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Basketball in Kansas: Girls' State Tournament Preview

BSJT qualified both teams to state
By: Conor Nicholl
Mar 7, 2021

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By CONOR NICHOLL

The girls’ state bracket have a bevy of storylines and plenty of rematches from the regular season. In 6A, Derby/Dodge City presents one of the state’s best matchups – and teams that have virtually identical scoring offenses and defenses with much different personnel.

Maize and Andover Central in 5A, Cheney and Halstead rematch in 3A, Phillipsburg at Hugoton in 3A, and WaKeeney-Trego at Sterling in 2A are high-profile matchups.

Plus, South Central and Norwich features two coaches with more than 1,300 career wins and 85-plus years coaching experience. South Central and 1A-II Wetmore both qualified for state on buzzer-beaters. Wetmore has played most of the season with six players.

And huge turnarounds for 5A Lansing, 4A Louisburg, 3A Osawatomie and 1A-I Hodgeman County and 1A-I Doniphan West. Plus, Beloit-St. John’s/Tipton husband and wife duo of Leah and Lance Bergmann leads both Blujay teams to state.

All state tournament history notes from Carol Swenson unless otherwise noted. More than 20 of these teams were featured on Sports in Kansas throughout the season with a feature story and/or video/radio interviews on SIK platforms.

Class 6A (TUESDAY)

Derby (18-4) at Dodge City (20-1) – Derby has one all-time title, in 2018. The Panthers have finished second, first, third and forever four the last four seasons. Derby coach Jodie Karsak announced before the season that this would be her last year before the family moves to Kansas City. Derby has won seven in a row. Both teams play at a moderate pace, though DC is highly efficient and has ranked among the state’s best offenses most of the year. Derby will have a distinct height advantage, though the squads are virtually identical in terms of scoring offense/defense. Derby has a total margin of 1181-702, and Dodge City has a 1172-703 total margin.

Senior 6-foot-3 Jaidyn Schomp has signed with Missouri Western. Sophomore 6-foot-2 Addy Brown has led Derby in points and rebounds at 18.2 and 8.6, respectively. Derby also has 6-foot-3 junior forward Tatum Boettjer, who is at 11.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. The Panthers have played all but five early season games without standout sophomore guard Maryn Archer, an Arkansas commit.

Archer had 9.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 2.2 assists. Senior Derryana Cobbins has 8.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists a contest. Schomp has 5.5 points and 3.7 rebounds. Dodge City has enjoyed a magical season and been one of the Kansas’ best winter stories. DC has one all-time final four showing, in 2010. The Red Demons, led by coach Kelley Snodgrass, won the Western Athletic Conference and split with 4A power McPherson. Dodge City senior Kisa Unruh has cleared 1,000 career points and is DC’s all-time leader in points and 3-pointers made.

DC has senior point guard Lauren Gleason, senior center Alicia Solis, juniors Camree Johnson and Amaya Perez and sophomore Becca Unruh. Dodge City went 3-0 against Liberal, including a 56-47 win in the sub-state championship game. DC made state for the first time since ’16. The Red Demons, known for their assists, had 11 assists on 16 made shots.

Wichita Heights (16-6) at Topeka High (21-1) – Wichita Heights qualified for the state tournament last season, though was injury plagued at the end of the winter and lost in the quarterfinals. Topeka High was the 2019 Class 6A state runner-up to Washburn Rural and undefeated and Forever Four squad last year. The Trojans went 3-0 versus Washburn Rural, including a win in the sub-state title game. Before ’19, Topeka High had not qualified for state in 17 years. Wichita Heights has qualified for state three straight years.

Topeka High had its 41-game winning streak end on Feb. 23 in a 70-52 loss to Bishop Miege. Topeka High has averaged 70 points a game. Junior NiJaree Canady has already exceeded 1,000 career points and has 19.9 points and 12.4 rebounds per game. Sophomore Kiki Smith has 16.8 points, 3.2 assists, 2.9 steals and 2.5 rebounds a contest. Heights standout Laniah Randle had committed to Division I Southern Illinois.

Olathe North (15-6) at Olathe West (14-5) – The two Sunflower League teams meet for the second time this winter. Olathe North is 5-0 all-time against Olathe West. Olathe West has broken through and qualified for state for the first time in its four-year history. OW has point guard Kenzie Hart, who has signed with Division I UMKC, and guard Bailey Collar, a Washburn signing and the school’s all-time scorer with more than 1,000 career points. West notably lost, 63-52, to Olathe North on Jan. 15.

OW has enjoyed a nice turnaround with coach Rick Rhoades, in his second year with the program after successful previous runs, including Blue Valley Southwest. He was the ’19 SIK 5A coach of the year. ON had struggled for many years, though has delivered 17-7 and 15-6 records the last two winters. Coach Alonzo Williams has helped ON to three straight state appearances. Before then, ON had not reached state since ’97. Olathe North has more than 95 percent of its scoring from non-seniors. Junior Sania Copeland has led the Eagles in scoring.

Blue Valley (16-6) at Shawnee Mission Northwest (22-0) – Shawnee Mission Northwest, 5A Andover Central and 4A Bishop Miege are widely considered Kansas’ best teams. Northwest is the only Kansas team to beat Bishop Miege in the last three seasons. The Cougars beat Bishop Miege, 65-60, in late January. SMNW has Kennedy Taylor, a Colorado signing. Blue Valley qualified for state four straight years from ’10-13, its last state showings. BV has a plus-four win improvement from last season.

The Huskies have seniors Jazzy Klinge and Olivia Vitale and junior Sophia DeVeney. Bruce Erickson is Blue Valley’s coach with more than 36 years of experience. Erickson, from Philipsburg, has coached in many places, including Salina South, Ellis, Morland, Oklahoma State, UMKC and University of St. Mary. Northwest beat Shawnee Mission East, 59-42, in the sub-state title behind 32 points from Taylor.

Class 5A (MONDAY)

Topeka-Seaman (8-14) at Salina Central (18-4) – Salina Central went 2-1 against rival Salina South this winter, including a sub-state championship game victory. SC has a plus-three win improvement from last year. The Mustangs have won eight straight games. Salina Central has lost twice to No. 1-ranked Andover Central, once to Liberal on a buzzer-beater and the 66-53 loss to South on Feb. 2. Junior Aubrie Kierscht, a Navy commit, is possibly the state’s best shooter and has cleared 1,000 career points. Kierscht has 19.4 points, 2.4 steals and 2.2 rebounds a game. She is 72 of 151 (48 percent) on 3-point field goals. Sophomore Mykayla Cunningham has averaged 10.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.2 steals per game. Junior Chaliscia Samilton has 7.9 points and 6.3 rebounds a contest, and junior Hampton Williams has 7.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Williams has committed to Division I Abilene Christian. Junior Landry Stewart has 6.6 points and 3.7 rebounds. Seaman defeated Topeka West, 60-33, in the sub-state finale and has won two in a row.

Maize (18-2) at Andover Central (22-0) – This is one of the premier matchups in Kansas. Andover Central has won 43 straight contests, the current second-longest girls’ basketball winning streak behind Olpe. Andover Central has averaged 66 points per game. Junior Brittany Harshaw has 18.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and three steals per game. She has committed to Creighton. Senior Bailey Wilborn has signed with Maine. Wilborn has averaged 13.7 points, three assists and three steals per game. Junior Ellie Stearns has 12.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists a game. Senior Jaden Newfarmer has signed with Washburn and has led Kansas in assists most of the year with 6.3. She also has 6.1 rebounds and 3.5 steals per contest.

Overall, AC has averaged 1.17 points per possession and averaged turnovers on just 15.9 percent of possessions, both extremely elite rates. The Jaguars have made 200-plus treys this winter. The teams have not faced since 2016. Since ’11, Maize is 5-1 against Andover Central. Maize, under longtime coach Jerrod Handy, has won five in a row. The Eagles went 16-7 and qualified for state last winter. Maize has seniors Sydney Holmes, Baylee Miller, Olivia Wedman and junior Kyla Frenhers as key players. Maize beat rival Maize South, 40-14, in the sub-state title game. The Eagles are the only 5A school to qualify both girls and boys. Holmes has signed with Pittsburg State. Maize has qualified for state 10 times since 2010.

St. James Academy (11-8) at St. Thomas Aquinas (17-2) – The two Eastern Kansas League rivals meet up for the third time this season. Aquinas beat SJA, 42-29, on Dec. 18, and 50-42 on Feb. 3. In an interesting quirk, last year’s SJA coach, Samantha Paradise-O’Malley, is now an Aquinas assistant. She is an Aquinas graduate. SJA sophomore Riley Bruggeman has 12.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.6 assists per contest. Senior Faith Hawthorne has committed to Division II Maryville (Mo.). She has 9.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.

Aquinas is paced by senior point guard Madison Skelton and junior center Beatrice Culliton. Skelton has signed with Emporia State, and Culliton has multiple Power 5 Division I offers. Aquinas has two losses, both to rival Bishop Miege, by a combined nine points. SJA has its third all-time appearance, behind ’14 and ’18. Aquinas has currently made state 27 straight years, by far the Kansas record. Coach Rick Hetzel has eight titles, including ’16-’19.

Bonner Springs (6-12) at Lansing (18-3) – Lansing, featured on SIK earlier this season, has quietly emerged as one of Kansas’ best turnaround stories. K.C. Simmons is a definite 5A coach of the year candidate. Lansing has never made a state final four, and Bonner Springs has just one, in 2012. Lansing’s only other state appearances came in 1974 and 2009. Lansing opened 8-0. The Lions’ standard starting five is junior Caitlin Bishop, junior Kamryn Farris, junior Kenzi Moburg, sophomore Skylar Weaver and senior Mackenzie Krause.

Six-foot-1 junior Mackenzie Manthe, a newcomer, has delivered a big season. Bishop and Farris were second team all-state volleyball and helped Lansing to a state runner-up in volleyball. Bishop, Farris, Moburg and Weaver have played together for coach Jon Bishop since they were eight years old. Bishop was a longtime college coach, including the 2013 KCAC Coach of the Year with University of St. Mary men’s basketball. Bonner Springs beat undefeated K.C. Sumner in the sub-state championship.

Class 4A (TUESDAY)

McPherson (19-3) at Clay Center (21-0) – This is the exact same matchup as the volleyball quarterfinals. McPherson won in three with two sets by a combined three points. McPherson has qualified for state 26 of the last 29 years. The Bullpups have won 14 straight league titles and 24 in the last 27 years. Grace Pyle, Emma Malm and Kassidy Beam pace the Bullpups. Pyle has signed with Pittsburg State University and is the reigning 5A Player of the Year. Beam has inked with Tabor College. McPherson was a 5A Forever Four team last year.

Under coach Jeff Edwards, Clay Center has its top six as 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 entering sub-state. CC has allowed 28.9 points per game this winter. In a high-profile sub-state championship game, McPherson easily beat Nickerson, 53-35. McPherson went 1-1 against Dodge City, 1-0 against Derby and 0-1 versus Andover Central – all 5/6A state qualifying teams. The Bullpups have allowed 33.8 points per contest.

Clearwater (15-6) at Andale (17-5) – These are also the same teams that faced off in the volleyball quarterfinals. Andale won handily in three sets. In basketball, Andale has won 16 straight in the series, including 45-30 on Dec. 18 and 48-36 on Feb 18. Overall, Andale won three in a row and permitted just 33.3 points a game. In a low-scoring contest, Andale beat Circle, 20-17, in the sub-state title game. The Fairchild sisters, senior Katelyn and sophomore McKenzie, have led the Indians. Katelyn has signed with Texas A&M track for javelin. Clearwater, under coach Casey Carlson, has made a huge turnaround. The Indians won five games in three years and went 12-9 last winter. Standout sophomore Carli Carlson went out with injury after 11 games. She led with 15.7 points per game. Elizabeth Tjaden, perhaps the state’s best freshman, has 11.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists a contest. Junior Brooke Berlin has 11 points and 6.5 rebounds a game.

Wamego (16-6) at Bishop Miege (20-1) – Just like the former two, these two teams played in the volleyball quarterfinals. Wamego beat Holton, 55-20, in the sub-state championship game and qualified for state for the first time since 2014. The coaching has Brian McIntosh and Steve Fritz. Formerly a longtime Kansas State track coach, Fritz has been on staff the last four years. Miege has Payton Verhulst, a Louisville signing, the state’s consensus top player and in the running for Naismith national player of the year.

Verhulst was also the 4A Volleyball Player of the Year in the fall as the Stags won the state title. Miege is the significant 4A favorite. The Stags have one loss to a Kansas squad in the last three seasons, a loss to undefeated 6A Shawnee Mission Northwest. Miege is the only squad to beat Topeka High in the last two years. Coach Terry English has led Miege for 44 years and won 21 state titles, by far the most in Kansas. He exceeded 900 career wins this season. Miege has key juniors Gabi Henderson-Artis and Emajin McCallop.

Louisburg (18-4) at Labette County (19-2) – Labette County was undefeated at home this season for longtime coach Kristi Snider. LC has not lost since a 43-30 defeat to Rock Creek on Jan. 18. The Grizzlies captured the SEK league. LC beat Chanute, 60-57, on Feb. 4, 61-56 on Feb. 22 and 58-44 in the sub-state championship game. Labette County went undefeated in SEK play.

The Grizzlies returned four key players: Madison Brannin, Elsie Sorrell, Anna Dean and Karsyn Stewart. Snider has more than 400 career basketball wins and had accumulated 600-plus volleyball victories. Louisburg has not made state since 1973-74 and has a plus-10 win improvement from an 8-13 season. Second-year coach Adrianne Lane returned a significant number of players. Louisburg had four returning senior starters, three all-conference: Madilyn Melton, Alyse Moore, and Brooklyn Diederich. Senior Megan Foote and junior Delaney Wright also return.

Class 3A (MONDAY)

Phillipsburg (20-2) at Hugoton (22-1) – This will be a 5 p.m. start. Phillipsburg makes the 254-mile trip to southwest Kansas. Phillipsburg qualified for state for the first time in school history last winter. Phillipsburg, Thomas More Prep-Marian and WaKeeney-Trego all finished with one league loss in regular season Mid-Continent League play. Panther sophomore point guard Taryn Sides has multiple Division I offers, and Phillipsburg has plenty of height inside with Heather Schemper and Abby Babcock. Hugoton has a plus-six win improvement from last season and has wins against TMP and Sterling (No. 1 2A).

The Eagles have their well-known quartet of sophomores Mikyn Hamlin, Gianna Vos and Summya Adigun, and senior post Jordyn Beard, a Tabor College signing. Hamlin has already set Hugoton’s single season scoring mark and averages around 20 points per game. In the sub-state title game, Adigun finished with eight points, 13 rebounds and five assists in the 60-33 win versus Cimarron. Hugoton has reached state six times in eight years. Before ’14, Hugoton had reached state once. Hugoton missed state the last two seasons as it retooled the program with the current group. As well, seniors McKenna Hamlin and Molly McClure have played key roles on the team.

Halstead (20-3) at Cheney (22-0) – Probably the best quarterfinal matchup in Kansas – and a matchup that has been relatively expected for weeks. Both teams are returning Forever Four squads. Halstead reached state for the first time in school history last winter and Derek Schutte was co-3A Coach of the Year. Cheney has captured 33 straight wins dating back to a 45-43 loss against Halstead on Feb. 1, 2020. This year, Cheney beat Halstead, 57-47, on Jan. 30 to win the Haven tournament. Halstead’s seniors are 76-14 in their careers. Senior Karenna Gerber is one of Kansas’ best players and cleared 1,000 career points as a junior. She has signed with Pittsburg State. Plus, Halstead returned sophomore Kaleigh O’Brien, Madi McClain, Josie Engel and Parker Schroeder.

Cheney has averaged 64 points a contest with an experienced group that has enjoyed great success in volleyball, basketball, softball and track – though no team titles yet. The Cardinals were 3A state runner-up in basketball two years ago. Cheney senior Kylee Scheer is the two-time 3A Player of the Year. Through the regular season, she has 22.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.5 steals and 2.6 assists a contest. Senior Lexi Cline has returned from injury and has three points, 3.3 assists and 2.4 steals per game in seven contests. Junior Brynn McCormick, a first-year transfer from Scott City that earned All-3A last season from SIK, has 11.2 points per game. Junior Brooklyn Wewe has delivered 8.2 points, 4.5 steals, 3.6 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game. Cheney has been ranked No. 1 in 3A all season and also owns two wins against Garden Plain and a victory versus Andale. Cheney has one all-time title, an undefeated season in 2010. Rod Scheer has this team clicking all year long and has been one of the best coaches in Kansas over the last several seasons. 

Silver Lake (13-10) at Sabetha (21-2) – Sabetha girls defeated major Big 7 rival Nemaha Central twice this season for NC’s lone two defeats in the last two years. Sabetha beat conference foe Royal Valley in overtime in the sub-state semifinals. In Saturday’s championship, Sabetha beat Nemaha Central, 27-24, in double overtime. Sabetha, featured on SIK in volleyball and basketball, is 62-3 in volleyball and basketball this season.

The Blue Jays, led by seniors Leah Renyer and Melinna Schumann in both sports, won 3A volleyball. As of mid-February, both players averaged at least 12 points and 2.5 steals per game, per MSC Sports. SL qualified for state in the first year of the Kyle Porter era. Two years ago, he won 3A at Royal Valley, and then had a one-season stint at Hays High before he took over at SL this season.

Frontenac (18-3) at Osawatomie (20-2) – Frontenac, led by head coach Scott Fields, is into state for back-to-back years. The Raiders have junior Heather Arnett, sophomore Hattie Pyle, junior Sydney Frankenberry and senior Reagan Hipfl as top players. Osawatomie senior Amiah Simmons has statistically been Kansas’ best player. Simmons transferred back to Osawatomie where she grew up. Simmons has led Osawatomie to its third all-time state appearance, first since ’97-98. The Trojans have first-year coach Beau Gadwood, a former Fort Hays State all-conference tight end.

Simmons has averaged more than 30 points and seven steals a contest. She has cleared 1,000 career points and has signed with Division II Biola (Calif.). She scored a school record 52 points in the 78-56 sub-state championship win against Anderson County. Osawatomie lost to AC, 61-60, on Dec. 17 and won, 88-71, on Feb. 22. In the sub-state semifinals, Osawatomie beat Perry-Lecompton, 92-56, and set the school mark for points in a game, per the Miami County Republic. Simmons had 44 points in the sub-state semifinals.

Class 2A (TUESDAY)

WaKeeney-Trego (20-3) at Sterling (21-1) – A highly intriguing matchup between teams that met in the 2019 Class 2A state semifinals. Sterling’s pace earned the win. Many of the key players from that game are back, notably Black Bear junior point Kali Briar and Trego senior Lili Shubert. Both are in strong contention for 2A Player of the Year. Shubert has cleared 1,500 points, 600 rebounds and 250 assists in her career. She has averaged more than 20 points a game this season.

Trego has its highly experienced quartet with Shubert, seniors Tillie Malinowsky and Emma Day and junior point guard Madison Walt – who has consistently averaged four assists a game this season. Sophomores Kaylee Walt and Kya O’Banion have stepped into big roles, and junior Caroline Brungardt has fought through knee problems. Trego was fourth and a Forever Four team the last two seasons.

WaKeeney navigated a tough home sub-state and had to play Hoxie for a fourth time this winter and Ellis on a second occasion. Shelby Crawford is in his first year as head coach after three seasons as the assistant. Jill Rowland is Sterling’s longtime coach. Sterling lost to Garden Plain in the ’19 finale and to GP in the ’20 quarterfinals. The Black Bears have been ranked No. 1 a large chunk of the winter and has only lost to 3A Hugoton. In addition to Briar, junior Makenna Linden is back, though senior Kayla Morris has missed the season with a knee injury. Sterling has won at least 20 games three straight years and at least 18 in eight of the past nine.

Garden Plain (16-5) at Moundridge (18-5) – GP has won four straight in the series dating back the last 10 years. That includes a 72-52 victory on Jan. 25. Garden Plain has posted 3A champion, 2A champion and 2A Forever Four in the last three seasons. Coach Kody Kasselman has led the Owls to four straight wins and 54 points a contest against a highly challenging schedule. Senior Madysen Zoglman has 11.9 points and 3.4 rebounds a contest. Senior Alli Puetz, a significant player since her sophomore year, has 9.8 points and 8.3 rebounds. Senior Christia Rose Gorges, also a key multi-year player, is at 7.1 points and 4.7 rebounds. Sophomore Madelyn Rolfs has delivered 7.4 points and 3.8 rebounds. Junior Brooke Hammond has 6.3 points, four rebounds and a team-high 2.7 steals. Moundridge has a plus-six win improvement from last winter.

Berean Academy (16-6) at St. Mary’s Colgan (17-3) – Colgan has been a consistent contender under coach Abby Farabi, though the Panthers have never won a state tournament game. Sophomore post Lauren Torrance has emerged as a standout for the Panthers. Senior Kaitlin Crossland has been a top-six player on the squad three straight years, and junior Lauren Yaghmour is an all-conference caliber player, too. Senior Riley Root has delivered a nice season. Colgan could be a darkhorse team that not many statewide are talking about but have played legit competition all year and many should take notice. 

Wabaunsee (9-14) at Blue Rapids-Valley Heights (20-1) – Valley Heights has won 14 in a row. VH has senior Emma Toerber, junior Catherine Toerber, junior Maddy Vermetten, and junior 6-foot Emma Yungeberg. Emma Toerber has signed with Division II University of Mary (N.D.) for volleyball.

Wabaunsee was third at state two years ago after it lost an overtime thriller to Garden Plain in the semifinals. Wabaunsee has won three in a  row under second-year coach Trevor Keller. The Chargers finished  20-4 last season and lost in the 2A quarterfinals. Six of the top-eight players last season were seniors. Seniors Madi Wertzberger and juniors Kara Hafenstine and Lauren Schutter are key players.

Class 1A, Division I (MONDAY)

Osborne (17-4) at Hodgeman County (20-4) – Hodgeman County coach Trent Bright is possibly the front runner for classification coach of the year. HC, featured on SIK in midseason, has delivered a big turnaround, including a league tournament runner-up showing to Bucklin. It marked the first time the Longhorns had made the league tournament finale in more than 15 years. HC was 22-22 in the last two seasons. Bright took over the girls last year after he led the boys earlier in his career to a 74-80 mark.

Bright has preached teamwork and has an experienced group that delivered a quality win against Quinter in the sub-state title game. Hodgeman County is the consolidation of Jetmore and Hanston; the last time any of the programs reached state was ’05. Through the first 20 games, senior Colette Pelton was the team’s leading scorer at 10.1 points per game, along with four assists and 2.3 steals a contest. Sophomore Malynn Beil has 9.8 points and 4.8 rebounds. Junior Kaylee James is at 7.5 points and 5.3 rebounds.

Junior Grace Shiew has 7.2 points and a team-high 6.9 rebounds. Senior Kiley Bryant is also a key player. Shiew, James, Pelton and Bryant have all started at least three seasons. Osborne lost four in a row from Jan. 12-Jan. 22 (twice in the Colby tournament against much bigger schools) and has not lost since. The top-three scorers – sophomore Trinity Lutters, freshman Gracie Riner, and junior Ava Stull (team-high 8.2 rebounds) – are all non-seniors. Lutters leads with 18.7 points and 3.7 rebounds a game. Riner has a team-high 3.6 steals. Osborne last qualified in 2014 when it took third in Class 1A, Division I.

Coldwater-South Central (19-5) at Norwich (18-3) – Two legendary coaches match up in the quarterfinals. South Central coach Tim Rietzke, featured on SIK earlier this season, reached 800 career wins earlier this winter. He has coached in the Coldwater school district since the early ‘80s. Norwich’s Mike Klaver has coached 35-plus years and has won 500-plus games. Norwich finished 22-4 last season and lost in the state quarterfinals to Olpe last season. The Eagles have also recently reached in ’12, ’13, ’15 and ’16.

South Central is the consolidation of Coldwater and Protection. Coldwater reached state in ’90, ’91 and ’93. South Central has reached in ’11, ’17, ’18 and ’19. SC had final four showings in ’17-18. Rietzke has made one final, in ’91. Norwich has three all-time finals, in ’88, ’89 and ’13. The lone title came in ’88 before Klaver became coach. Norwich defeated Heart of the Plains rival Pretty Prairie, 46-29, in the sub-state championship game and beat a solid St. John squad, 40-38, in the sub-state semifinals.

Norwich has won seven in a row and has permitted just 25.4 points per game this winter. SC has no seniors in the starting lineup and has captured nine in a row. In an incredible finish, South Central sank a buzzer-beater 3-pointer from the right wing to beat Bucklin, 39-36, in overtime in the sub-state title. SC has just eight players, including freshman Emily Hardy, who hit the game-winning shot. As well, the T-Wolves have sophomore Kodie Herd, juniors Hadley Lohrding, Sierra Jellison and Kirsten Hackney, all returning starters. SC lost, 42-22, to Pretty Prairie in the second game of the year and opened 0-2. In the midseason tournament, SC lost, 36-35, to Bucklin and 48-39 against Spearville. Since then, SC has not lost and won five games by a total of 22 points.

Highland-Doniphan West (19-3) at Little River (20-3) – While early official brackets showed Highland as the host, the game will be at Little River. Doniphan West has never made a state tournament, while Highland last reached state in 1993. LR is back to state for the first time since 2011. Both LR teams qualified for state and will play at home. The Redskins have won 14 in a row and have played just six home games all year, per MaxPreps (5-1 record).

Junior 6-foot-1 Lily Boughfman, also a standout volleyball player, has led with 13.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.6 blocks, 2.7 assists and 2.2 steals a contest. Freshmen Aubrey Olander and Alaina Eck are the team’s second and third-leading scorers. Junior Mekenzie Renken is also a captain, Olander has 11.2 points and 8.8 rebounds, and Eck has 7.2 points, three steals and 2.7 assists per game.

Renken has delivered 6.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 steals a contest. Chloe Clevenger has paced Doniphan West, along with Avery Weathersbee and freshman Melaina Whetstine. DW has won 11 in a row. Clevenger tallied 10 points in the sub-state title win versus Clifton-Clyde. DW also held off Frankfort, 57-55, in the sub-state semifinals. DW finished 2-0 against Frankfort with wins by a combined six points. The Mustangs were 3-0 against Clifton-Clyde. DW has captured back-to-back 1A girls’ cross-country championships. Clevenger’s mom, Gina, is the head cross country coach. Chloe Clevenger was fifth last fall at state cross country.

Flinthills (12-9) at Olpe (22-0) – Olpe is the heavy favorite to win this game and is the overall 1A-I favorite. The Eagles have won 48 straight games (including KSHSAA byes), the longest current winning streak in Kansas. Coach Jesse Nelson is the state’s all-time winningest coach with more than 930 career victories. Olpe returned all but one player from last season and is loaded with Macy Smith and Maya Bishop. Smith has signed with Emporia State.

Class 1A, Division II (MONDAY)

Ashland (14-7) at Cunningham (21-2) – Cunningham is paced by veteran coach Eric Meyers and the youngest of his daughters, Morgan Meyers, a senior point guard. Morgan was a 1A Player of the Year finalist last winter and is on the short list for the award again. She has signed with Barton basketball. Meyers has well over 1,000 career points and has averaged around 18 points a game each of the past two seasons. Cunningham had a double-digit lead against Centralia in the state quarterfinals last year and lost a heartbreaker. Ashland was the third Southern Plains Iroquois team to reach state (South Central, Hodgeman County) and qualified for the first time since ’91-93. Sophomore Mackenzie Walker has 17.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.3 steals and 2.4 assists a contest.

Dighton (15-9) at Rexford-Golden Plains (23-0) – In the previous two seasons, GP posted undefeated records before sub-state championship game losses to Thunder Ridge and Otis-Bison, respectively. This year, GP has more depth than usual under coach Parker Christensen, who has spent more than a quarter-century with the program. GP is led by Kassie Miller and twins Ashley and Brooke Stoll. Dighton has enjoyed a six-win improvement from last winter.

The Hornets list just 10 total players on their roster. Lone senior Emily Wilms has 10.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals a contest. Sophomore Jessi Whipple has 9.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Junior Traci Cramer has consistently been one of the state’s leaders in steals and assists. She has 8.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.4 steals and 4.8 assists a contest.

Wetmore (17-7) at Beloit-St. John’s/Tipton (18-1) – BSJT is into the state tournament for the fifth time after ’11, ’14, ’15 and ’18, all under former coach Keith Kresin. BSJT won the state title in ’15. BSJT has second-year coach Leah Bergmann and senior Lauryn Dubbert, a Newman signing and on the short list for contenders for 1A Player of the Year. Bergmann’s husband is longtime BSJT boys’ coach Lance Bergmann.

Lance cleared 200 wins this season. The 5-foot-7 Dubbert averaged 22.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.2 steals and 3.2 assists per contest. Dubbert has cleared 1,500 career points. Wetmore has reached state for the first time since ’17. BSJT has captured 15 in a row with only a 56-24 loss to Phillipsburg in the Russell tournament finale on Dec. 12.

Juniors Leah Brummer (9.6 ppg, 3.5 spg) and Paige Hollerich (8.3 ppg, 2.8 spg) are also key players for a defense that thrives on turnover creation. BSJT has averaged 64 possessions a game. Two years ago, the Blujays had 50 possessions a contest in the last season under Kresin. That was upped to 59 last winter. BSJT has steals on 26 percent of possessions and allowed around .50 points per possession. In the last two seasons, the Blujays had permitted .57 and .58 points per possession.

Wetmore pulled a slight upset, 33-32, against Hanover in the sub-state title. Wetmore has had just six girls on the team most of the season and played with five some games, per MSC Sports. Junior Kenzie Strathman hit the game-winning trey from the wing. Wetmore last went to state from ’15-17. In ’15, BSJT beat Wetmore, 52-49, in the first round of state.

St. Paul (15-3) at Central Plains (20-3) – St. Paul makes the 237-mile trip to Claflin. Both coaches have spent more than 30 years at their respective schools: St. Paul’s Doug Tuck and Central Plains’ Pat Stiles. Tuck cleared 600 career wins with girls’ basketball this winter. Stiles has coached in various roles with Claflin/Central Plains and stands at 221-7 with girls’ basketball. Central Plains was the highly significant 1A state favorite last winter with a large senior class that featured Emily Ryan, who is Iowa State’s point guard and among the national leaders in assists. St. Paul has 10 state appearances with Tuck, including a school best state runner-up to Hanover in ’18.

In December against Phillipsburg at the Amos Morris tournament in Russell, Central Plains had its well-publicized 138-game winning streak end, the longest run in state history. CP still has significant talent and remains the state favorite in the classification. The Oilers have seniors Jennah Jeffrey and Lexi Oeser, junior Kassidy Nixon and sophomore Brynna Hammeke. Pace will likely be a key factor in this game. SP plays at more deliberate tempo, while CP is known for its high pace.


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