorite and Teegan Werth cleared 1,000 career points earlier this week.
At Garden Plain, host GP (14-5) is the No. 2 seed but is the definite favorite. GP is state title, state title and forever four in the last three seasons. The Owls have seven high quality players. Senior Madysen Zoglman has 11.7 points and 3.6 rebounds per contest. Senior Alli Puetz has 9.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Junior Brooke Hammond has 6.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.8 steals a contest.
Chase County sub-state has Chase County (13-5), Berean Academy (14-6) and Herington (10-6). Herington, which has never been to the girls’ state tournament, is a 2A darkhorse. Herington has won three in a row. The Railers did not play before Christmas break. Senior Carrie Roe, who recently cleared 1,000 career points, has 19.7 points and 6.9 rebounds a contest. Junior Tristyn Kremeier has 10.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. Kremeier recently broke Herington’s record for career 3-point field goals. Junior Halle Rutschman has 8.7 points and 8.5 rebounds a game.
The Humboldt sub-state could feature an excellent matchup between Uniontown (17-2) and Colgan (15-3), both featured on SIK earlier this season. Colgan is 10-0 against Uniontown since 2006, including a sub-state win last winter.
The Ingalls sub-state might be the best sub-state in the classification. Hodgeman County (17-4), Ness City (7-13), Quinter (16-4) and Victoria (15-4) remain. All four teams have enjoyed sizable turnarounds. HC, Quinter and Victoria have been featured several times on SIK this year. NC upset 12-6 Ingalls with 63-51 victory. HC has a plus-five wins improvement from last winter. Senior Colette Pelton has 10.1 points, four assists, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 steals per contest.
Quinter has three players in double figures with senior Kayler Getz (14.7 points, 11.2 rebounds), junior Ava Gillespie (13.1 points) and sophomore Anna Briggs (11.2 points, 11.3 rebounds). Quinter defeated Victoria in the season opener, 52-42. The Bulldogs have a plus-nine wins improvement from ’19-20. Victoria has won 11 in a row behind its highly athletic, veteran squad for coach Kristin Werth. Junior Melany Huser has 12.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.9 steals and 2.4 assists per game.
At Osborne, Thunder Ridge (13-3) and Osborne (13-4) are expected to meet for the sub-state title game. The two Northern Plains League teams have split two meets. Osborne won 47-40 on Dec. 8, and TR earned a 53-50 victory on Jan. 15.
At Kiowa County, Southern Plains Iroquois teams South Central (16-5), Kiowa County (9-11), South Gray (14-5) and Bucklin (14-5) remain. SC coach Tim Rietzke picked up career win No. 800 this winter. SC has started to roll since midseason tournament and has won seven in a row. That included a 42-38 win against Bucklin on Feb. 9 and 38-35 against South Gray on Feb. 5. Bucklin won the SPIAA midseason tournament that included a one-point win versus SC. The Red Aces have won three straight. Senior Catherine Bowman is a player of the year candidate with 21.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per contest.
At Norwich, St. John (12-8) is a possible darkhorse with its challenging schedule, junior Darby Smith and freshman Heidi Fisher. SJ has battled injuries for longtime coaches Danny Smith and Trish Wade. Pretty Prairie is 18-3 with McKenna Vogl (9.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.4 blocks per game). Norwich (15-3) was a state qualifier last year and has won five in a row. The Eagles beat PP, 32-18, on Jan. 15.
The Madison sub-state is loaded with Olpe (18-0), Burlingame (16-2), and Lebo (15-4) from the Lyon County League. Olpe is credited with 44 straight wins (including byes) and has the state’s longest current winning streak. The Eagles have Jesse Nelson, the state’s all-time winningest coach, along with Macy Smith and Maya Bishop for an experienced team that returned all but one player. Smith has signed with Emporia State.
Cunningham girls (16-2) are the favorite to come out of the Attica sub-state and reach state for the second straight winter. The Wildcats feature Morgan Meyers, a Barton County signee who has averaged more than 18 points a game in each of the last two years. Cunningham has lost one regular season game to a KSHSAA team in the last two years, a 52-46 defeat to Pretty Prairie on Feb. 19.
Ashland girls (10-7) are the top seed in the Moscow sub-state and have quietly enjoyed a nice turnaround. Sophomore Mackenzie Walker has delivered 17.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. Ashland will finish with its first winning record since ’12-13.
In Rexford, Golden Plains is 19-0 and the heavy favorite to come out of its own sub-state. GP has lost just two games in the last three years, both Class 1A sub-state championship game. GP, under longtime coach Parker Christensen and veteran assistant Steve Shaw, have twins Ashley and Brooke Stoll and Kassie Miller.
Hanover, expected to contend with Central Plains, Golden Plains and Cunningham for the state title, is the heavy favorite in the Axtell sub-state with a 13-5 mark. Hanover has finished first, first, second and forever four in the last four seasons – and won 1A-II state volleyball in the fall. Beloit St. John’s-Tipton (12-1) is expected to come out of the Wakefield sub-state. BSJT with all sorts of scheduling issues because of COVID-19, has Lauryn Dubbert, one of Kansas’ best for all classes. Dubbert has averaged 22.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. She has tallied 1,439 career points.
Central Plains (17-3) is the huge favorite to come out of the Peabody-Burns sub-state. CP, with Kassidy Nixon, Brynna Hammeke and Lexi Oeser, is still a strong state contender. CP has won six straight state titles and had its forever four team last winter.
At St Paul, St. Paul (10-3) and Waverly (13-5) are expected to contend. SP coach Doug Tuck cleared 600 career wins earlier this winter.
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