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Basketball in Kansas: State BB Final Four Look

Hoxie looks to win boys' basketball and wrestling in the same year
By: Conor Nicholl for Sports in Kansas w/ Chet Kuplen
Mar 11, 2021

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By CONOR NICHOLL & Chet Kuplen for Sports in Kansas

On March 4, Hoxie boys’ basketball coach Jake Moss was broadly aware of the Indians’ possible history. On Feb. 27, the Indians easily captured the Class 3-2-1A state wrestling tournament. Hoxie basketball has carried an undefeated record all season. One of the rarest doubles in Kansas annals could occur this season: boys’ wrestling and boys’ basketball titles in the same years.

“We are still a very long way from doing that,” Moss said after the sub-state semifinals last Thursday in WaKeeney.

On Saturday, Hoxie defeated Ellis, 63-52. In the regular season, Ellis had given Hoxie its closest matchup all year when the Indians required a buzzer-beater 3-pointer for the victory. Then, on Monday, Hoxie faced Sterling in the Class 2A quarterfinals at the Colby Community Building. Hoxie was one of a very few higher seeds that didn’t host in its gym. The Indians’ gym is comparably smaller to other venues.

Sterling has senior Tyus Wilson, the nation’s top high jumper and just shy of 6-foot-7. Wilson was one of at least a few – and possibly the only one - who could matchup with Hoxie 7-foot senior Harlan Obioha. Sterling led early but Hoxie limited the Black Bears to zero second quarter points. Hoxie won 47-34 and improved to 24-0. Hoxie has its highly talented guards of Ashton Dowell, Brady Jones, Caden White and Gavin Tremblay.

“Our guys love playing with each other,” Moss said. “I mean, off the court, they are very good friends. Our team chemistry is really good, and I think that shows on the floor and why we are so unselfish with the ball.”

According to KSHSAA records, two programs have won wrestling and basketball in the same year. Wichita Heights won Class 6A wrestling and 6A boys’ basketball in 2011. Kapaun captured Class 5A boys’ basketball and wrestling in 1981.

Additionally, Hoxie is trying to win the first boys’ basketball title in school history. The Indians are also trying to become the first-ever Mid-Continent League boys’ team to post an undefeated mark. Hill City coach Keith Riley has led the Ringnecks for more than 50 years. Hoxie presents a unique challenge that Riley has rarely seen.

“When you have got that presence inside, that makes your defense all together different,” Riley said of Obioha. “Because you can’t put one man on him. We are guarding him with a 6-3 kid. This kid is 7-0, and plus he is huge. And he has got long arms, and he has got good touch. So it makes it tough on the rest of the people, because if you drop somebody down, it just opens this guy up over here. So when you have a presence like that, it’s really tough on your kids to defend.”

On Thursday and Friday, Kansas has the state basketball Final Four for all classes. This season, quarterfinal games occurred at host sites because of COVID-19 social distancing measures. However, semifinals and finals will be at its usual neutral site contests. Hoxie’s opportunity for several milestones and undefeated season encapsulates one of the top storylines. Multiple squads with perfect records remain alive.

From 1973-2019, the girls had 78 undefeated seasons, or an average of 1.7 per year, according to Kansas historian Carol Swenson. The boys’ state tournament started in 1912 and has 71 perfect teams, or less than one a winter. Last season, the tournament was halted in the state semifinals because of coronavirus.

Haysville-Campus and Andover were both perfect boys’ squads. Topeka High, Liberal, Nemaha Central, Spearville, Olpe and Central Plains had undefeated girls’ marks.

This season, Hoxie and Montezuma-South Gray are undefeated on the boys’ side. Hoxie is considered to have three of its toughest tests already passed with Hill City in the sub-state semifinals, Ellis and Sterling. The Indians are the significant 2A favorite, though the classification has Hillsboro (21-3), Lyndon (19-4) and Wabaunsee (18-4).

In Class 1A, Division I at Dodge City, South Gray (23-0) and Little River (22-1) are the favorites. SG features post Carter Riley, senior Aaron Skidmore and guards Brady Deges and Kimble Martin. Coach Mark Applegate has one perfect season in his 39 years. Little River and St. John were the top 1A Forever Four teams last winter. LR features reigning Player of the Year Jayden Garrison, who recently cleared 2,000 career points. Plus, the bracket has Ness City (17-7) and Olpe (16-3). NC junior post Taylor Cable averages 20.6 points and 14.4 rebounds per game. Olpe won 1A state football in the fall, both squads coached by Chris Schmidt

For the girls’ side, all the undefeated squads feature marquee matchups. Plus, 5A St. Thomas Aquinas, 4A Bishop Miege, 3A Sabetha and Class 1A, Division II Central Plains are all trying for the volleyball/girls’ basketball double this school year. Plus, Bishop Miege is the significant favorite to sweep 4A girls and boys.

In Class 6A, Shawnee Mission Northwest is 21-0 behind Kennedy Taylor, a Colorado signing. Northwest is the lone team to beat Bishop Miege. Northwest and Topeka High (22-1) are the 6A favorites. Topeka High’s only loss in the last two seasons is against Bishop Miege. The Trojans were 2019 state runner-up to Washburn Rural. Topeka has two all-time titles, the last coming in 1982. Northwest has one crown, in 2016. Also in 6A girls, one-loss Dodge City have enjoyed the best in school history.

In 5A, Andover Central (23-0) could meet St. Thomas Aquinas (18-2). AC and SM Northwest have put together the best resumes this season. Andover Central is 2-1 all-time in titles with the last crown coming in 2010. AC has its bevy of star names. Junior Brittany Harshaw averages 18 points per game.

Senior Bailey Wilborn is at 14.3 points a contest. Senior Jaden Newfarmer has 6.3 assists a contest. Harshaw has committed to Creighton, Wilborn has signed with Maine and Newfarmer with Washburn. While AC is known for offense, Aquinas is known for defense and controlling tempo with point guard Madison Skelton and post Beatrice Culliton. Skelton has signed with Emporia State, and Culliton has multiple Division I offers.

Aquinas has won titles in 2016-19 and was a Forever Four squad last winter.

In Class 3A, Cheney girls survived its incredible double-overtime quarterfinal win against Halstead, 51-50. The Cardinals, Hugoton (23-1) and Sabetha (22-2) are all contenders. Cheney and Hugoton are very similar teams with its bevy of star guards. The Cardinals have two-time 3A Player of the Year Kylee Scheer, along with Brooklyn Wewe, Lexi Cline and Brynn McCormick. Hugoton counters with sophomores Mikyn Hamlin, Summya Adigun and Gianna Vos, along with 6-1 post Jordyn Beard.

Frontenac had a big performance in the semifinal by Hattie Pyle (18 pts) and Sydney Frankenberry (18 points). The Raiders also feature multiple-sport all-state athlete Heather Arnett. Sabetha is 63-3 in volleyball and basketball this year, winning the state title in volleyball this last fall. Frontenac has state championship softball experience and the Cheney team has played in a lot of games in Hutchinson, all high pressure factors that could help in Thursday and Saturday matchups in Hutchinson. 

Hugoton has two titles, the last coming in 2017 and Cheney has one, in 2010. Frontenac last played for a title in 2014 in 4A-II and has two titles 1979, 1982. 

In Division I, Olpe girls are 23-0. The Eagles are 3-5 all-time in title games with the last title coming in 2011. Of all the undefeated squads, the Eagles are the biggest favorite behind Macy Smith and Maya Bishop. Olpe has Hodgeman County, Doniphan West and Norwich. HC and DW have already enjoyed the best seasons in school history. Olpe is the heavy favorite in the classification. Doniphan West won its first ever state tournament game under HC Perry Smith. 

Other notes:

In Class 5A boys, Topeka West coach Rick Bloomquist has battled cancer this season. A contender for all-classes coach of the year, Bloomquist has coached for more than 40 years and captured 500 plus wins. West won, 52-49, at undefeated Hays High in the quarterfinals. West has made two all-time finals, the last in 2010. Bloomquist has been vocal about how much the players have meant to him this season. That was again apparent after Tuesday’s win.

None of the 5A boys’ final four squads – T. West, Maize, De Soto or KC Washington – have ever won a state title. West has won 14 in a row and averages 69 points per game. Senior Marque Wilkerson has 17.8 points per game, and senior Trevion Alexander has 16.7 points a contest. Junior Elijah Brooks has 15.6 points per game, though suffered injury early in the fourth quarter versus Hays High. TW runs the amoeba defense with a zone and fast breaking.

“We had a bump in the road in the middle,” Bloomquist said. “But we said, ‘To win in March, sometimes you have got to lose in January.’ And that’s what happened.”

Maize has high-flying sophomore Avery Johnson, along with Kyle Grill and Jacob Hanna. De Soto, like Hoxie, has its own 7-footer with Nate Barnhart, a Wyoming signing. 

In 6A boys, Haysville Campus returns to the semifinals behind Sterling Chapman, the reigning classification player of the year and a Tulsa signing. Campus and Lawrence Free State have never won titles. Lawrence has four all-time crowns, the last in 1995. Blue Valley North has one title, in 1997. Lawrence delivered the biggest quarterfinal upset when it beat Blue Valley Northwest. Zeke Mayo is one of the best players in the state for Lawrence and has signed with South Dakota State. 

Perhaps the closest classifications are 3A boys and 2A girls. Class 3A has Thomas More Prep-Marian and Jackson Schulte. TMP has guard Jackson Schulte, who has cleared 1,000 career points. TMP beat Hugoton in the second game of the season and again in the quarterfinals. Hesston, Rock Creek, and Galena are all contenders in 3A. Cason Richardson is a big-time player to watch for the Hesston Swathers. RC features Dawson Zenger, and Galena with perhaps 3A's best point guard in Brett Sarwinski and 6-foot-5 sophomore Tyler Little, a Division I football recruit. Sarwinski had 22 in the quarterfinal while Little had 12 points (16 boards). 

Class 2A has Sterling, Garden Plain, Pittsburg Colgan and Valley Heights. GP is the only one of those four to win a title. The Owls have five, the last in 2019. Garden Plain has posted 3A title, 2A title, 2A Forever Four and Final Four in the last four years. Colgan won the first state game in school history under HC Abby Farabi with Kaitlin Crossland having a huge quarterfinal game against Berean with 15 points, shes the 2019 2-1A SIK Softball POY. Sterling features Kali Briar, one of the best in 2A. 

Class 1A-II boys seems to have Hanover as the favorite by many across the state as they dominated their first round matchup. The story has been Pawnee Heights (9 total players) getting their first win at the state tournament ever and first time at state since 1972. Alec Carlson is the star player and just a sophomore. Also in the field is Northern Valley who will have to face Hanover in the semifinal. Northern Valley started the season with an 0-7 record and has won 14 of its last 16 to get to the Final Four. Hanover features high flying junior Emmitt Jueneman. 

Class 1A-II girls may not be the deepest class in the state this year but the teams left are legit contender for a title. St. Johns Tipton features Lauryn Dubbert who will be a heavy contender for the POY in the class and has signed with Newman. Cunningham also features POY contender Morgan Meyers and has had a very solid season. Those two square off in the semifinal.

Central Plains lost a lot of key talent but is back in the drivers seat for another state title (they've won 5 in a row under HC Pat Stiles) but this time they arent a 20-to-30 point favorite like they have been in the last several years with All-Everything Emily Ryan (now an All-Big 12 Freshman at Iowa State). Brynna Hammeke, Cassidy Nixon and Lexi Oeser are key players to watch for CP. Golden Plains, behind twins Ashley and Brooke Toll, plus Kassie Miller, is undefeated on the year and has not lost in the regular season in three-plus seasons. 

The story in 4A is the boys and girls teams that both made the Final Fours - McPherson, Bishop Miege and Louisburg.

4A Girls is headlined by Bishop Miege who features 5-star Payton Verhulst who has signed with Louisville and is a McDonalds All-American. HC Terry English has over 900 career wins. McPherson, led by head coach Chris Strathman, features Grace Pyle (last years 4A POY) and Kassidy Beam. They picked up a very solid victory over previously unbeaten Clay Center in the quarterfinal. Louisburg is into the Final Four for the first time in school history and into the state tournament for the first time since 1973-1974 as they knocked off Labette County on Tuesday by one. Andale is into the Final Four with their 31-20 victory over Clearwater in the quarterfinal. 

4A Boys is headlined by Bishop Miege and 5-star Mark Mitchell. Miege won their quarterfinal by 41 over Holton on Monday. Augusta is in the semifinal for the third consecutive season and are coming off a solid quarterfinal win over Rose Hill. They feature multiple-sport standout Ely Wilcox (6'5"). Louisburg picked up a dominating 32 point win ovewr Parsons on Monday at home to punch their ticket to the Final Four.

It's the first time both Louisburg boys and girls are in the Final Four together at the same time. Louisburg features 6'8" Julian Margrave. McPherson is one of the most consistent programs in Kansas and has played a solid schedule as they knocked off Abilene by 21 despite entering state with 10 losses. Kurt Kinnamon is one of the best in Kansas. McPherson may not have the tallest player in the 4A tournament but does have some length with six players 6-foot-3 or above. 

State Tournament Schedule for Thursday Friday & Saturday

6A Semifinal (final four) Basketball Matchups - WSU


1. Lawrence vs. 4. Blue Valley North - 3 pm

2. Campus vs. 3. Free State - 7pm

Championship Sat at 2 pm

Quarterfinal Scores

Campus 70 Hutch 61

Free State 41 Heights 36 OT

Lawrence 52 BVNW 47

BV North 71 SMNW 54

Friday Semifinals – Girls 6A

1. SMNW vs. 4. Olathe West -3 pm

2. Topeka vs. 3. Dodge City - 7pm

Championship Sat at 6 pm

Quarterfinal Scores

Dodge City 55 Derby 30

Topeka 71 Heights 36

Olathe West 55 Olathe North 41

SMNW 36 Blue Valley 29

5A Semifinal (final four) Basketball Matchups - Emporia


1. Andover Central vs. 4. Salina Central-3pm

2. Aquinas vs. 3. Lansing-7pm

Championship Sat at 2 pm

Quarterfinal Scores

Salina Central 66 Seaman 38

Andover Central 56 Maize 52

Aquinas 61 St. James 31

Lansing 64 Bonner Springs 51

Friday Semifinals – Boys 5A

1. Maize vs. 4. KC Washington-3pm

2. Topeka West vs. DeSoto-7pm

Championship Sat at 6 pm

Topeka West 52 Hays 49

Maize 37 Carroll 33

De Soto 67 Pittsburg 42

KC Washington 42 Mill Valley 47

4A Semifinal (final four) Basketball Matchups - Salina


1. Miege vs. 4. McPherson - 3 pm

2. Augusta vs. 3. Louisburg - 7 pm

Championship Sat at 2 pm

4A Boys Quarterfinal Scores

McPherson 51 Abilene 30

Augusta 58 Rose Hill 54

Bishop Miege 78 Holton 37

Louisburg 62 Parsons 30

Friday - Girls

1. Miege vs. 4. Andale - 3 pm

2. McPherson vs. 3. Louisburg - 7 pm

Championship Sat at 6 pm

4A Girls Quarterfinal Scores

McPherson 47 Clay Center 41

Andale 31 Clearwater 20

Bishop Miege 56 Wamego 24

Louisburg 49 Labette Co. 48

3A Semifinal (final four) Basketball Matchups - Hutch


1. Cheney vs. 4. Frontenac - 3 pm

2. Hugoton vs. 3. Sabetha - 7 pm

Championship Sat at 2 pm

Quarterfinal Scores – 3A Girls

Hugoton 52 Phillipsburg 47

Cheney 51 Halstead 50 – 2 OT

Sabetha 47 Silver Lake 28

Frontenac 71 Osawatomie 69

Friday - Boys

1. Hesston vs. 4. TMP -3 pm

2. Rock Creek vs. 3. Galena - 7 pm

Championship Sat at 6 pm

Quarterfinal Scores – 3A Boys

TMP 82 Hugoton 67

Hesston 55 Wichita-Trinity 47

Rock Creek 53 Royal Valley 43

Galena 55 Wellsville 48

2A Semifinal (final four) Basketball Matchups - KSU


1. Hoxie vs. 4. Wabaunsee - 3 pm

2. Hillsboro vs. 3. Lyndon - 7pm

Championship Sat at 2 pm

2A Boys Quarterfinal Scores

Hoxie 47 Sterling 34

Hillsboro 63 Belle Plaine 47

Lyndon 48 Erie 45

Wabaunsee 64 Valley Falls 40

Friday - Girls

1. Sterling vs. 4. Garden Plain -3 pm

2. Valley Heights vs. 3. Colgan - 7pm

Championship Sat at 6 pm

2A Girls Quarterfinal Scores

Sterling 57 Trego 43

Garden Plain 48 Moundridge 39

Colgan 41 Berean Academy 34

Valley Heights 60 Wabaunsee 44

1A-I Semifinal (final four) Basketball Matchups - Dodge


1. Olpe vs. 4. Hodgeman Co-3 pm

2. Doniphan West vs. 3. Norwich- 7pm

Championship Sat at 2 pm

1A-I Girls Quarterfinal Scores

Hodgeman Co. 53 Osborne 41

Norwich 35 South Central 33

Doniphan West 57 Little River 44

Olpe 91 Flinthills 27

Friday – Boys 1A-I

1. South Gray vs. 4. Ness City -3 pm

2. Little River vs. 3. Olpe - 7pm

Championship Sat at 6 pm

1A-I Boys Quarterfinal Scores

Ness City 53 Stockton 41

South Gray 72 Skyline 49

Little River 56 Clifton-Clyde 40

Olpe 50 Wichita Classical 30

1A-II Final Four 🏀-Great Bend


1. Golden Plains vs 4. Central Plains-3pm

2. St. John's/Tipton vs 3. Cunningham-7pm

Championship Sat at 2 pm

1A-II Girls Quarterfinal Scores

Cunningham 56 Ashland 28

Golden Plains 57 Dighton 45

St. John’s Tipton 52 Wetmore 40

Central Plains 51 St. Paul 32

Friday - Boys

1. Hanover vs 4. Northern Valley-3pm

2. Elyria Christian vs 3. Pawnee Hts-7pm

Championship Sat at 6 pm

1A-II Boys Quarterfinal Scores

Pawnee Heights 48 South Haven 43

Northern Valley 52 Wheatland-Grinnell 44

Hanover 71 St. Johns/Tipton 37

Elyria Christian 47 Waverly 41

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