By CONOR NICHOLL
This week, SIK looks at several league titles won, especially by the Wamego girls, Elkhart teams, Pittsburg boys, Colgan girls and Hanover boys. Plus, several huge conference matchups on Tuesday, including Ness City/Ellinwood for a conference crown, and Dodge City/Hays High. Surprise Hugoton boys has a chance to clinch league Friday.
Wamego girls win the NCKL League title
On Friday night, the Wamego girls’ basketball team won the North Central Kansas League regular season championship with a 49-19 win against Concordia. The Red Raiders became one of several squads to clinch at least a share of a title late last week. Several huge games, especially Dodge City at Hays High, have conference ramifications on Tuesday.
Wamego, ranked No. 4 in Class 4A, improved to 17-2, 8-1 in NCKL. That included a key split with rival Clay Center. Before this season, the Red Raiders were 1-13 in their last 14 meetings versus CC.
Wamego was league co-champions in ’19-20. Before then, it was ’13-14.
The Red Raiders have outperformed preseason expectations when they opened tenth by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association. This is Wamego’s best record in eight years and shows the continued growth under coach Brian McIntosh. Wamego has made three final fours in school history, in ’85, ’13 and ’14. The lone state title came in ’13. This has an opportunity to be one of the best teams in school annals.
For any team, the road to a league title for any team includes pivotal moments. For Wamego’s success this season, that journey runs through Emporia State and a unique student walk-out to support McIntosh last spring.
McIntosh has worked at a variety of programs in his career, including Shawnee Mission Northwest girls and Madison. Then, McIntosh became an assistant for five successful years with the Emporia State women.
“The college game is 100 percent different,” McIntosh told SIK in January. “Twenty-four/seven, you are a coach. Those players are away from home, and you have got to take care of them. Their car breaks down or they get sick during the night, it’s just like having a kid. It’s very time-consuming, but I loved it.
“Because I loved the relationships that I built with the players, and I still keep in touch with all of them now,” he added. “And then the basketball side of it, you are just watching film, you are practicing, you have time for workouts, and so you see a completely different side of what basketball is like. I absolutely loved it.”
McIntosh and his wife had two small children at the time. He called it a “very, very hard” decision to leave college and return to the high school ranks. McIntosh first helped Shawnee Mission North girls improve before he came to Wamego.
“I love Wamego,” McIntosh said. “The community is passionate and supportive, and you can see the success that the programs are having. College is awesome, but it is very, very time-consuming if you do right.”
Wamego had three straight six-win seasons before McIntosh has turned the program around. The Red Raiders are 12-9, 16-5, 16-7 and 17-2. Last season marked Wamego’s first state berth since ’14. Wamego has enjoyed great success across the board, including football, volleyball, softball and powerlifting. Wamego won its first softball state title last spring.
Last April, the school board held closed meetings regarding McIntosh. Around 75 students walked out to support McIntosh. He kept his job.
“You are going to have adversity in life, and when I took this job, I was prepared for that in my mind that there would come a time where something like that would happen,” McIntosh said. “But you have to believe. I am a big faith guy, and I knew that whatever was meant to be would come of that. But I think the relationships that you build with those students impact things like that, and fortunately, it turned out well on my behalf.”
This winter, Wamego has four seniors: all-state pick Paige Donnelly, Ryann Alderson, Cadence Kueker and Lou Lambert. Alderson has been a critical glue player, and Kueker is headed to Oklahoma State equestrian. As SIK noted earlier this season, Kueker had been out with injury throughout the year. Donnelly has averaged around 18 points a game this winter.
Wamego has consistently has great support for its programs, and McIntosh is known for those relationships, a constant that runs through his multiple stops. Recent graduate Alexis Billings was a key basketball and softball player. She is currently playing at Cloud County Community College softball. She came back to talk to the basketball team before a recent game.
Despite key injuries, Wamego has upped its scoring output from 44 points to 57.4 points per game. McIntosh and Wellington coach Eric Adams are in the high running for 4A Coach of the Year. On Friday, Wellington girls clinched at least a share of the AVCTL Division IV title and improved to 18-0 after a win Friday against Mulvane. The Crusaders have one previous conference title in girls’ basketball.
“The community support and the support from past players was incredible,” McIntosh said. “All the letters that came in, in support, and…the support of our students. I think it just shows the respect, the relationships that you build with them on a daily basis, and that’s why I got into teaching and coaching. I am not always right, and I make mistakes, but at the end of the day, you want to come and give everything you can to your kids.”
Elkhart and Hugoton sweep league titles; crowns for Pittsburg, TMP boys, three-way tie atop MCL girls
Elkhart swept the Hi-Plains League boys’ and girls’ league championships. Elkhart girls have won three straight regular season and tournament titles. Junior Clayton Cole had 28 points versus Southwestern Heights to help the Wildcats clinch the conference title. Cole also had a 30-point game versus Lakin last week. Elkhart boys are 14-5. Elkhart girls (17-2) are ranked seventh in 2A. The Wildcats have no losses to Kansas schools.
Elkhart senior Jenni Forbes has 12.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Senior Maycee Eagan has 9.3 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. Sophomore Isabel Gonzalez has 7.6 points, 4.3 steals and 3.6 rebounds a contest.
Pittsburg boys’ basketball clinched the outright boys’ title with a win against Labette County. Pittsburg has won back-to-back titles and sixth in the last seven season. Per Brian Thomas, Pittsburg has won 19 crowns in program annals. Mason English had 23 points. Pittsburg has a 12-4 mark.
Colgan sophomore Lily Brown finished with 30. Colgan is 18-0 and paces the Uniontown sub-state after another big win versus Frontenac, 52-41. Colgan has won the CNC championship. The Panthers are the defending 2A runner-up.
This is the third CNC title for veteran Colgan coach Abby Farabi. Colgan was part of a three-way tie atop the league last winter.
Hanover’s Emmitt Jueneman, known for his 40-plus inch vertical leap and the reigning Sports In Kansas Class 1A, Division II Player of the Year, cleared 1,000 career points. Hanover moved to 12-0 in league play and won the Twin Valley regular season title with a 72-56 win versus Troy. Hanover has won nine in a row.
On Friday, Phillip Doebele scored 21, Keagan Dimler and Emmitt Jueneman each had 20. Hanover is the defending DII champion. Hanover, Northern Valley and Bucklin are the state favorites. Hanover is 19-1 and is the heavy favorite in the Axtell sub-state. Hanover’s only loss came in a 57-50 contest versus rival Centralia on Jan. 22. Hanover bounced back and beat Centralia, 65-24, on Jan. 28.
Hanover, Northern Valley (18-1), Greeley County (18-2) and Bucklin have the three best records in the classification.
Bucklin’s Scott Price delivered 37 points on Friday. The Red Aces stand at 15-5 and are the heavy favorite in the Fowler sub-state. Bucklin is 171 of 595 on 3-pointers this season. The state record, set by Belleville in 2005, is 237 of 825, per SIK research, KS Sports Hall of Fame and Hays High broadcaster Dustin Armbruster. In recent years, Hays High boys was 229 of 730 in ’17-18.
Bucklin is tied in the loss column to South Gray in the SPIAA, but SG has the tiebreaker because of the head-to-head win.
Hugoton juniorRyle Riddlesperger delivered 20 points in a key 52-47 win versus Holcomb. Hugoton has done a highly impressive job under first-year coach Trey O’Neil. The Eagles are 15-3 with two losses to 6A Olathe West in early December. O’Neil had a great playing career at Scott City and Fort Hays before a highly successful run as a Hays High assistant coach. Hugoton took huge graduation losses by a state qualifying team last season.
The Eagles graduated 74 percent of its scoring. Hugoton has won 12 straight games. Junior Carson Bennett has 14 points, 4.4 rebounds and three assists a contest. Riddlesperger has 13.7 points and 2.8 assists a game. Sophomore Isaac Martin has 6.9 points and 4.1 rebounds. Senior Gavin Williams (6-foot-5) had 6.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Williams has especially stepped up after seeing little playing time last winter. The sophomore class has been solid role players.
Hugoton is now up to No. 6 in 3A after being unranked much of the season. The Eagles have one loss in GWAC play, to Scott City in a 60-59 loss on Jan. 7. Hugoton can win its fourth straight boys’ GWAC title Friday at home versus Ulysses. Hugoton beat Ulysses, 68-34, on Jan. 28.
Hugoton girls has already clinched the GWAC girls’ title. The Eagle girls, ranked No. 2 in 3A, stand at 16-2 and have won nine in a row.
Golden Plains’ Kassie Miller had 27 points in a 50-23 win versus Northern Valley. GP is 18-0, has not lost a regular season game in four years and is the only undefeated team in Class 1A, Division II. Defending champion Central Plains (19-1, only loss to No. 1 2A Sterling), Lebo (17-1) and Golden Plains are the headliners in Division II. South Haven (16-3), Central Christian (12-6), Wheatland-Grinnell (12-7) and Ashland (12-6) have delivered nice seasons. Central Plains is ranked first, Lebo second, Golden Plains third, Central Christian fourth, South Haven sixth and Wheatland-Grinnell tenth.
Phillipsburg junior Taryn Sides, a favorite for 3A Player of the Year and Kansas State commit, had back-to-back 40-point games this past week. Sides has cleared 1,400 career points – after she delivered 26 points and 19 rebounds in a double-overtime road win versus Thomas More Prep-Marian in a huge victory. Phillipsburg, Smith Center and TMP shared the Mid-Continent League regular season tournament championship. Goodland (17-2), TMP (16-3) and Phillipsburg (15-4) pace the Goodland sub-state. Goodland is sixth, Phillipsburg eighth and TMP ninth in 3A.
Last Thursday, Thomas More Prep-Marian delivered a double-digit comeback and won the Mid-Continent League regular season title in an overtime win against Norton. TMP clinched the midseason tournament, too. The Monarchs won, 46-44. TMP also won at WaKeeney in overtime in a late comeback in another crucial league victory. The Monarchs stand at 15-4.
Ness City at Ellinwood on Tuesday to decide Central Prairie League boys title
Ellinwood junior Britton Dutton set the school mark for career points. Dutton, featured on SIK several times, broke the record of 1,390 career points that was set by Todd Robins in 1986. Dutton holds the team single game record of 48 points. He has 1,404 career points. Dutton had 26 points and did not play in the fourth quarter. Ellinwood is 17-2 and headlines the Sublette sub-state that features Elkhart (14-5) and Sterling (14-5). Ellinwood is fourth in 2A. Dutton averages 24.9 points per game.
On Tuesday, Ellinwood will play host to Ness City (15-4) for the Central Prairie League championship. Ellinwood has beaten Macksville. Ness City lost to Macksville in the season opener. Macksville took an upset loss to St. John. Ellinwood currently has no league losses, Ness City one, Macksville two.
The winner of the game clinches the league championship.
Ness City’s Corbin Ross finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds in a 67-57 win versus Victoria. NC is 15-4. The Eagles and Jetmore-Hodgeman County (14-5) are the headliners in the Jetmore sub-state. They have split two meetings this year. Hodgeman County is sixth in 1A-I.
Huge Western Athletic Conference game scheduled Tuesday:
On Tuesday, the huge rematch occurs between Dodge City and Hays High on HHS Senior Night.
Girls: 6A No. 10 Dodge City (15-3) at 5A No. 10 Hays High (12-6)
Hays High, a SIK Potential Breakout Team in December, has been one of Kansas’ most improved teams this winter. The Indians have matched its win total from the last two seasons. HHS has won five in a row, including the signature 42-40 win at Dodge City on Feb. 4 when senior Aleyia Ruder hit a buzzer-beater trey.
DC has lost only to Goodland, Liberal and Hays High. On Friday, Hays High beat Garden City, 60-36, its biggest win in a Western Athletic Conference game since a 31-point margin versus Great Bend on Feb. 5, 2019. Junior Carly Lang had another big game for HHS versus Garden City with eight points, eight rebounds, three assists and a charge taken. Sensational freshman Molly Martin tallied 14 points and leads her team with 11 points a contest.
“They haven’t won a lot of games, but it’s a good team,” HHS coach Len Melvin said of Garden City. “I was really nervous about it, and I was really happy that our girls came out, and they had a great first half, and our challenge at halftime was don’t be a great half team, be a great full game team.’”
Dodge City counters with Camree Johnson, one of Kansas’ best players and a Hutchinson Community College commit, along with fellow seniors Victoria Gonzalez and Amaya Perez and key junior point guard Becca Unruh. In a 52-39 win versus Great Bend on Friday, Gonzalez delivered 14 points, Johnson had 12 and Unruh delivered 11, per DC broadcaster Sean Boston.
“That was a huge win, but Dodge will be very upset when they come in Tuesday,” Melvin said. “As much as we want to relive those moments and enjoy those moments – and we always will right? – it would be fun to figure out how to hang in there one more time with them on Tuesday. This particular team is getting to experience some things that past teams haven’t, and it’s really neat for them, because these seniors have gone through quite a road – with three different coaches in four years, and learning a lot of different philosophies.”
Boys: 6A No. 4 Dodge City (16-2) at 5A No. 3 Hays High (17-1)
Hays High, with its eight seniors (including all five starters), has won 15 straight. The Indians are 47-2 in its last 49 games. The Indians have continually held teams well under its season scoring averages, including a 56-37 win against Garden City on Friday. Senior Jace Linenberger has 19.4 points and 8.8 rebounds, while senior Carson Kieffer has 12.2 points and 5.6 assists. HHS continues to rank among Kansas’ steal leaders at 11 a contest. GC had averaged 55 points a game.
Dodge City, one of Kansas’ biggest turnarounds, easily beat Great Bend, 69-42, on Friday. DC has been an excellent 3-point shooting team and went 8 of 20 from beyond the arc. Star Cooper Scheck had eight points, while Dawson Taylor finished with 17 points on 7 of 10 shooting.
Hays High won 53-34 at Dodge City on Feb. 4. Dodge City has averaged 63.5 points per contest. HHS led 24-11 at halftime. Overall, the Indians held the Red Demons to 32 percent shooting, 16 percent from 3-point range and finished plus-23 on the glass.
“We have got a lot of guys with a lot of experience,” HHS coach Alex Hutchins said of his defense. “And they are smart, and they are very coachable. And so, when we watch film together and we talk the scouting report, and when we work on stuff in shell drill, they take it to heart.
“And the things that we see in practice, they go do in the game, and it’s very comforting as a coach,” Hutchins added. “Because sometimes you coach kids that, you get it all figured out during practice, and then when the lights come on and stuff starts flying, and the other team hits their first shot of the game, they panic a little bit, and they bail on what the plan was. And thankfully these guys, they are raised really well, and they have been coached well their whole careers.”
Other top performances
Wellsville’s Jimmy Dorsey cleared 1,000 career points. Wellsville is 14-4 and is third in the Pomona sub-state. Top teams are Osage City (16-3), Pleasant Ridge (15-4), Wellsville, Bishop Ward (13-4), and Heritage Christian (14-5). Seven of the eight squads are .500 or better.
Independence boys beat Chanute, 61-58, in overtime. It marked the second time this season Indy senior Brecken Bertie delivered the game-winning three-pointer. Indy is 9-8 in 4A East, and Chanute stands at 6-12.
Osborne’s Trinity Lutters scored 26 points. The Bulldog star has cleared 1,000 career points and recently earned a high state rating for her piano play. Osborne is fifth in 1A-I. Osborne is 18-1 and has won 10 in a row. A junior, Lutters has averaged 22.1 points, 3.5 steals, 3.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists a contest. Sophomore Grace Riner has 13.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 3.3 steals per game. Senior Ava Stull has 7.2 points and 7.1 rebounds.
Bishop Miege freshman Grace McCallop delivered 22 points in a 52-39 win against rival St. Thomas Aquinas. Miege had lost, 57-43, to Aquinas on Jan. 14. In 4A East, Eudora is 17-1, Wamego is 17-2, Bishop Miege stands at 16-2 and surprising Fort Scott is 15-3. The Stags are ranked second in 4A girls, and St. Thomas Aquinas is second in 5A girls.
Freshman Kirston Verhulst is at 14.6 points and 3.1 assists, per KC High School Hoops. Gabi Henderson-Artis has 12.8 points and 2.3 assists. Allie Burns is at 11.3 ponts per game. Grace McCallop has delivered 6.4 points. Overall, Verhulst has shot 42.3 on treys, and Miege has made 34 percent of 3s this season.
On Tuesday, Miege has its highly anticipated non-conference game at Topeka High (17-1). Miege beat Topeka last season.
Emporia’s Gracie Gilpin delivered 23 points and has helped Emporia to a 14-4 season. Salina Central (18-0, all wins by double figures), Bishop Carroll (16-2) and Emporia pace 5A East. Class 5A East has 10 teams at 10-8 or better in a deep group. Hays High is 12-6 and ranked No. 10 in 5A – and is currently seeded seventh. Emporia is 14-4.
Olathe South’s Raegan Halliday had 22 points and seven steals. OS is 14-5 after a 52-44 loss to Olathe West. OS is ranked ninth in 6A. Olathe North remains undefeated and paces Class 6A. Halliday has committed to Division I Southern Illinois.
Mulvane’s Mason Ellis had an alley-oop slam from Landon Coe in a key Senior Night victory versus Wellington. An elite athlete, Ellis has committed to KU football. Mulvane had its best season in decades last year, though is 6-11 this winter.
Olathe South boys beat Olathe West, 56-54, on a buzzer-beater from senior Caden Kaberline and an assist from senior Corbin Dozier. South is 12-7 and West stands at 11-8.
Sterling’s Zach Surface broke the school record for 3s in back-to-back games with eight and then nine versus Ell-Saline. He finished with 29 points. Sterling is 14-5.
Horton’s Maliyah Soto delivered 33 points, 10 steals and nine rebounds in a 51-46 win versus Maur Hill. Horton is 6-11 after several years of very few wins and has made strides under coach Zach Nelson.
Mill Valley’s Emree Zars finished with 32 points in a 54-51 loss to Shawnee Mission East. MV is 8-11.
Medicine Lodge’s Rachel Fischer had 26 points in a two-point loss to Conway Springs.
Wichita West’s Rob Basks had 34 points versus East. West lost to East, 57-53, on Dec. 16. West has played a brutal schedule with losses to Wichita Heights, Kapaun (twice), Bishop Carroll (twice) and two Missouri powers. West does have a 66-64 win versus Pittsburg.
Plainville’s Anders Dewey finished with 23 and 27 points in games Thursday and Friday. The Cardinals are 8-12.
Smoky Valley’s Adrian Hazelwood had 21 points. SV, a SIK Potential Breakout Team in December, stands at 13-6. The Vikings are second in the Minneapolis sub-state behind Southeast of Saline (16-3). SV beat SES in December. SV went 13-8 last season. Another win would give the Vikings its most victories in a single season since before 2006.
Topeka High girls beat Topeka Hayden, 63-54, behind 20 points from the Trojans’ Kiki Smith. Topeka Hayden’s Carly Stuke had 21 points. Topeka High is 17-1 and is ranked second in 6A girls.
Minneola’s Madi Denison, featured on SIK several times this year, had 29 points. Minneola is 10-9 after a 55-23 win versus Fowler. Denison has 16.6 points and 9.9 rebounds a contest.
Greeley County’s Jaxson Brandl delivered 28 points and 17 rebounds. GC stands at 18-2 in an intriguing Sharon Springs sub-state that also has Dighton (14-6) and Wheatland-Grinnell (12-7). GC is third in 1A-II.
Oakley girls has quietly enjoyed a nice turnaround under coach Mike Zimmerman, who has turned the Plainsmen into a consistent program. Liberty Booker had 25 points, and Jaelle Johnson delivered 24 points. Oakley has clinched at least a .500 season at 11-9 and won three games last week. The Plainsmen opened 2-5. Since Jan. 20, Oakley is 6-2.