Basketball in Kansas: Looking at various superlatives, favorites, overall storylines with girls’ basketball

Wellington’s Val Norwood (with ball) and Andale (in gold and black) are high contenders in 4A girls’ basketball. (Photo courtesy of Wellington athletics).


As the calendar turns to February, Sports In Kansas takes a look at six of the seven girls’ classifications.

Editor’s Note: 3A Girls are not included in this and will be separate stories this week. All records from KSHSAA as Feb. 6. The intriguing player category is not necessarily the “best” but someone who has had significant effect on a team and class. All tempo-free numbers from SIK.


Class 6A

Favorites: Shawnee Mission South (13-0); Blue Valley North (14-2), Blue Valley (9-5), Derby (12-2); Lawrence (12-2)

Overall Thoughts: Shawnee Mission South has been a big surprise this season and defeated Washburn Rural in the Shawnee Heights Thunderbird Classic final last week. Camryn Smith has enjoyed another brilliant season with 16.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.7 steals per game, per Sunflower Smack. Zai Funches, a transfer from Lone Jack (Mo.), has enjoyed a big year in her first season. She has 13 points and seven rebounds. BVN, Blue Valley and Derby all feature a high-level Division I player: Aubrey Shaw, Jadyn Wooten (Okla. State commit), and Addy Brown (McDonald’s All-American, Iowa State).

Under-The-Radar Team: Gardner-Edgerton (8-5); Liberal (12-2); Dodge City (7-8)

Notes: G-E’s Landri Schaffer has delivered a huge season with 15.6 points and three steals per game. She has elevated G-E after a four-win season last year. The Trailblazers are 4-1 in its last five games with just a one-point loss to Maize South. G-E also lost by three to Shawnee Mission South. Liberal shoots extremely well with Hailey Contreras and Keyona Hall. Contreras has made 25 treys at 35 percent this year and just went over 100 career treys. DC, paced by Bethany College commit Becca Unruh, has low-scoring upset wins against Hays High and Dodge City, plus a 49-47 road victory at rival Garden City.

Intriguing Player: Olathe West’s Emma Sales has 13.9 points per game. Olathe West has a great coach with Rick Rhoades who often has overachieving teams. West is 7-7 but has four losses to non-Kansas teams. OW has wins against Washburn Rural and Olathe North.

Key Stat: Brown has delivered a strong case as Kansas’ best player. She has 19.4 points, 11 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 2.3 steals, one block a game, along with shooting 53 percent. Incredibly, all six categories lead the Panthers. Destiny Smith and Jaden Wilson have enjoyed nice years, too.

Class 5A

Favorites: St. Thomas Aquinas (10-3); Topeka Seaman (13-1); Bishop Carroll (15-1); Andover (12-2)

Overall Thoughts: It’s hard to not have Aquinas as the clear-cut favorite. The Saints have won 5A in every non-COVID year from 2016 to ’22. Aquinas has excellent offensive discipline and a solid starting five. Sydney Watts and Kelsey Schenck are standouts, and freshman Alex Crouse is an elite athlete. Coach Rick Hetzel recently reached 500 career wins. Aquinas has two out of-state losses and a 10-point defeat to Shawnee Mission South. Andover has its pair of Division I players with Brooke Walker and Alana Shetlar.

Under-The-Radar Team: Maize South (11-3)

Overall Thoughts: Maize South has won eight straight and has an excellent all-around player/rim protector with Avery Lowe, a Nebraska-Kearney commit. The Mavs defeated Gardner-Edgerton and has beaten Andover Central. Maize South has allowed just 33 points per game. Junior trio of Amani Lipscomb, Ava Howie and Sophie Hurley has been sharp, too, notably in a recent 52-25 win against Maize.

Intriguing Player: Landon Forbes is Bishop Carroll’s lone senior for head coach Taylor Dugan. The Golden Eagles are trying to win the City League for a third straight year. BC has one all-time state title. BC has only lost to Andover Central. The Golden Eagles could enter state as the No. 1 or No. 2 seed.

Key Stat: 9. Topeka Seaman has a 74-71 loss to Basehor-Linwood, but has recently defeated Derby (45-39) and Emporia (46-43) by close margins.

Class 4A

Favorites: Wamego (14-1); Bishop Miege (6-5); Wellington (15-0); McPherson (12-2); Andale (11-3)

Overall Thoughts: Defending state champion Bishop Miege has its usual out of state losses and faces some of the nation’s best teams in Oklahoma. Sophomore Kirston Verhulst has delivered a massive season with 20.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 3.1 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. Wellington has been dominant with its full court defense and waves of talent. McPherson owns wins against Dodge City, St. James and Andover, among others.

Under-The-Radar Team: Hugoton (11-5); SEK Trio of Independence (13-2), Fort Scott (13-2) and Parsons (11-4)

Notes: One of the season-long storylines is the return of Hugoton senior Mikyn Hamlin, a Wyoming commit and the school record holder in multiple offensive statistics. After a 3-4 start, Hugoton is 8-1 since Hamlin came back from injury. The only loss was an eight-point road defeat to Goodland, which currently has the state’s longest active winning streak. Hugoton is final four and state runner-up the last two years. Hugoton can avenge an early season loss to Cimarron in a Tuesday rematch. The SEK case could come down to the last week in February.

Intriguing Player: Chloe Clevenger, McPherson. The Bullpups have other more offensive-minded players, but Clevenger – who will remarkably varsity letter in five sports and has been all-state in three – is an elite defensive player. McPherson has held multiple teams well under its scoring average. In a 62-39 win against Clearwater at the midseason McPherson tournament, Clevenger was 8 of 12 shooting for 20 points. Clearwater shot just 33 percent.

Key Stat: 25.9 – Wellington has allowed just 25.9 points per game and has statistically been Kansas’ best defense. Britt Zeka, Kami Reichenberger, Ashlyn Gerten, Kylan Gregory, and Valerie Norwood lead the way for the Crusaders.

Class 3A:

SIK will have several stories on the historic nature of 3A girls’ basketball this week.

Class 2A

Favorites: Smith Center (13-3); Colgan (14-0); Hillsboro (12-3), Berean Academy (13-1); Mission Valley (13-2)

Overall Thoughts: This is very wide-open. Berean Academy is certainly the favorite, but a case can be made for six to seven teams as high contenders, including Garden Plain, which has defeated 6A Dodge City. BA has wins against Central Plains (46-29), Eureka (45-42) and Garden Plain (34-30). Smith Center’s Maile Hrabe has 16.6 points per game. SC has lost twice to undefeated Phillipsburg.

Under-The-Radar Team: Garden Plain (10-5); Bennington (12-4), Hoxie (11-4)

Notes: Garden Plain is the defending 2A runner-up and has two state championships in the last six years under coach Kody Kasselman. The Owls’ matchup zone gives teams fits and GP has allowed just 32 points a contest. No Owl averages double figures, though Celia Puetz is at 8.9 points and 4.5 rebounds. Sydney Puetz has 3.1 steals a contest. GP has five seniors. Bennington is a surprising team behind three players that score between 8.6 and 10.1 points per game: Kolbie Bartlett, Rori Miles and Payten Debold.

Intriguing Player: Mission Valley’s Paige Martin has delivered a huge season with 13.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.8 blocks a contest. Kyplee Jacobson has 10.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists. MV went back to state for the first time since the mid-80s last year. Hoxie has a veteran corps, and Josey Kennedy is a prolific scorer. Easton Slipke has done nice work at his alma mater.

Key Stat: 7.9 – Strength of schedules greatly vary in 2A, per MaxPreps’ statistical lists. Garden Plain has played the most challenging SOS among contenders at 7.9. Colgan, Mission Valley and Stanton County are among the weaker SOS in the classification. Colgan has the classification’s top 1-2 scoring in 2A with Lauren Torrance and Lily Brown and has faced limited resistance this winter.

Class 1A-I

Favorites: Hodgeman County (13-3); Little River (14-1); Pretty Prairie (14-1); Doniphan West (11-4); Madison (13-3); Olpe (12-4); Norwich (11-2); Osborne (14-1)

Overall Thoughts: So much of the classification hinges on the Little River sub-state. LR, Pretty Prairie, Fairfield (12-3), Central Plains, Macksville (8-6) and St. John (9-7) are all in the same sub-state. PP won Division I state year, CP Division II. Pretty Prairie had its state-best 26-game winning streak snapped in a 38-28 loss to Attica on Jan. 8. Since then, PP has defeated Burrton and a quality Hutchinson Central Christian (42-39) squad. LR also won state volleyball. Aubrey Olander recently cleared 500 career rebounds and has 15.1 points and 9.5 rebounds a contest.

This is a really deep class, but several of the contenders are in the same sub-state.

Under-The-Radar Team: Central Plains (11-3); Burlingame (10-5); Quinter (13-2)/St. Francis (13-3); Clifton-Clyde (13-3)

Notes: Central Plains and Burlingame have flown under the radar, though each feature a prolific scorer with CP’s Brynna Hammeke and Burlingame’s Kaylin Noonan. Burlingame was third place at state last year, the best finish in school history.

Intriguing Player: After the fewest wins in more than 40 years last winter, Olpe has quietly returned to form behind three senior starters: Jenna Smith, Makenna Broyles and Ava Clark. An experienced Olpe squad won eight games last winter. Five-foot-10 freshman Lilly Skalsky, Kadey Robert and Grace Coughlin are key, too.

Key Stat: 2. Quinter girls defeated St. Francis in back-to-back games: 51-37 on Monday for the league tournament title, and 51-38 on Friday in the regular season contest. The Friday win put Quinter in the driver’s seat for a NWKL crown. Quinter and St. Francis are in the same sub-state. Quinter has two losses, though has defeated every team on its schedule except 2A Hoxie. Quinter’s top-six can match anyone in the classification, and 6-2 Anna Briggs has 15 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks a game. A huge game against Rawlins County (10-5) on Friday awaits.

Class 1A-II

Favorites: Hanover (16-0); Lebo (15-0)

Overall: It would be a mild surprise if Hanover and Lebo don’t meet for the state championship game. Lebo defeated Hanover to win state volleyball in the fall. Hanover was third last basketball season after a close semifinal loss to Central Plains.

Under-The-Radar Team: Beloit-St. John’s/Tipton (12-4); Golden Plains (12-3); Hutchinson Central Christian (9-5); Bucklin (14-2)

Notes: Outside of Hanover and Lebo (who would compete for probably even a 2A title), the rest of the class has several strong teams. BSJT has quietly won eight in a row after a three-point defeat to Osborne. Golden Plains’ Breanna Rath and Hutchinson Central Christian’s Kaylee Kauffman are both likely first team all-state players.

Intriguing Player: Bucklin has won 12 straight, including the SPIAA league crown, and is among the state’s biggest surprises, all classes. Veterans Sydnie Jones (15.6 points) and Halie Feikert (10.8 rebounds) have had nice years, though Bucklin has relied on several freshmen. Emerson Kirk has 11 points and 3.9 assists a contest.

Key Stat: 10.3 – Osborne’s Trinity Lutters has 21.7 points per game, and junior Gracie Riner has 11.4 points, 4.8 assists and 3.8 rebounds a contest. Sophomore Grace William has 9.3 points and 10.3 rebounds a game. Osborne has impressively grabbed 41 percent of available offensive rebounds. On a 21-2 team last winter, the Bulldogs collected 35 percent of available offensive rebounds.

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