By CONOR NICHOLL
Last March, the Class 4A girls’ state basketball tournament received significant statewide interest. Bishop Miege rolled to a title with wins by 39, 40 and 26 points. The other seven teams were public schools Eudora, Wamego, Wellington, Andale, Clay Center, Labette County and McPherson.
Eudora took second and won the first state games in program annals, Wamego third and Wellington fourth.
Games not involving Bishop Miege came down to two, four, four, eight and seven point margins. The 4A girls’ disparity between Miege and non-Miege has spurred along the debate between public vs. private competition in Kansas.
Since then, 4A has underwent significant changes. Miege coach Jeff English resigned. His dad, Terry, had won more than 900 games with the Stags before he became Jeff’s assistant. Then, Terry took over for his son and untimely passed away.
Eudora graduated Harper Schreiner, the 4A Player of the Year. Wamego graduated Paige Donnelly, a consensus first team all-state pick. Wellington, maybe Kansas’ biggest breakout team last winter, didn’t lose until the final four. Wellington had multiple players on SIK’s All-Underrated Team last winter, including Val Norwood, Britt Zeka and Ashlyn Gerten, an eventual conference defensive player of the year.
This season, Miege is considered a heavy favorite, but through the first two weeks of Kansas 2022-23 basketball season has delivered two trends:
4A Girls is loaded – and likely deeper than last year.
Wellington, McPherson, Parsons, Wamego, Hugoton and Rock Creek have all posted great starts, including marquee wins against 5/6A schools.
Last week’s Kansas Basketball Coaches Association (KBCA) rankings went: Bishop Miege, Wamego, McPherson, Hugoton, Andale, Wellington, Eudora, Rock Creek, Baldwin and Holton. Hugoton moved up from 3A after a final four and a 3A state runner-up showing the last two years.
First, Wellington girls aren’t surprising anyone this season.
As of Sunday night, the top records were: Bishop Miege (2-0), Wamego (3-0), McPherson (2-1), Hugoton (2-1), Andale (1-0), Wellington (3-0), and Eudora (1-1). Plus, Independence has opened 4-0, and Parsons is 3-0, via KSHSAA results.
The Crusaders have not lost in the regular season since Feb. 12, 2021, among the five longest for all classes in Kansas girls’ basketball, per SIK research. Wellington participated in the Cheney Cardinal Classic last week.
On Monday, Wellington defeated Cheney, 50-38. On Thursday, Wellington beat Pratt, 53-22. Both Cheney and Pratt should be significantly over .500 this year.
On Saturday, Wellington girls rolled over Chaparral, 64-27, and captured the Classic championship. Zeka finished with 19 points.
Freshman 6-foot Kylan Gregory earned all-tournament team honors. Sophomores Val Norwood (5-8) and Zeka (5-10) also earned all-tournament recognition. In one of the early week games, Norwood picked up 19 points, nine rebounds, four deflections and six steals.
The other girls’ all-tournament picks were: Chaparral’s Haley Kangas, Cheney’s Leah Durr and Campbell Hague, and Pratt’s Gabby Gatlin and Jaycie Theis.
Also in 4A, Wamego opened with a quality 57-52 win against Topeka High. Topeka was a combined 88-8 in the last four years.
Rock Creek is 3-0 and has allowed no more than 34 points in any contest. RC started 6-0 last year but is much more dominating statistically than last winter.
McPherson opened with a 43-37 win against 6A Dodge City and earned a huge 65-41 win against Andover on Friday. AHS is ranked No. 2 in 5A.
Andover junior Brooke Walker is the No. 1 Kansas recruit in her class, per Prep Girls Hoops. AHS’ Alana Shetlar is a Division I talent. McPherson was 1-2 against Dodge City in the last three seasons.
Chloe Clevenger, a multi-sport star in her freshman and sophomore years at Doniphan West and the last two seasons at McPherson, contained Walker. Karter Alvord defended Shetlar. They held the Division I duo to 6 of 31 shooting. McPherson has qualified for state 27 of the last 30 years and won 15 straight league championships.
Hugoton has wins against 5A Newton and 6A Manhattan and only lost to an out-of-state school. Wyoming signee Mikyn Hamlin is currently out with a knee injury. Division II signees Summya Adigun and Gianna Vos have led the Eagles.
Parsons opened with a 58-51 win against Girard, a consistent 3A power.
Parsons girls won the Mulvane tournament, 31-27, on Saturday against the host Wildcats. Last season, Parsons opened 2-3, including losses to Girard and against host Circle in the Circle tournament. Two years ago, Parsons started 0-6 and finished 5-12. In ’19-20, Parsons went 0-19, per MaxPreps.
Parsons had lost four in a row to Girard and was 2-15 in its last 17 contests against the Trojans before the win this season.
Big Performances from Around the State:
SIK has predicted breakout seasons for both Quinter boys and girls. Both teams took major steps in that direction in its host Castle Rock Classic this week. Quinter girls defeated Rawlins County, 53-49, in the title game Saturday. Veteran coaches Matt Havlas and Scott Crist have a loaded squad. Quinter is 4-0. After the first three games, 6-foot-2 senior Anna Briggs delivered 18.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, three steals and 2.7 blocks. Sophomore Bryn Gillespie posted 11.7 points and 3.7 rebounds a game. Junior Kennedy Werth has 10 points, 4.7 assists and 3.7 steals a contest.
Quinter boys took third in the tournament and beat Dighton, 46-26, on Saturday.
Greeley County is ranked first in 1A-II and is the defending state champion. Jaxson Brandl is the returning classification player of the year. Lincoln Shafer hit the buzzer-beater game-winning trey to beat Hanover in the state title game. Greeley County defeated McClave (Colo.) 82-67. McClave is ranked No. 1 in 1A in Colorado. Brandl finished with 37 points. Shafer had 13, and Titus Sherer delivered 11.
Phillipsburg girls solidified itself as a state favorite with an Amos Morris tournament championship in Russell. The Panthers opened with a 70-44 win against Ellsworth. In the semifinals, the Panthers pulled away and beat rival Smith Center, 58-33. In the championship, Phillipsburg beat CP, 56-39.
Phillipsburg is currently ranked third in 3A, Smith Center is second in 2A, and Central Plains is ninth in 1A.
On the boys’ side, Ellsworth beat Russell, 55-44, in the title game.
Wellington defeated Hutchinson Trinity, 55-43, on Saturday to win the Cheney tournament. Sumner Newscow noted it marked the Crusader boys’ first tournament championship this decade. Wellington boys improved to 3-1.
On the boys’ side, Wellington’s Malachi Rogers and Banks Hinshaw picked up all-tournament team. The boys featured: Chaparral’s Jackson Swartz, Cheney’s Josh Burdick and Jack Voth, El Dorado’s Logan Gardner, Pratt’s Carson Hoeme and Trinity Catholic’s Blake Hammeke.
Mulvane boys defeated Parsons, 51-49, on Friday behind 34 points from Aiden McKee.
Hoxie girls earned SIK Potential Breakout Team recognition last week. The Indians continue to play well and posted a 41-38 win against Hodgeman County in the championship of the WaKeeney Purple and Gold tournament. HC was a 1A-I Final Four team the last two seasons. Hoxie is ranked ninth in 2A, and Hodgeman County is fifth in 1A-1. The Longhorns won the Purple and Gold tournament last year. This marked HC’s first regular season defeat since Jan. 30, 2021.
Hoxie boys won the WaKeeney tournament with a 47-36 championship game win against Northern Valley. Hoxie steadily pilled away with a 17-14 lead after the first quarter and 25-24 at halftime. NV is ranked second in 1A-II.
Macksville standout three-sport senior Ryan Kuckelman earned MVP of the Keady Classic all-tournament team in Larned. Kuckelman, Alexis Barron and Rogelio Ibarra collected all-tournament honors.
Hays High girls continue an impressive start with a big home win against Junction City on Friday. The Indians are 4-1.
Herington’s Leslyn Kremeier delivered six treys for the host Railers in its preseason tournament. A sophomore, Leslyn paced Kansas in digs this fall. Her older sister, Tristyn, set several 3-point shooting records at Herington and signed with Washburn basketball. Herington lost, 51-37, to Chase County.