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2020 Girls State Basketball Tournament Preview

Phillipsburg punches their first ticket ever to the state tournament for girls. (courtesy photo)
By: Conor Nicholl for Sports in Kansas w/ Chet Kuplen
Mar 10, 2020

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By CONOR NICHOLL Cnicholl1@gmail.com w/ Chet Kuplen of Sports in Kansas 

Sports in Kansas state tournament notes feature every team, including per-possession breakdowns of multiple squads, such as Topeka, Andover Central, Spearville, Otis-Bison, Garden Plain and Hanover. Also a look at Jefferson County West’s upset versus Riley County. All statistics and history from Kansas historian Carol Swenson, unless otherwise noted.

Class 6A

1.Liberal (22-0) – Liberal is at state for a third straight season. The Redskins have its pair of Division I players with Katie Horyna and Machia Mullens. Liberal allows only 31.3 points per game. As well, the Redskins have senior Audrey Gilmore, juniors Reece Hay and Aubrey Warden, along with sophomores Ashley Carrillo and Bree Horyna. The 5-10 Warden has improved this season and been a key player inside. Carrillo is back after she missed all of last season with an injury. Coach Carter Kruger is 95-18 in his fifth year. Entering the sub-state finals, Horyna was at 12 points and four rebounds a contest, according to Liberal broadcaster Brock Kappelmann. Mullens was at 14 points and eight rebounds. Carrillo has five points, three rebounds and three assists. Gilmore with four points and three rebounds, and Warden has eight points and six rebounds.

8. Olathe South (15-7) – Dani Winslow has inked with Missouri State basketball after a regular season when she delivered 10.2 points and 9.5 rebounds a contest, according to Sunflower Smack, a media entity that regularly covers the Sunflower League. Winslow averaged 13.2 and 6.8 rebounds a game last year. OS missed the state tournament last winter after it made state every year from ’05-18.

4. Derby (20-2) – Derby has won 12 straight contests. The Panthers have four seniors, led by Sydney Nilles, who has signed with Newman. Derby has significant size and depth with junior Jaidyn Schomp, sophomore Tatum Boettjer and freshman Addy Brown, all at least 6-2. Freshmen Maryn Archer and Brown have led the Panthers in scoring most of the winter. Boettjer and Derryana Cobbins have transferred in this year, though Cobbins wasn’t available until after the first semester. Derby has permitted just 30.5 points a game. Derby is second, first and third the last three years.

5. Shawnee Mission Northwest (18-4) – Kennedy Taylor finished third in the Sunflower League with 15.2 points a game and fourth with 9.1 rebounds a contest. SMNW went 10-0 in non-conference contests and is the only team to defeat McPherson when it won the McPherson tournament. SMNW has qualified for state 13 times, including ’14-15-16-18-19.

2. Topeka (22-0) – Topeka finished as state runner-up to Washburn Rural last year. The Trojans’ top-six scorers are all non-seniors. Freshman Kiki Smith has 20 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.7 steals a contest. Sophomore Nijaree Canady has 18.8 points and 9.8 rebounds a contest. Topeka averages 72 points and 14 steals a contest. The Trojans have delivered at an extremely high pace with 66 possessions a game. Topeka has excellent efficiency numbers with 1.08 points per possession and .510 points allowed a possession with turnovers on just 16.6 percent of possessions.

7. Olathe North (16-6) – LeLe Love led the Sunflower League with 17.2 points per game and also averaged 6.2 rebounds a game. She has committed to Georgia Tech. ON is 7-3 in non-league contests. Love and Olathe South’s Winslow were also first team all-league selections last winter.

3. Wichita Heights (21-1) – Wichita Heights won the City League. Heights was undefeated until standout sophomore Zyanna Walker suffered a knee injury at the end of the year. Heights lost the regular season finale against Bishop Carroll. The Falcons own big wins against state qualifying teams, including Maize (44-28) and Washburn Rural (twice). Rural was the defending 6A state champion.

6. Olathe East (17-5) – Olathe East tied Olathe West for the Sunflower League title, though lost to OW on a last-second 3-pointer, and OW won the conference on the head-to-head matchup. OE has no double figure scorers. Molly Kaemmer leads the Sunflower League with 11.4 rebounds a contest. Ray Richardson has led the offense. By record, OE has tied for first or won the SL for four straight seasons. In ’16, OE took third at state. In ’18, the Hawks were second at state. In the sub-state finale, OE was tied at 30 before Kaemmer had a three-point play. East defeated Shawnee Mission West, 35-32.

Class 5A

1.McPherson (21-1) – McPherson is second all-time behind Miege in state titles (nine), championship game appearances (15) and state tournament (33). Coach Chris Strathman is 301-56 in his 15th season with the Bullpups, according to McPherson broadcaster Jim Joyner. McPherson has won at least 21 games four straight years and had 13 straight league titles. This is the program’s first all-time meeting against Basehor-Linwood. The Bullpups are 21-11 in opening round games with nine state crowns, the last in ’18. Grace Pyle has 15.9 points per contest, and Kassidy Beam has 14.6 points a game. Cassie Cooks has 10 points a contest. McPherson has an average score of 60-32. The Bullpups have shot 35 percent from long range. McPherson has held teams to 29 percent shooting. The Bullpups have overcome significant injuries and health issues to key starters Andrea Sweat, Emma Ruddle, and Lakyn Schieferecke. Sweat has missed virtually all season with a knee injury. Ruddle and Schieferecke have both returned and played (and started) in a combined 28 games.

8. Basehor-Linwood (16-6) – Basehor-Linwood has reached state for the sixth time in school history. Coach Jason Tatkenhorst had previously coached 17 years before he took over B-L. Tatkenhorst has taken Clay Center, Great Bend and B-L to the state tournament. B-L has doubled its win total from last year’s 8-13 mark. In 2009, Tatkenhorst led Great Bend to the 5A state finale as the No. 8 seed – an achievement he will look to do again. B-L returned all five starters.

4. St. Thomas Aquinas (18-4) – Aquinas reached the state tournament a record 26th straight year. Madison Skelton is one of the state’s top players. The Saints, with coach Rick Hetzel, has won four straight state titles. Aquinas defeated Maize South, 47-29, in the first round of the Class 5A state tournament last year.

5. Maize South (18-4) – Maize South has two state appearances, last winter and this year. Maize South has Katie Wagner, a Fort Hays commit. Maize South went 4-3 down the stretch, and then won big games in sub-state versus Andover (39-25) and Eisenhower (44-30). Coach Ben Hamilton leads the Mavericks.

2. Andover Central (21-1) – All but 42 of the team’s points come from non-seniors. Sophomore Brittany Harshaw leads with 17 points, along with 4.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game. Junior Bailey Wilborn has 14.7 points with 2.8 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.8 steals a contest. Sophomore Ellie Stearns has 9.9 points a game, along with 2.6 steals a contest. Andover Central is first in 3-pointers made (204) among teams that report its statistics to MaxPreps. AC shoots 37 percent from beyond the arc. Andover Central’s only loss was an overtime defeat to McPherson in the second game of the year. AC has won two state titles in ’08 and ’10, both undefeated seasons. AC also reached the final in ’06. Andover Central has defeated Maize South twice this year. The Jaguars have an eight-win improvement from last year.

7. De Soto (16-6) – In the sub-state title game, De Soto outscored Lansing, 13-0, in the second quarter and won 45-34. Senior Jordan Diehl scored 16 points, junior Katelynn Ostronic had 13 and senior Mackenzie Shupe scored 12. De Soto has five state tournament appearances, including ’16-17.

3. Topeka Seaman (19-3) – Seaman has made 17 state tournaments, including the last two years. Junior Camryn Turner has led the Vikings after a first team all-league selection last year. Topeka Seaman finished 16-7 in ’18-19.

6. Maize (16-6) – Maize has 15 all-time state tournament appearances, including ’10-15, along with ’17 and ’18. Maize went 18-4 last winter and lost to Heights in the final seconds in the sub-state title game. Five players returned after starting at one point last winter. Maize graduated Halie Jones, a Division I signee. Sydney Holmes has set records for the Eagles. Maize lost at Topeka Seaman, 65-59, on Feb. 1.

Class 4A

1.Nickerson (20-2) – Nickerson is at state for a third straight year. Nickerson won the Central Kansas League. The Panthers have only lost twice to Haven, which they later beat to effectively win the CKL title. Nickerson receives production from a variety of classes, including seniors Morgan Stout and Madison Ontjes – who both came back from injuries – along senior Aspen Apfel. Freshmen Josie McLean and Ava Jones have had big seasons.

8. Buhler (14-8) – Since ’05, Buhler has two state appearances, ’15 and this year. Buhler pulled an upset against Circle in the sub-state championship game.

4. Bishop Miege (20-2) – Miege, the heavy favorite to win 4A, holds state records for all-time titles (21), championship game appearances (27) and state tournament berths (37). Miege won four straight titles from ’14-17, then took second and won last season. The Stags had four players with Division I offers on last year’s squad. This season, sisters Ashton and Payton Verhulst again lead the team. Ashton has signed with Central Florida, and Payton is the Gatorade Player of the Year and just cleared 1,000 career points. Miege has not lost to a Kansas team. The 6-foot Payton averages 17.8 points, seven rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.5 blocks a contest. She is the No. 8 recruit in the 2021 class by ESPN.

5. Chapman (18-4) – Chapman has five all-time appearances, the first occasion since ’06. Andale led 12-11 after the first quarter in the sub-state title and was up two entering the fourth. However, the Fighting Irish outscored Andale, 15-7, in the fourth quarter.

2. Eudora (20-2) – Eudora has twins Reagan and Riley Hiebert. Eudora has four all-time state appearances, in ’92, ’09 and the last two years.

7. Clay Center (16-6) – Before ’14, Clay Center had won all-time state appearance. Since then, CC has six state appearances in ’14-’17 and ’19-20. Clay Center went 18-5 and lost to Nemaha Central, 52-42, in the first round of state. Clay Center won the Class 4A, Division II title in ’16.

3. K.C. Piper (20-2) – Piper has won 14 straight contests and finished second to Bishop Miege last winter. Piper lost back-to-back games to Aquinas (35-34) and McPherson (44-39) on Jan. 3 and 4, respectively. Piper played without standout junior Ali Vigil early, notably in the McPherson loss.

6. Baldwin (17-5) – Baldwin, which won the Class 4A, Division II title two years ago, has won at least 19 games every year since ’14-15. Senior Josie Boyle has 11.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and two steals and 1.8 assists a game. Sophomore Riley Smith has 9.2 points and 4.8 rebounds, while junior Jenna Harvey has 8.8 points and 9.6 rebounds. Baldwin gets KC Piper in the first round, though Piper defeated the Bulldogs, 61-31, on Feb. 19.

Class 3A

1.Nemaha Central (23-0) – Nemaha Central is at state for the fourth straight year, though has not made a final in the last three seasons. Alleigh Kramer, an outstanding multi-sport athlete, has signed with Benedictine basketball. NC defeated Sabetha, 42-34, in the sub-state game, and moved to 3-0 versus Sabetha this season. Kramer tallied 24 points in the sub-state title. Nemaha boys and girls both headed to the state tournament. The football boys won a title in the fall and its been quite the year in Seneca. Big 7 league is no joke and the state champion, Royal Valley, came out of this league last season. 

8. Osage City (13-10) – Osage City has five all-time state tournament appearances, the last since 2011. OC junior Taylin Kirkpatrick was a first team all-league player.  She and Hayden Serna are back from a 10-10 squad.

4. Phillipsburg (20-3) – Phillipsburg has won the Mid-Continent League regular season title for the first time since the ‘70s and advanced to state for the first occasion in school history. Freshman Taryn Sides scored 18 in the sub-state championship game win versus rival Norton. Sides averages 18.4 points and 5.7 rebounds a contest. Posts Emily Schneider and Meredith Jacobs have had solid years inside.

5. Cheney (20-3) – Cheney is the defending 3A runner-up to Royal Valley. The Cardinals defeated Eureka and legendary coach Shelly Hoyt in the sub-state title game. Junior Kylie Scheer, the defending 3A Player of the Year, averaged 24.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.7 steals a contest. Junior Lexi Cline has 4.2 assists and 2.8 steals a game. All but 14 of Cheney’s points come from non-seniors.

2. Frontenac (21-2) – Frontenac has not lost to a Kansas team this season. The Raiders have their 18th all-time state appearance, the second trip in three years. The Raiders last final four showing came in ’14. The Raiders, with coach Scott Fields, was 8-13 last year. In the 46-26 win versus Cherryvale, Frontenac had 13 points from sophomore Heather Arnett and 10 by senior Karma Fields, Arnett averages nine while Fields averages 13. Both are returning all-state selections in softball for Raiders this spring as well with Fields the reigning 3A POY from SIK. Hattie Pyle also averages eight points per game and six boards. Raegen Hipfl also pulls down six boards per game. Frontenac doesn't have a height advantage but has some players with valuable high pressure experience as the Raiders won a 3A softball crown last spring. The CNC may have been a bit down overall but the Raiders took care of everyone in the league and in Kansas that they played. 

7. Jefferson West (15-8) – In a big upset, Jefferson West defeated previously unbeaten Riley County, 49-38, in the sub-state title. JW led 14-7 after the first quarter. Jeff West has a seven-player rotation with four sophomores and three seniors. Sophomore Kristin Biltoft scored 17 points against Riley County, and senior Heather Kahler tallied 12. JW had 19 deflections. Overall, Biltoft has 13.3 points, 4.6 steals, 3.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Kahler is at 10.2 points and 5.5 rebounds. This is the fourth all-time state appearance for JW. Jeff West relies on their defense and started out the season 0-3. Records are very decieving in the Big 7 where several state championship contenders are in the league every year. The Raiders of Frontenac won't be anything that Jeff West hasn't already been prepared for with their battle tested schedule. 

3. Halstead (20-3) – Halstead returned all five starters, all sophomores last year. Junior Karenna Gerber has cleared 1,000 career points. This is Halstead’s first state appearance. Gerber could be a rising mid-major recruit in Division I womens basketball and has caught the interest of nearly every MIAA program in the region. 

6. Scott City (20-3) – Scott City has reached the state tournament four straight years. SC feature Emily Weathers, Brynn McCormick and Lyndi Rumford. Weathers has signed with Emporia State, and Rumford has signed with Barton County. McCormick has emerged as one of the state’s top sophomores for her mother, coach Sarah McCormick. Scott City was fourth in ’17 and lost in the first round the last two years.

Class 2A

1.Spearville (23-0) – Spearville has qualified for state 12 times, most recently a 24-point loss to Olpe in the first round of Class 2A in ’18. Senior Ehlaina Hartman, an ESU signee that was also the 2A Volleyball POY, averages 20.6 points, six rebounds, 3.2 steals and 2.5 assists a contest. Junior Alissa Heskamp has 13.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and three steals per game. Spearville has 61.6 possessions a game with .956 points per possession and allows .576 points allowed a possession. As well, the Lancers collect 37 percent of available offensive rebounds and turns the ball over just 21.6 percent of the time. Spearville has won four titles from ’87-90.

8. Colgan (14-9) – Colgan has 13 all-time appearances in the state tournament, including ’14-18, though has historically struggled in the first round. The Panthers have won four in a row. Colgan has one player with state experience in junior Kaitlin Crossland, who was a freshman the last time the Panthers made it. Colgan has never won a game at the state tournament. However some of their players have valuable state experience going in volleyball and winning a state softball title last spring with Crossland as the 2-1A POY from Sports in Kansas. Lauren Yaghmour is also a key player for the Panthers who have zero seniors. Coach Farabi has been to state six out of the last seven years and went consectuvely from 2014-2018. 

4. Valley Heights (21-2) – This is Valley Heights’ 12th all-time state tournament appearance. VH qualified out of the challenging Horton sub-state that included Horton, Jackson Heights and Jefferson County North. Sam Vermetten cleared 1,000 career points. VH lost 52-40 to Riley County in the season opener, and fell at Hanover, 40-37.

5. Alma-Wabaunsee (20-3) – Wabaunsee took third at 2A last basketball season and won 2A volleyball last fall. Coach Trevor Keller, an Otis-Bison graduate who played in state title games in football and basketball with the Cougars, is in his first season with the Chargers. Madelyn Hutley is a Washburn signee and missed part of the year with an ankle injury. Megan Strait and Autymn Schreiner, a Washburn softball signing, have been key. Schreiner had 29 points versus Silver Lake in January.

2. WaKeeney-Trego (22-1) – Last year, WaKeeney-Trego took fourth in Class 2A, its best finish in the last 42 years. The Golden Eagles set a school record for scoring defense last year and is set to break the mark this season. Trego’s only loss came against Phillipsburg. Junior Lili Shubert and senior Libby Frost are again the team’s top scorers for the third straight year. WaKeeney-Trego has improved its win total for a fourth consecutive season under head coach Donnie Shubert and assistant Shelby Crawford. Seniors Gracie Pfannenstiel and Hannah Kinderknecht, along with juniors Tillie Malinowsky and Emma Day, and sophomore Madison Walt have provided key roles. Coach Shubert calls Day the team’s best defender.

7. Bennington (16-7) – This is Bennington’s first all-time state tournament appearance. Coach T.J. Trout has Chloe Stanley and Kyla Kind as key players.

3. Sterling (21-2) – Sterling has not won a state title and is 0-3 all-time in finals in ’90, ’99 and ’19. The Black Bears feature Grace Rowland, Kayla Morris, Kali Briar and Kinzie Comley under veteran coach Jill Rowland. Sterling plays at a high tempo and lost only to Central Plains and Hugoton.

6. Garden Plain (18-5) – Garden Plain won 3A two years ago and 2A last season with an overtime semifinal win versus Alma-Wabaunsee and a championship victory against Sterling. Garden Plain is at 57 possessions a game with its normal high efficient offense at .894 points per possession. GP has turnovers on just 21.2 percent of possessions. Senior Kennedy Horacek has 10 points a game, while juniors Madysen Zoglman and Alli Puetz are both 9.8 points a game. Sophomore Brooke Hammond has 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 steals a game.

Class 1A

1.Central Plains (25-0) – Central Plains pushed it all-time winning streak to 135 games. CP has already set a state record with six straight state titles. Senior Emily Ryan, an Iowa State signee, is expected to become the fourth player in state history to clear 3,000 career points. The Oilers set a bevy of state records last year and could break several state marks again this season. CP also has senior starters Addison Crites, Rachel Lamatsch and Delaney Rugan. Crites, a Barton County volleyball signee, is the 1A volleyball player of the year as the Oilers won the 1A volleyball crown in the fall. Central Plains has wins by at least 20 points against Phillipsburg, Sterling and twice versus Otis-Bison.

8. Ingalls (16-8) – Ingalls came out of an upset-filled sub-state and qualified after the Bulldogs graduated Ashlyn Cure, a 1,000-point scorer and one of the school’s all-time great players. Senior Britlyn Beach has 14.7 points and 10.9 rebounds a game, and junior Regan Ast has 13.1 points per contest. Beach is in the only senior in the rotation.

4. Hanover (23-1) – Hanover and Otis-Bison is one of the more intriguing first-round matches. Hanover is first, first and second to Central Plains in the last three years. Hanover graduated Macy Doebele, a three-sport standout who is playing basketball at Washburn. Tianna Lohse is a four-year key player for coach Chris Beikmann, a Hanover graduate. In the team’s most recent statistical release, Lohse leads with 11.7 points, along with 4.2 steals, 3.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists a contest. Senior Cadlee Stallbaumer has 11.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 2.1 assists. Freshman Ceegan Atkins has 7.2 points and 6.7 rebounds. Hanover is 112 of 391 from beyond the arc. Hanover averages 57 possessions a game with .925 points per possession, along with .714 points allowed a possession.

5. Otis-Bison (23-2) – Otis-Bison is built around its three seniors: forwards Maddie Wiltse and Cora Anderson and point guard Cristen Trapp, all who’ve played together since third grade. O-B was third place in 2017, the best finish in school history. Wiltse has three 20 point and 10 rebounds in sub-state in the last two years. The Cougars are 88-30 in five years under coach Bobby Trapp. The Cougars, who made 32 treys this season, has an average score of 45-29. Wiltse averages 17.3 points and 6.9 rebounds a game. Trapp is at 8.9 points and a team-high 75 assists. Anderson is just shy of 10 points a game. Otis-Bison is much more moderate tempo at 48.7 possessions a game, though is at .926 points per possession and allows .599 points per possession. O-B, though, turns the ball over at 24 percent rate, while Hanover is at 17 percent. O-B is 32 of 133 from long range this year.

2. Cunningham (25-0) – Cunningham is at state for the fifth time in school history. The Wildcats were a final four team in Class 1A, Division II two years ago. Cunningham’s best season is a state runner-up to Norwich in 1988. Junior Morgan Meyers, coach Eric Meyers’ daughter, cleared 1,000 career points in sub-state. In the regular season, she averaged 18 points a game, along with 5.2 assists and 4.2 steals. Holly DeWeese averaged 8.6 points and 5.1 rebounds a game. In the playoffs, Meyers was at 12.5 points and 6.1 rebounds, with DeWeese at 7.5 points and seven rebounds. Other key players have included Madie, Alayna and Hunter McGuire, Maddison Panek and Mackenzie Wright.

7. Centralia (18-8) – The Panthers have won five state titles in ’75, ’00, ’02, ’04 and ’16. Centralia defeated Frankfort, 69-66, in the sub-state title game and came back from a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter, according to MSC Sports. Kennedy Becker tallied 16, while Olivia Kuckleman and Avery Deters scored 14.

3. Olpe (25-0) – Olpe is third all-time in state tournament appearances with 29. Eagles’ coach Jesse Nelson is the state’s all-time winningest coach. Neleh Davis has cleared 1,000 career points. Olpe has three all-time titles in ’81, ’10 and ’11. Olpe lost to Ingalls in the first round of state last year.

6. Norwich (22-3) – Norwich has one title in 1988. Norwich had a 50-41 sub-state victory versus Hutchinson Central Christian. Norwich lost at Central Christian, 28-27, on Jan. 17. Three-year senior starter Tori Poe is a Fort Hays track signee.

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