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Basketball in Kansas: Boys' Sub-State Saturday look

Hugoton has a key Saturday matchup
By: Conor Nicholl for Sports in Kansas w/ Chet Kuplen
Mar 6, 2021

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For a high number of classifications, Saturday marks Sub-State Championship day. SIK looks at the main storylines on the boys’ side for the championships. That includes a tragic week for Ness City, along with tough expected tests for two of Kansas’ undefeated squads on the boys’ side: 5A Hays High and 2A Hoxie. Because of COVID-19 changes, Hays High (21-0) plays host to Salina South (16-4) in a 5A semifinal. In a normal year, the teams would not have to play each other because 5A would be seeded. However, COVID-19 yielded geographic sub-states.

5A: Hays High boys face Salina South in an elite matchup – HHS with state’s longest current boys’ winning streak

Hays High and Salina South normally match up in the regular season, though did not do so this year. HHS and South have been ranked first and second in 5A throughout most of the winter. South has played a very challenging AVCTL schedule and in the Salina Invitational. The Cougars have wins against Derby (53-48), Andover (55-52) and a pair of victories against Hutchinson. Salina South beat Hays High, 65-51, on Feb. 4, 2020 in the last matchup.

“Very athletic, senior-laden group,” Hays High coach Alex Hutchins said. “They kind of took it to us when we played them here last year. We have learned a lot about ourselves and grown a lot from then. But at the same time, I am sure they are going to come in here with a lot of confidence. If there were Vegas odds, I would imagine that they are probably the favorites just based on the schedule that they’ve played.”

Hays High cruised through the Western Athletic Conference, though does have a buzzer-beater win versus Salina Central in non-league play and defeated Hugoton in the season opener. Hugoton has won 20 straight contests. The Indians, a 5A Forever Four team last winter, has won 29 consecutive games dating back to last year. Start time is 3 p.m. Saturday from Hays High.

All five of Hays High’s starters are highly experienced and return from a team that graduated just one key player off last year’s squad. Junior Jace Linenberger averages 15.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Senior Dalyn Schwarz is at 12.1 points and 5.9 rebounds. Junior Carson Kieffer has 10 points a game and ranks among the state’s best with 6.5 assists.

“Not much stranger than the times we live in right now,” Schwarz said of the postseason oddity. “So I guess expect anything. I mean, we’ve got to go prepare for one of the best teams in the state, so we will do our best.”

Salina South, with coach Jason Hooper, has enjoyed a five-win improvement from last winter. South’s top-four scorers and six of its top-seven are seniors. Senior Josh Jordan has 15.4 points per game, and senior Devon Junghans is at 12.5 points a contest. Senior Colin Schreiber has 10.1 points a game, while senior A.J. Johnson, who had multiple college football offers at defensive back, has 7.6 points and 5.1 rebounds.

In MaxPreps’ statistical rankings, Hays High ranks as the state’s No. 7 team with a 5.5 strength of schedule. South is at No. 18 with a 9.5 SOS.

“The fact that they have the record they have playing the who’s who of 6A in that league is very impressive, and so I would imagine they are the best we have seen all year,” Hutchins said. “They are very, very quick defensively and make it hard to score, and they love to get out in transition and spread you out and beat you off the bounce and use that athleticism that they have, and so we are going to have to get tuned up and be ready to go.”

Class 2A: Hoxie and Ellis with rematch after buzzer-beater game

On Saturday, Mid-Continent League foes Hoxie (22-0) and Ellis (17-5) match up in the WaKeeney sub-state championship game. Hoxie, led by its experienced senior guards and 7-foot senior Harlan Obioha, is trying to become the first MCL boys’ basketball squad to ever post an undefeated season. Plus, the Indians are looking for the highly rare double of winning boys’ state wrestling – which happened last Saturday – and boys’ basketball.

On Feb. 16, Hoxie hit a buzzer-beater trey and defeated Ellis, 63-62. That marks Hoxie’s closest test all season. The Indians also have a six-point win versus TMP and victories by two and six versus Hill City. The latter one came in a 53-47 win Thursday. Hoxie has guards Brady Jones, Gavin Tremblay, Ashton Dowell and Caden White.

However, the Railers have no player above 6-foot-1.

“Obviously, the big kid, when your tallest player is 6-1, you are going to have a hard time stopping him,” Ellis coach Mark Eck said. “The last time we played them, they made plays when they needed to. I am basically just going to tell the kids that the pressure is on them and they are obviously a very, very good team. They have got a great supporting cast around Obioha, but we are looking forward to the challenge – we are definitely looking forward to the challenge.”

Ellis, led by dynamic senior Brady Frickey, has more depth this season for Eck. Seniors Zach Shiel, Daniel Eck and juniors Tyson Jimenez and Sam Honas are key players.

“We have just really emphasized being aggressive,” Eck said. “They have got to be a threat offensively, and when Tyson is attacking the hole, he’s so quick. He just creates so many things for us, and Sam as well.”

1A-I: Ness City going through tragic week – wearing turquoise for games

On March 1, former Ness City student Makenzee Cupp, age 19, passed away tragically. Cupp’s funeral service is expected to be Monday at Ness City. Among other activities, Cupp played on the golf team and was in FFA. For Friday’s contest, Ness City asked that fans wear turquoise to honor Cupp. That occurred, and Ness City earned a 69-67 win versus Jetmore-Hodgeman County. NC is 14-7. On Saturday, Ness City will face Quinter for the Class 1A, Division I Ingalls sub-state championship game.

Ness City is asking fans to again wear turquoise and be loud. In an oddity, NC, a member of the Central Prairie League, played in the Northwest Kansas League midseason tournament earlier this season. The NWKL had just seven teams, and NC needed a midseason tournament.

On Jan. 23, Ness City beat Quinter, 56-48, for the NWKL tournament championship. Quinter stands at 15-7 behind junior Jaden Boone. He at 19.8 points and 10 rebounds a contest. Boone is closing on 1,000 career points and has tallied 964 through the season’s first 21 games.

Ness City’s top-four scorers are all juniors, led by Taylor Cable. He is at 20.6 points and 14.6 rebounds per game.

Class 6A

Dodge City – Hutchinson, which entered sub-state with just five wins, defeated Dodge City, 67-43, and advanced to state Friday.

Wichita Southeast – Last season, Haysville-Campus finished 23-0 and was considered Kansas’ best team before COVID-19. On Friday, Campus easily beat rival Derby, 77-53, for a spot at state. Stevie Strong tallied 20 points, and Sterling Chapman finished with 19. Chapman, a Tulsa signing, is the reigning 6A Player of the Year.

Topeka-Washburn Rural – Free State beat Washburn Rural, 44-31, in the final.

Wichita-Northwest – Wichita Heights beat Wichita Northwest, 68-50, and will face Lawrence Free State in the elite eight. Bronxson Frierson paced Heights with 18 points.

Olathe East – Heavy favorite Blue Valley Northwest has one loss and rolled over Olathe South, 74-46.

Olathe West – Lawrence beat Olathe West, 44-43, in Friday's final.

Shawnee Mission Northwest – SM Northwest defeated SM North, 66-40, in the final.

Shawnee Mission South – Blue Valley North beat Blue Valley, 61-49, in Friday’s final.

Class 5A

Topeka West – Topeka West will play Topeka Seaman on Saturday.

Andover Central – Bishop Carroll will play Andover in Saturday’s final in a high-profile matchup. Both entered sub-state with two losses. Andover was an undefeated 5A team last winter and has Jack Johnson, a Division I signing.

Maize South – Maize will face Valley Center in Saturday’s final.

De Soto – De Soto will face St. James in the final.

Blue Valley Southwest – Pittsburg and Spring Hill will face in the final. Pittsburg features Javon Grant who is averaging nearly 30 ppg and has been an all-5A pick the last two seasons.

K.C. Turner – Bonner Springs and Mill Valley, both under. 500 squads, will face in the championship.

Lansing – No. 4 seed K.C. Piper earned a slight upset against No. 1 Basehor-Linwood. Piper (11-8) will face K.C. Washington (7-3) in the final. Washington didn’t play until after Christmas break.

Class 4A

Buhler – McPherson beat rival Buhler, 57-54, in the championship. Max Alexander is averaging nearly 25 ppg this season for Buhler. 

Clay Center – Abilene beat Concordia, 38-34, in the final to advance to the 4A state tournament.

Augusta – Augusta is into the state tournament for a third straight year after a 59-51 win versus Andale. Augusta shot more than 50 percent from the field. The Orioles were a forever four team last season and has new coach Ryan Petty this year.

Clearwater – Rose Hill came out of an upset-filled sub-state. Clearwater defeated top-seeded Mulvane, which was ranked No. 2 in 4A most of the winter. RH came back to beat Clearwater, 51-44. Rose Hill will play Augusta in the state tournament Monday.

Baldwin – Highly favored Bishop Miege beat Tonganoxie, 63-30, on Friday in the sub-state final. Mark Mitchell is one of the nations top players in 2022. 

Holton – Holton beat Wamego, 60-56, in Friday’s sub-state final.

Fort Scott – Louisburg beat Iola, 57-52, on Friday for the final.

Independence – Parsons is headed back to state again after a 62-54 win versus Chanute. Anthony Houk has Parsons into state for the fourth year in a row.

Class 3A

Larned – Lakin gets a mammoth matchup against Hugoton in Saturday’s final at Larned. Lakin (21-1) has only lost to Hugoton. The Eagles opened 0-2 and has not lost since. Hugoton won 74-65 on Feb. 23. 

Norton – TMP will play Minneapolis in the championship Saturday. The Monarchs are seeded first, and Minneapolis second. Jackson Schulte went over 1,000 points earlier this season.

Douglass – Cheney will face Wichita Trinity Academy on Saturday.

Hesston – No. 1 Hesston will face No. 3 Haven in the final.

Council Grove – Rock Creek will face St. Marys in the championship. St. Marys was a forever four team last winter. RC has Dawson Zenger, an outstanding player. Jaxon Hurla put St. Marys into the championship with a buzzer beater game winning drive over Osage City in the semifinals.

Sabetha – Royal Valley will face Marysville. Nachs Wahwassuck is one of the top players in 3A for Royal Valley and just a junior.

Riverton – Galena will face Riverton. Galena has arguably two of the top five players in 3A in all-state selection Brett Sarwinski and Tyler Little. Sarwinski is only a junior while Little (6'5") is a sophomore. Little just picked up his first FBS full ride football opportunity from Eastern Michigan in the Class of 2023. Galena was a Forever Four team last season and got by a very good Frontenac team on Friday that featured a ton of length in 6'9" Jordan Fudge and 6'6" Landon Dean. Riverton is much improved and looked very solid this season through the loaded CNC (last 3A champ came in this league - Girard 2019) with Jamey Richardson and Isaac Welch stepping up big. 

Wellsville – Wellsville and Burlington will face in the final. Jimmy Dorsey has had a big year for Wellsville. These two teams split in the regular season.

Class 2A

Spearville – In a highly anticipated matchup, Sterling will face Ellinwood. Sterling has post Tyus Wilson, the nation’s best high jumper, and Ellinwood features point guard Britt Dutton.

Ell-Saline – Hillsboro will face Hutch Trinity. Lucas Hammeke became the all-time leading scorer for Hutch Trinity this past week.

Garden Plain – Garden Plain will face Belle Plaine. BP has excellent point guard Eli Wiseman, who had 40-plus points in the last week.

Chase County – Berean Academy will face Lyndon.

Humboldt – Erie beat Colgan, 45-39, in overtime in the semifinals, and will face Uniontown in the championship. Erie features Eric Dillinger and Mark Bogner. 

Blue Rapids – Valley Falls will face Riverside.

Mission Valley – No. 4 seed Wabaunsee entered sub-state with a 7-12 mark. In the semifinals, Wabaunsee beat top-seeded Jeff County North, 51-41. Wabaunsee will face Mission Valley in the final.

Class 1A, Division I

Osborne – Last year, Stockton was a surprise 1A forever four team. The Tigers have a chance to do similar this year. Stockton was 7-10 entering sub-state, and then knocked off top-seeded Rock Hills, 59-44, on Friday. Stockton will face Osborne in Saturday’s championship game.

Kiowa County – In a rematch of the Southern Plains Iroquois final, South Gray will face Meade. SG beat Meade in December and again in the league final. SG was 18-0 at the time of sub-state seeding.

Norwich – Pratt-Skyline will face St. John in the final. St. John played a highly challenging schedule and upset Macksville and Pretty Prairie with first-year coach Danton Hilton, a SJ graduate and assistant last season.

Canton-Galva – One-loss Little River, led by reigning 1A Player of the Year Jayden Garrison, will be heavily favored against Solomon.

Centralia – Clifton-Clyde will face Frankfort in a matchup of Twin Valley League teams.

Madison – In a matchup of Lyon County League teams, Olpe will face Madison/Hamilton. Madison beat Lebo, 44-41, on Friday, and Olpe defeated Burlingame, 54-26.

Flinthills – Wichita Classical School, a surprise team this season, will be favored against Flinthills in Saturday’s final.

Class 1A, Division II

Attica – Attica (15-3), South Haven (12-5) and Hutchinson Central Christian (11-7) are the top seeds. Attica will face South Have in the sub-state finale.

Moscow – Pawnee Heights (10-8) is the lone team over .500. PH will play Ashland in the championship game. Alec Carlson is averging over 22 points per game as a junior.

Dighton – Wheatland-Grinnell is 13-6, and Greeley County stands at 12-8. They will play in the championship. Jaxson Brandl is one of the top 1A scorers in the state and just a sophomore. 

Golden Plains – This is an excellent sub-state, probably the best in the classification. St. Francis is 16-3, Northern Valley stands at 11-9. Cheylin stands at 16-4, and Logan-Palco is 13-6. Northern Valley and Logan-Palco will face in the finals. SF advanced to the 1A tournament last winter.

Axtell – Longtime power Hanover is 18-1 and the heavy favorite in the sub-state. Hanover will face Wetmore in the final. Emmitt Juenneman is averaging nearly 20 points per game this season for Hanover. 

Wakefield – Natoma stands at 8-5, and Beloit St. John’s-Tipton is 9-6. They will play in the championship. On Jan. 22, BSJT beat Natoma, 54-51.

Peabody-Burns – Elyria Christian is 12-7, Hartford stands at 4-14, and Central Plains is 5-15, though CP is definitely a darkhorse. Central Plains beat Peabody-Burns, 51-47, in overtime in the semifinals. CP will face Elyria in the final.

St. Paul – Waverly is the top seed at 10-9 and will face Southern Coffey County in the final.

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