Basketball in Kansas: Looking at every girls’ state qualifying team

Burlingame is headed to state for the first time. (Photo: Burlingame athletics).


Sports In Kansas highlights every girls’ basketball team below. Below are links for SIK’s favorite, runner-up and darkhorse picks for each classification, as well as other state coverage. All history from Carol Swenson.

Class 6A

1.Olathe North (22-0) – Olathe North has been ranked No. 1 in Kansas most of the season. North is trying for the first state championship and second finals berth in school annals. The best season came in 1997 when the Eagles won their first 24 games and lost in the state championship. Olathe North has permitted 30.1 points per game. North is very balanced with the top-five players averaging between seven and 10.3 points a contest. Junior Tyriana Stanford is at 10.3 points and two steals per game. Senior Ashlyn Alloway, part of SIK’s all-underrated team earlier this season, has 9.9 points, six rebounds and 2.4 steals a contest. Senior 6-2 post Yiibari Nwidadah is headed to Washburn and delivers nine points and 9.6 rebounds a contest. Senior Sania Copeland has committed to Missouri State and delivers 7.9 points and 4.8 assists a contest. Senior Saniya Simmons has seven points with 3.8 steals a contest. Simmons has the school career steals record.

8. Blue Valley North (13-9) – This marks North’s first trip to state since ’18. Ann Fritz is Blue Valley North’s longtime coach. The roster features four seniors: Carly Hoban, Natalie Jones, Mary Crossland and Caroline Cool. Freshman Aubrey Shaw has multiple Division I offers, including Arkansas. Her brother also has an Arkansas offer. As an eighth grader, the 6-1 Shaw already had offers from Oklahoma, Louisville, Kansas and Vanderbilt.

4. Washburn Rural (20-2) – Rural is ranked third with both losses to Centennial League rival Topeka High. Rural is the lone squad to beat Derby this winter. Coach Kevin Bordewick is a legend for volleyball and girls’ basketball. Junior post Brooklyn Deleye was the Kansas volleyball player of the year and has committed to Kentucky volleyball. Zoe Canfield comes from a highly athletic family.

5. Dodge City (19-3) – Dodge City, with coach Kelly Snodgrass, has made back-to-back state tournament appearances. Last season, Kisa Unruh set the school career scoring record. Camree Johnson broke the mark this winter. Per DC broadcaster Sean Boston and DC athletics, Johnson, Amaya Perez and Victoria Gonzalez have all played at least 75 career games. Johnson has 88, one off the all-time DC record. She has 1,143 points and 431 field goals, which are also school records. Johnson has 201 free throws and could break the school mark of 211. Johnson has sunk 52.6 percent of shots. Johnson has signed with Hutchinson Community College, and Perez to Newman. Johnson also records for consecutive free throws (27), single season points scored (408), single season field goal percentage (64.6), and single season shots made (150). Johnson has averaged 18.5 points per game, while Becca Unruh has eight points a game and 55 assists. Gonzalez has 81 assists, and Perez has 70 assists.

2. Derby (21-1) – Derby, ranked fourth in 6A, has enjoyed another big season behind its two high-major Division I recruits: Addy Brown and Maryn Archer. Last season, Archer missed most of the season with injury. She has committed to Arkansas. Derby has made state seven straight seasons. Daniel Harrison is in first season as head coach after he took over for Jodie Karsak, who moved to the Kansas City area. Brown, a junior, has 14.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.7 steals a contest. Archer, a junior, has 10.5 points, 4.9 assists and three steals a contest. Senior post Tatum Boettjer has committed to Barton County CC volleyball and has 7.5 points and 3.9 rebounds a contest. Sophomore Naomi White has 11.8 points a contest.

7. Shawnee Mission West (18-4) – SM West has S’Mya Nichols, who, along with Phillipsburg’s Taryn Sides, Nickerson’s Ava Jones and Hugoton’s Mikyn Hamlin, are considered the state’s top-four juniors – and possibly the top-six for all classes and levels. West is ranked tenth.

3. Topeka (20-2) – Topeka has posted state runner-up, undefeated Forever Four and state runner-up the last three seasons. Topeka won state softball last spring. Post NiJaree Canady, a consensus top-5 all classes player last winter and a Stanford softball signee, elected to not play basketball. Junior Kiki Smith has 18.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 4.3 steals a game. Senior Tae Thomas has 14.6 points and 3.4 rebounds and has signed to Division II Northwest Oklahoma State. Junior Adisyn Carl, an Illinois softball commit, has emerged as a key player and was also part of SIK’s underrated team. She has 6.6 points and 8.5 rebounds.

6. Blue Valley (19-3) – BV is ranked sixth in 6A. Blue Valley has made state back-to-back years.  Jadyn Wooten leads with 18.9 points a contest, per KC High School Hoops. Sophie Deveney has delivered 10.3 points a contest.

Class 5A

1.Salina Central (22-0) – Hays High coach Len Melvin called Salina Central clearly Kansas’ best team. The Mustangs brought everyone back from its state final four team last winter. SC is on pace to break the state record for team 3-point percentage. SC has its well-known trio of senior Aubrie Kierscht, senior Hampton Williams and junior point guard Mykayla Cunningham. Kierscht has signed with Navy, Williams with Abilene Christian. SC has won every game by at least 11 points. Kierscht has 21.6 points a game, while Williams is at 10.2 points and 6.8 rebounds.

A junior, Cunningham has delivered 9.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. Seniors Chaliscia Samilton and Landry Stewart have combined for 13.9 points a contest. SC lost to Andover Central in the final four last winter. SC is ranked first in 5A. Overall, SC is 202 of 497 for 41 percent from beyond the arc. Kierscht has 105 treys this season and 309 in her career. The state records are 132 for a single season and 331 for career.

8. De Soto (15-7) – De Soto has made state six times, including ’16, ’17, ’20 and this winter. De Soto has three seniors: Kellan Mahnken, Sadie Carver and Macy Carver.

4. Lansing (19-3) – Lansing won state volleyball in the fall behind Kamryn Farris and Caitlin Bishop, two of basketball’s top players. Lansing went to the final four last winter for the best season in school history. Before last season, the Lions had not made state since ’09. This marks the first time Lansing has made state in back-to-back years. Bishop broke the single game assist record with 18. She has signed with Division II Missouri-St. Louis volleyball, and was 5A volleyball player of the year. Lansing has won the United Kansas Conference in back-to-back years. Farris has school career marks for scoring and rebounding.

5. Emporia (17-5) – Emporia has been one of the bigger 5A surprises after it was ranked low in the preseason and currently sits fourth. EHS is at state for the first time since ’15. Gracie Gilpin is Emporia’s standout player. The Spartans had three straight losing seasons before a big jump last winter. EHS’ four losses are two apiece to Washburn Rural and Topeka High and a six-point defeat to Topeka Seaman. Emporia has no losses outside of the Centennial League.

2. St. Thomas Aquinas (20-2) – One of the biggest questions for all classes: Can Salina Central/someone else beat St. Thomas Aquinas? Post Beatrice Culliton has committed to Oklahoma. She, Aubrie Kierscht and Andover Central’s Brittany Harshaw are on the short list for Kansas’ best senior. Aquinas won state last winter. The Saints split with rival Bishop Miege and lost to regional Missouri power Rock Bridge. With coach Rick Hetzel, Aquinas has nine titles: including ’16-19, and last winter.

7. Spring Hill (16-6) – Spring Hill is at state for the first time since ’03. SH has improved its win total for a third straight year.

3. Bishop Carroll (19-3) – This is a rematch from the season opener that Andover Central won 59-53. Bishop Carroll is ranked third in 5A. BC has one title, in ’04. The Eagles are at state for the first time since four in a row from ’15-18. Carroll lost to Dodge City on Jan. 28 and split with Wichita Heights.

6. Andover Central (17-5) – Andover Central returns a bevy of stars from its state runner-up team. AC is currently ranked seventh. AC has seven final four appearances, all since ’06, and championships in ’08 and ’10. Senior Brittany Harshaw has committed to Creighton. She has 18.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.7 steals a contest. Senior Ellie Stearns is headed to Fort Hays, which will host a NCAA Division II regional tournament next week. She has 13 points and 5.1 rebounds a game. Junior Maddi Amekporfor has 10.1 points a game. The Jaguars average 53.3 points a contest.

Class 4A

1. Wellington (22-0) – Wellington, one of Kansas’ top stories, is looking for the first final in school annals. The Crusaders, with veteran coach Eric Adams, ended Cheney’s 37-game winning streak in December. Wellington plays full court press with its two seniors Airalyn Frame and Ali Zeka, elite freshmen Valerie Norwood and Britt Zeka, and standout junior defender Ashlyn Gerten. Wellington has helped make the 4A girls’ tournament highly compelling, though the road will be challenging with McPherson and the winner of Bishop Miege/Andale. Wellington defeated Andale twice this winter. Wellington has been ranked first in 4A for multiple weeks. Wellington has one all-time final four, in ’16. Sumner Newscow, which regularly covers Wellington, noted that the Zeka’s mother was a McPherson standout in the mid-90s.

8. McPherson (15-7) – McPherson, with longtime coach Chris Strathman, has made state seven straight seasons and 27 of the past 30. McPherson posted state runner-up to Miege last winter. The Bullpups have made five straight final fours, including the 2018 champion. McPherson’s losses have mainly come against 6A state qualifiers: Dodge City, Blue Valley and Derby, plus a defeat to Shawnee Mission Northwest, the defending 6A champion. McPherson also lost to Andale.

Miege, McPherson and St. Thomas Aquinas are the three most tradition-rich programs in Kansas. McPherson bounced back after four straight losses. McPherson has primarily used a seven-girl rotation with starters Lauren Labertew, Peyton Howard, Ella Schmid, Karter Alvord and Chloe Clevenger, who moved in from Doniphan West after she was all-state in cross country, basketball and track. McPherson has allowed around 32 points a game. McPherson is ranked ninth in 4A. McPherson has won 15 straight league titles, a stretch where the Bullpups are 152-4 in league play.

4. Bishop Miege (20-2) – Miege lost All-American Payton Verhulst to Louisville and guard Emajin McCallop, a Division I Alabama A&M signing, hurt her knee and hasn’t played. Legendary coach Terry English and his son, Jeff, swapped coaching places. Jeff had been his dad’s longtime assistant. Still, the Stags have continued to dominate with a split of St. Thomas Aquinas and a win versus Topeka High. Freshman Kirston Verhulst has delivered a huge season. Gabi Henderson-Artis has committed to Washburn. Allie Burns and Grace McCallop are key players. Miege remains a strong state contender again and is ranked second in 4A. Miege has delivered more than 60 points a contest. Verhulst has delivered 14.6 points a game, while Henderson-Artis has 12.8 points a game. Burns is at 11.3 points a contest, per KC High School Hoops. Verhulst and Henderson-Artis have combined for 88 treys and combined for 39.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

5. Andale (18-4) – Andale went through midseason tragedy when coach Ted Anderson unexpectedly passed away. Andale was a final four team last winter and won 4A state volleyball. Junior McKenzie Fairchild, the 4A volleyball player of the year, paces a team ranked fifth. Andale has qualified for state in six of the last eight seasons.

2. Eudora (21-1) – Eudora is one of two teams to beat Wamego this winter, and has Harper Schreiner, a Pittsburg State commit. Eudora is ranked third. Eudora is at state for the third time in four years. Eudora has won 21 straight games.

7. Clay Center (16-6) – Clay Center has made state eight of the last nine seasons with coach Jeff Edwards. CC split with Wamego this winter. Clay Center has won seven in a row after three straight losses in midseason.

3. Wamego (20-2) – Wamego is back to state for the second straight year under Brian McIntosh, who has significantly elevated the program. The Red Raiders are ranked fourth in 4A. Wamego has standout Paige Donnelly, along with plenty of depth. Key player Maya Gallagher has committed to Holy Cross softball. Wamego has significantly upped its scoring offense from last winter. The Red Raiders have 57.3 points a game after 44 a contest last season. Senior Cadence Kueker, who has inked with Oklahoma State equestrian, has returned from injury. Senior Ryann Alderson, junior Ashten Pierson and junior Trista Hoobler are key players, too. Wamego won the North Central Kansas League title.

6. Labette County (18-4) – Labette County beat SEK rival Fort Scott in a rubber match for the sub-state championship game. LC and FS had split the regular season meets. LC is ranked tenth in 4A. LC has made two state games, in ’01 and ’05. The Grizzlies have made state five of the last seven years. LC has won six in a row after a 55-53 double overtime loss to Fort Scott. Madison Brannin cleared 1,000 career points.

Class 3A

1.Silver Lake (22-1) – Coach Kyle Porter won a state title with Royal Valley in 2019. He went to Hays High for one season before he returned east to Silver Lake. Last season, SL was the No. 8 seed in the 3A tournament. SL was a SIK Potential Breakout Team in December with its experienced corps. SL is ranked first in 3A. Silver Lake has won six basketball titles, the last three coming in ’02, ’12 and ’16. SL has a plus-nine win improvement from last winter and brought back four starters: Mariah Farmer, Taylor Ross, McKinley Kruger, and MaKenzie McDaniel.

8. Cherryvale (15-8) – This is Cherryvale’s third all-time state appearance, in ’08 and ’09. Cherryvale defeated Galena (56-54) and Neodesha (59-53) to win its sub-state. It marked just the third meeting against Galena since 2015. Cherryvale went 2-1 against rival Neodesha this season. Kelsey Overacker was a former Cherryvale standout in her fourth season at her alma mater.

4. Goodland (21-2) – Goodland is at state for the first time since 2006. The Cowgirls were well under .500 in ’18-19, won 12 games two years ago, 18 last winter and the breakthrough season this winter. Five girls average at least seven points a game. Goodland is known for its 1-3-1 defense. The core group has turned around volleyball, too, with a final four and state appearance the last two falls. Goodland has one senior, Emma Lehman. Junior Talexa Weeter averages 18 points per game, though had three in the sub-state championship game. She had averaged 23 a contest in the first two sub-state games. Lehman, Weeter, Olivia Lehman and Lindsey Cure are all at least 5-11. Jaxi Mitchek, sophomore Haley Biermann and sophomore Haley Blochlinger are key players. Goodland lost to Hugoton in OT in league play when Hugoton hit an off-balanced 3-pointer at the end of regulation to tie. Goodland is ranked sixth in 3A. Goodland beat Phillipsburg, 40-33, in the sub-state title game. Phillipsburg has the state’s leading scorer, Taryn Sides.

5. Southeast of Saline (20-3) – SES returned all five starters, including Karsyn Schlesener, who has exceeded 1,000 career points. She averaged 19 points a game last winter. SES and 6A Olathe West are the lone two squads to beat Hugoton. SES has no player over 5-9. Maddie Harris has also enjoyed a nice season. SES is seventh in 3A. The Trojans are at state for the first time since ’16.

2. Nickerson (22-1) – Nickerson was a Forever Four team in 2020 and lost to McPherson in the state quarterfinals. The Panthers’ only defeat came against Cheney. Nickerson has its veteran group paced by 6-2 junior Ava Jones, on the short list for Kansas’ best player and an Arizona State commit. Jones averages 21 points and 15.7 rebounds a contest. She shoots 60 percent from the field. Five players – Destiny Ponds, Kalyse Abernathy, Alexis Allen, Josie McLean and Kieryn Ontjes – have between 5.8 and 7.7 points a contest. McLean averages 3.1 assists and two steals a contest. Nickerson had been ranked first part of the season and is currently fourth.

7. Frontenac (15-5) – Frontenac has been Forever Four and final four the last two seasons for coach Scott Fields. Multiple sport all-state pick Heather Arnett has committed to Pittsburg State. Hattie Pyle is a terrific player. Five-foot-10 senior Sydney Frankenbury, junior Mia Brown and senior Sarah Wood are the other three Frontenac starters.

3. Hugoton (21-2) – One of the premier girls’ programs in Kansas, the Eagles opened No. 1 in 3A. Hugoton lost to Sabetha in the state final four last winter. The Eagles have its well-known junior trio of Mikyn Hamlin, Summya Adigun and Gianna Vos. Hamlin has committed to Wyoming basketball. Adigun’s offers include NAIA power Sterling, while Vos has Division II offers. Adigun averages a double-double. Hamlin, a Wyoming commit, has helped Hugoton to its seventh state appearance in the last nine seasons, including a pair of state championships. Before then, Hugoton had one state appearance and no state wins. Hamlin is at 18.4 points and 7.3 rebounds. Vos has 12.7 points and 3.3 rebounds. Adigun averages a double-double with 12.2 points and 10 rebounds. Senior Breckyn Haar has 5.6 points and 5.3 rebounds a game. Hugoton has an average margin of 56-36. Hamlin has 1,264 career points for 18.3 a game.

6. Santa Fe Trail (19-4) – Santa Fe Trail is at state for the first time since 2014 and second since 1999. Four players average double figures: sophomore Kaelee Washington (16.3), senior Jaycee Long (12.6), sophomore Braegen Buessing (12.3) and junior Sydnee Whitaker (10.5).

Class 2A

1.Sterling (23-0) – Sterling has the state’s longest current winning streak at 37 games. Sterling’s large senior class has posted state runner-up, state qualification and the first championship in school history. The Black Bears gave Berean Academy and Central Plains their only losses. Sterling beat Colgan in the title last winter. The pair is favored to meet again. Sterling has been the No. 1 team in 2A all winter. Senior point guard Kali Briar, a four-year starter and Sterling College commit, is the reigning 2A Player of the Year. Kate Rowland, Kayla Morris, Makenna Linden and Bennie Horsch are among the top players.

8. Mission Valley (14-8) – Mission Valley is at state for the first time since 1981. Junior Paige Martin has 12.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.5 steals a contest.

4. Berean Academy (22-1) – Heart of America foes Sterling and Berean are ranked 1-2 in 2A. Berean’s only loss came against Sterling. BA has one title, in ’08. Berean defeated Hutchinson Central Christian for a quality win. Berean has won five straight games.

5. Valley Heights (21-2) – Valley Heights graduated just one player from last season’s squad that lost to Colgan in the state final four. VH has three standout seniors: Emma Yungeberg, Cat Toerber and Sam Vermetten. VH’s lone losses came to undefeated Centralia by a total of six points. Yungeberg has averaged 16 points a game. She has signed with Michigan track and field. Toerber made eight treys against Republic County in the sub-state, which broke her game record of seven, according to the Marysville Advocate.

2. Pittsburg Colgan (21-0) – Colgan won the CNC after it finished second to Sterling at state last winter for the best season in school history. Coach Abby Farabi has its well-known roster that includes point guard Lauren Yaghmour and posts Lauren Torrance and Lily Brown. All three were all-state at some level last year and will be so again this season. Among other quality wins, Colgan swept rival Frontenac, a 3A state qualifier.

7. Garden Plain (17-6) – Garden Plain is at state for a fifth straight year. GP won titles in ’18 and ’19 and was Forever Four in ’20. The Owls lost to Sterling in the first round last season. As normal, GP has plenty of depth. The Owls have no player in double figures. Junior Celia Puetz has 9.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Senior Brooke Hammond, a multiple time track champion, has 8.6 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. Garden Plain is ranked tenth.

3. Jackson Heights (22-1) – In ’19, Jackson Heights ended a 20-year state drought. The Cobras have 11 all-time state trips and six final fours. JH’s five key players are: juniors Kanyon Olberding, Kaylee Thompson, Rebekah Hutfles, and senior duo of MaKenzie McMahon and Kylee Dieckmann. JH is ranked fifth in the classification. Olberding has 17.1 points, four steals and 3.5 assists a contest. Thomas has 14.1 points and 9.5 rebounds. Hutfles has 6.8 points a game. McMahon has 5.8 points a contest. JH has won 45 straight league games. The Cobras has three straight years undefeated at home for a 27-game home winning streak. Coach Dan Shupe went over 400 career wins this season.

6. Smith Center (19-4) – Smith Center has one basketball championship, in ’13. SC, Phillipsburg and Thomas More Prep-Marian shared the Mid-Continent League regular season title. All three teams won at least 18 games. SC won 2A volleyball in the fall. Tallon Rentschler signed with Fort Hays volleyball and was the 2A player of the year. She is second all-time in scoring for SC basketball with more than 1,000 career points. Coach Nick Linn has more than 940 volleyball wins and 500 basketball victories. SC has a three-win improvement from last season.

Class 1A, Division I

1.Jetmore-Hodgeman County (23-0) – Hodgeman County had a big improvement to a surprise 1A-I state final four showing last winter. HC lost to eventual champion Olpe. HC is dominant on defense and rebounding margin. The Longhorns have allowed 33 points a game. Junior Malynn Beil has 12.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, three steals and 2.6 assists a game. Sophomore Morgan Ruff has 9.9 points and 4.4 rebounds. Senior Kaylee James has 8.8 points and three steals a contest. Senior Grace Shiew has 7.5 points and 6.1 rebounds a game. HC has won games by eight, four, four, six, four and five points.

8. Clifton-Clyde (16-8) – Clifton-Clyde qualified for state for the first time since 2009. Sophomore Shea Wurtz has 12 points and eight rebounds a game.

4. Osborne (22-1) – Junior Trinity Lutters has 21.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.4 steals, and 3.1 assists a game. Sophomore Grace Riner has 12.7 points and 4.7 assists a game. For her career, Lutters has 19.4 points a contest and 1,319 career points.

5. Pretty Prairie (22-1) – Pretty Prairie went 2-1 against Norwich this season, including a win in the sub-state title game. PP has standout post McKenna Vogl, who has KCAC offers, and guard Jorah Harbaugh. Pretty Prairie has its first state trip since 2000. Vogl has 13.3 points and 8.2 rebounds a contest. Harbaugh has 11.7 points. Junior Bailey Young has 11.2 points a game.

2. Centralia (23-0) – Centralia has enjoyed a big season from sisters Avery and Oen Deters. The Panthers have the top resume among the eight state qualifiers in the classification. Centralia was a Forever Four team in 2020. Centralia has two wins against Valley Heights, two against Hanover and a 3A win versus Nemaha Central.

7. Spearville (17-7) – Spearville is 10-2 in its last 12 games. The Lancers were 0-2 against Coldwater-South Central this season, and then flipped the result in the sub-state title game. Spearville is 34-12 in two seasons with coach Todd Cossman, and won state volleyball in the fall. Point guard Taegen Pedigo was a key supporting player on Spearville’s undefeated Forever Four team in 2020. In the last two seasons, Pedigo has been in the top-10 in Kansas in assists. She has more the most assists by a Spearville player since least 2005.

3. Little River (22-1) – Little River was ranked No. 1 in the classification in the preseason and the first several weeks. LR has post Lily Boughfman, who has signed with Fort Hays volleyball. She has 14.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Sophomore Aubrey Olander has 10.5 points and seven rebounds a contest. Little River beat Burlingame, 43-29.

6. Burlingame (20-2) – Burlingame is at state for the first time in school history. Jeff Slater, also head football and track coach, has done an impressive job turning around the program. The Bearcats have set a bevy of school records this winter. Burlingame split against Lebo and lost versus Little River. Burlingame beat St. Paul, 44-39, in the sub-state title game. Four-sport standout Daelyn Winters paced with 20 points, including three 3s. Winters cleared 1,000 career points. Kaylin Noonan broke the single season scoring record. Winters is also the single-game and season record holder for 3s made. Winters missed a couple of games in midseason with an injury, though returned for the Lyon County League midseason tournament title. Burlingame won the LCL tournament for the first time. Slater and his wife had a child born Monday.

Class 1A, Division II

1.Golden Plains (22-0) – Golden Plains has by far the state’s longest regular season winning streak. GP has not lost a regular season game since Feb. 15, 2018 to Hill City. Parker Christensen has coached 28 years with the Owls. Kassie Miller has cleared 1,000 career points. GP lost to Central Plains in the state final four. The Bulldogs are a highly deep squad, including Breanna Rath and Morgan Wark.

8. Bucklin (11-12) – Bucklin boys and girls qualified for state in the same year for the first time. Bucklin lost to Ashland in the season opener, and then defeated the Bluejays in the sub-state championship game. Junior Haile Feikert and sophomore Sydnie Jones have combined for around 26 points a game.

4. South Haven (20-3) – South Haven won the South Central Border League midseason tournament championship. Macey Pond is a top player, along with junior Kami Butler. SH has an eight-win improvement from last winter.

5. Hutchinson Central Christian (20-3) – Coach DJ Kauffman has started three seniors: Leia Shank, Samantha Ramsey and Aly Lambert, along with junior point guard Kaylee Kaufman and freshman Anna Lambert. The team has enjoyed strong team chemistry. The 6-foot Ramsey is the team’s top defender. Central Christian owns a win against Little River, which was ranked No. 1 in 1A-I at the time.

2. Central Plains (22-1) – Central Plains will match against Beloit St. John’s/Tipton for the first time since a 62-11 win in the 2019 Russell tournament. The Oilers have its standout duo of Brynna Hammeke and Kassidy Nixon, both first team all-state selections. Central Plains won every title from ’14-19, had the undefeated Forever Four season in 2020 and won state last season. Coach Pat Stiles and assistant Jim Ryan have continued their remarkable run. CP owns wins against Smith Center and Phillipsburg and only lost to Sterling.

7. Beloit St. John’s/Tipton (17-6) – BSJT was a final four team last season and graduated Lauryn Dubbert, who played a key role as a freshman for Newman basketball this winter. Coach Leah Bergmann’s top-six players average between 5.8 and 9.5 points per game. Junior Ella Wiles has 7.1 rebounds a game. The group includes seniors Leah Brummer and Paige Hollerich, sophomore Jenna Gengler, Wiles, freshman Carlie Brummer and junior Katie Brummer.

3. Lebo (22-1) – Lebo has two previous state titles, with undefeated crowns in ’94 and ’01. Lebo split with Burlingame and has won eight straight games. Senior Alli Moore, senior Abby Peek, freshmen Audrey Peek and Saige Hadley and junior Brooklyn Jones are the top players for coach Patrick Gardner.

6. Hanover (19-4) – Hanover has final fours in ’17, ’18, ’19 and ’20. That includes two titles, a second and a Forever Four. The Wildcats won state volleyball in the fall and have tremendous athleticism. The top-six players average between 6.7 and 9.6 points a game, including multi-sport star Ceegan Atkins.

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