American Implement Western Kansas Team of the Week: Quinter girls’ basketball blend of athleticism, height and experience yields state berth

Quinter girls celebrate their sub-state championship win against St. Francis. QHS has its third state berth under coaches Matt Havlas and Scott Crist. (Photo by Conor Nicholl).


QUINTER – The Quinter girls’ basketball team had plenty of nerves before Thursday’s home sub-state semifinal against Ness City. It marked the Bulldogs’ first postseason game. Quinter has lost just three times this season, including two against eventual state qualifying teams. Each was a subpar performance.

However, when Quinter is at its peak, the Bulldogs, under veteran coaches Matt Havlas and Scott Crist, might be Class 1A, Division I’s best team.

Quinter features 6-foot-2 senior post Anna Briggs, a serious player of the year candidate, along with a highly skilled and veteran top-six. The group includes senior point guard Cashlyn Kvasnicka, juniors Kennedy Werth, Saige Betz and Kelsey Selensky, along sophomore Bryn Gillespie. Plus, junior Caybrie Kvansicka and freshman Mia Briggs have seen more time off the bench.

Cashlyn Kvasnicka, the team’s vocal leader, took Tums before Thursday’s game to help calm the nerves. NC had played multiple ranked teams close, but Quinter was strong in a 14-point victory. Briggs finished with a remarkable line: 30 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks.

On Saturday, Quinter played host to St. Francis in the 1A-I Quinter sub-state championship game. In one January-February week, QHS defeated SF by 13 and 14, the first one for the Northwest Kansas League conference tournament title.

Still, Havlas felt the pregame nerves. So did the players. Kvasnicka noticed her teammates pacing in the locker room. Anna Briggs had Tums to steady the stomach. The nerves showed early as QHS led by three after the first quarter.

“The nerves, it’s outrageous,” Kvasnicka said. “But it’s so fun, and I think it’s good to be nervous, too. It means you are ready to play.”

Then, Quinter blitzed the Indians with 12 straight points to open the second quarter and were never threatened in a 53-35 sub-state championship game victory. QHS qualified for state for the first time since the Class 1A, Division II title in ’18. Briggs had eight points, Gillespie four and Cashlyn Kvasnicka two assists in the 12-0 surge.

“We told them to play our game and push the ball,” Havlas said. “And look to score. Everyone had the nerves going that first quarter. Both teams. But we came out, and we were very aggressive, and got the ball inside.”

2017, ’18 and this year mark the three state berths under Havlas. He cleared 100 career wins earlier this winter. Before ’17, Quinter had four all-time state berths.

“Since the beginning of the season, we knew that we were a state team,” Gillespie said.

St. Francis finished 18-4, the most wins in 40-plus years. The Indians had a couple players sick for the first two Quinter meetings.

“We didn’t play well,” SF coach Brad Porubsky said of the first two meetings. “Obviously the score tonight is the same, so I thought we did a little bit better.”

Last season, Quinter went through an injury-plagued year and didn’t have Briggs, who moved to Nebraska for the season because of family. QHS won eight games. Then, Briggs, who had grown up in Quinter, came back.

“What a difference maker,” Havlas said. “Anna Briggs, what a difference maker.”

She played with the Bulldogs this summer. SIK named Quinter a Potential Breakout Team in December.

“Everyone knew our goals instantly changed,” Havlas said.

Since Briggs returned, Quinter has talked about playing in four championship games. QHS is 3 of 3 thus far. A Castle Rock Classic championship in December, the NWKL tournament crown and Saturday’s sub-state plaque.

“We won our first three,” Havlas said. “And then our goal hasn’t changed.”

The coaches have often talked about 2018 with the current group. Kvasnicka went to Dodge City and watched the state title run from the stands. Her sister was a freshman on that squad and played JV.

“It was still so cool,” Kvasnicka said. “Like I had tears coming out of my eyes.”


Quinter, including a bye, improved to 20-3, a plus-12 win improvement from last season. Kvasnicka and her teammates wore big smiles and exuded joy throughout the postgame celebration and multiple rounds of photos in Quinter’s auxiliary gym.

“It’s incredible,” Kvasnicka said. “We come, and we work everyday, and we say we practice like it’s our last, and we play every game like it’s a summer league game. We have fun, and it’s so rewarding to go in the locker room. We are spraying coach with water. It’s so fun. It’s something we’ve always wanted to do, and we are just knocking off our goals, just one game at a time.”

Class 1A, Division I, held next week at Dodge City’s United Wireless Arena, is relatively wide-open. The top-four teams from ’22 state didn’t qualify, including defending champion Pretty Prairie. Neither did No. 1-ranked Little River.

No. 2 seed Quinter (20-3) will face No. 7 Olpe (16-7) at 6 p.m. on Wednesday in the state quarterfinals at Dodge City’s United Wireless Arena.

“With the upsets of Pretty Prairie and Little River, we are excited,” Kvasnicka said. “Our first round is kind of the hardest. I think everyone said we are more nervous for Thursday than they were today. I mean everyone is still so nervous they would have puked, but everyone was more relaxed, and we were just here to have fun. It was. That game was so fun.”

Havlas and Crist know QHS’ mixture of Briggs, athleticism and speed puts the Bulldogs in position for another crown.

“We are athletic,” Havlas said. “We can shoot the ball. We have a 6-2 inside that protects the rim and can score. I think we are a dangerous team at state. I don’t want to sound cocky. I just know that we are a dangerous team, and I wouldn’t want to be the team that comes to play us. Because similarities to our state run, when we won state, it’s been all year, it’s been something. And it’s just like, ‘Man, this could be it. We have a chance.’ And winning tonight gives us a chance and just so proud of the girls.”

2022-23 marks Crist’s last season with the program. Crist, a former QHS point guard, will move to Texas with his fiancé after the school year is done. Havlas and Crist are close friends and golfing partners.

“We are going to miss him a ton,” Havlas said. “And we have been through all this together. … We want to try to end his coaching career here with something special.”

Quinter opened 8-0 before a surprising 21-point loss to Wallace County. A 28-point defeat came versus Hoxie on Jan. 27. Both teams qualified for state. On Feb. 17, QHS played Oberlin on Senior Night. A win yielded the Northwest Kansas League regular season title. Quinter lost in double overtime. Havlas said “we didn’t play well” in the three losses.

However, Quinter is 3-0 since the Oberlin defeat. The Bulldogs beat WaKeeney by 10, a victory Havlas labeled “huge.” WaKeeney plays in the challenging Mid-Continent League. Quinter had lost three in a row to Trego. The Ness City victory followed. Before St. Francis, Havlas reminded the girls they were more than athletic and quicker than the Indians.

“This last one against Oberlin woke us up,” Havlas said.


Havlas admits he can play his starters too much. Quinter has generally used six players all season. However, Havlas has started to use eight down the stretch. Junior Caybrie Kvansicka hit five treys all season entering Saturday. She made a huge 3. Freshman Mia Briggs had seen time in blowouts. In the last three games, she’s logged meaningful minutes.

Anna Briggs averages 17 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks per game and has received significant college interest, notably from Tabor. Against St. Francis, she basically hit her season line with 17 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks.

She can run the floor. The left-hander took a rebound and dribbled down the left side. From midcourt, she threaded an angled bounce pass past several SF defenders to Gillespie on the right block.

“During practice, we are all just super fast paced, so we are always looking for those crazy passes,” Gillespie said. “I mean good court vision, so we know when we can make something happen.”

The Bulldogs had struggled with backside rebounding for most of the winter. On Saturday, Quinter had its usual pregame tunnel near the gymnasium doorway before it went onto the court to start. Havlas turned to Gillespie and told her QHS needed her on the backside rebounding.

“She looked at me and said, ‘I will get them coach,’” Havlas said. “And she had a great first half.”

Gillespie delivered her first double-double this winter, 16 points and 10 rebounds. QHS finished plus-7 on the glass.

“Gillespie stepped up and hurt us, and I thought we did decent on Briggs,” Porubsky said. “But we just had one quarter struggling scoring and rebounding.”

Selensky limited St. Francis standout Gracie Parsons, who averages 17 points per game, to 18 on just three made field goals.

“Incredible,” Kvasnicka said. “Kelsey works so hard on defense, and that’s why we always have her on the best player, and Bryn is always so aggressive, and that’s what we wanted – to outrebound them tonight, and I think we did.”

St. Francis had the bulk of its points from the foul line. After three quarters, the Indians were 4 of 24 from the field. Quinter led by double figures the entire fourth quarter. Havlas and Crist high-fived as the game ended as the Bulldogs celebrated on the court.

“Kelsey is quick, and she is strong,” Havlas added. “And she can defend, and we didn’t want Anna to get fouls, and Anna can help off her man and get blocks, so that was our game plan.”

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