Basketball In Kansas: SIK staff delivers favorite, runner-up and dark horse picks for each girls’ basketball classification at state

Goodland and leading scorer Talexa Weeter are back at state for the first time since 2006. Goodland is a strong 3A state contender. (Photo credit: Jaycee Dale)

Girls State Picks

In addition to state coverage, SIK staff will make their picks for favorite, runner-up and darkhorse for each classification:

More state coverage can be found at and all SIK platforms

Class 6A

Bethany Bowman

Favorite: No. 1 Olathe North – It’s hard to pick against Olathe North as the favorite when they hardly ever have a weak link on the floor.

Runner-up: No. 3 Topeka High – The Trojans have shown consistency and the ability to make a deep run for several seasons and will be hungry for the state title.

Darkhorse: No. 7 Shawnee Mission West – Don’t overlook Shawnee Mission West who is playing some really good basketball right now, falling to top seed Olathe North by just one in the regular season finale.

Chet Kuplen:

Favorite: No. 3 Topeka High – The Trojans have been one of the best teams in Kansas the last few seasons and feature the highly talented Kiki Smith and Tae Thomas. The Trojans have been very impressive this season including two wins over state power Washburn Rural. The most impressive thing is they’ve done it without the best multiple sport athlete in the state in Nija Canady who didn’t play basketball this year due to signing Division I softball with Stanford.

Runner-up: No. 4 Washburn Rural. WaRu will be favored in their opening round matchup against Dodge City which will likely put them in a matchup against unbeaten Olathe North, the undefeated and favorite by many, in the semis.

Darkhorse: SM West is the defending champion and has played a great schedule.

Conor Nicholl

Favorite: No. 1 Olathe North (22-0) – all five starters have signed Division II or higher. A senior-laden team, well-coached, Sunflower League champions first time in 25 years.

Runner-up: No. 3 Topeka High (20-2) – Kiki Smith and Tae Thomas combine for more than 30 points a game. Topeka is state runner-up, undefeated Forever Four, state runner-up last three seasons.

Darkhorse: No. 4 Washburn Rural (20-2) – Rural did this in 2019, coming through with an upset against Derby and winning its first state title. WR has legendary volleyball/basketball coach Kevin Bordewick, along with volleyball player of the year Brooklyn Deleye, a Kentucky commit.

Class 5A

Bethany Bowman

Favorite: No. 1 Salina Central –Aubrie Kierscht and Hampton Williams on the same team is pretty tough to combat. The pair, along with a solid supporting cast have earned their number one seed!

Runner-up: No. 2 St. Thomas Aquinas – With Oklahoma signee Beatrice Culliton in the post, the Saints would make it a really close game with the Mustangs. It would be fun to see this matchup!

Darkhorse: No. 5 Emporia – Of the Spartans 5 losses, 4 came at the hands of Washburn Rural (twice) and Topeka High (twice) who are the 3 and 4 seed in the 6A state tournament. With a tough schedule in the Centennial League, they could be primed to make a run.

Chet Kuplen:

Favorite: No. 2 St. Thomas Aquinas. Its hard to pick against the Saints in March. The schedule that STA plays year in and year out is as impressive as it gets in Kansas. Beatrice Culliton was last season’s 5A POY and is headed to Oklahoma. Coach Hetzel is one of the best in Kansas.

Runner-up: Salina Central features one of the best players in Kansas in 3-point specialist Aubirie Kierscht. The Mustangs are 22-0. Hampton Williams has also had a huge year

Darkhorse: Andover Central. Brittany Harshaw is one of the best in Kansas in a loaded class of talented players. Despite losing quite a bit from graduation, this is still a team that has a shot to make a legit run for the title. They get Carroll in round one who they beat earlier this season but that would set up a matchup with defending champion Aquinas in the semifinal.

Conor Nicholl

Favorite: No. 1 Salina Central (22-0) – Mustangs have its two Division I players in Aubrie Kierscht and Hampton Williams and should break the state record for team 3-point field goal percentage.

Runner-up: No. 2 St. Thomas Aquinas (20-2) – Aquinas is the defending state champion and features Beatrice Culliton, headed to Oklahoma. Coach Rick Hetzel has the most titles among active coaches.

Darkhorse: No. 6 Andover Central (17-5) – Last year’s state runner-up has flown under the radar some this season, including two losses to Salina Central. AC has Brittany Harshaw (Creighton) and Ellie Stearns (Fort Hays). AC has a high-octane offense.

Class 4A

Bethany Bowman

Favorite: No. 2 Eudora – The Cardinals lone loss of the season came by just two in the season debut with Basehor-Linwood. Since then, they’ve won 21 straight including a win over No. 3 Wamego in the regular season.

Runner-up: No. 1 Wellington – Wellington has delivered an impressive resume this season, especially defensively. A Eudora/Wellington matchup in the finals would be extremely close!

Darkhorse: No. 5 Andale – Of the Indians 4 losses this season-two are to No. 1 Wellington, one to 3A state qualifier Nickerson. Andale has shown a lot of resiliency this season and have a lot to play for after losing beloved Coach Ted Anderson.

Chet Kuplen:

Favorite: Bishop Miege has played a quality schedule and are the power of this class despite being hit heavy by graduation. They have an impressive win over Topeka this year which is considered one of the best in Kansas. The question for other teams in 4A is strength of schedule compared to Miege. The question for Miege is depending on younger players in the state tournament. Hard for me to pick against the Stags but they will have to bring it against Andale in the opening round and likely Wellington in the semi. Feel like the title goes through that side of the bracket.

Runner-up: Eudora is an impressive 21-1 on the season. Paced by Harper Schreiner a multiple-time all-state selection that has signed with Pittsburg State.

Darkhorse: Wamego has a shot to get to the semi and set up a rematch either way, whether that be Clay Center (who they split with) and Eudora (who they lost to). Wamego has won state softball and state golf in the last year.

Conor Nicholl

Favorite: No. 1 Wellington (22-0) – A couple of possibilities here, but the Crusaders, which have never made a final, have its pressing, trapping defense and plenty of talent across the board. Wellington has five big wins: Cheney, two against Andale, two against Clearwater.

Runner-up: No. 2 Eudora (21-1) – Eudora owns a win against third-seeded Wamego and features Harper Schreiner, a Pittsburg State commit.

Darkhorse: No. 4 Bishop Miege (20-2) – It’s strange to call the Stags a darkhorse, but Miege lost Emajin McCallop (Alabama A&M) to a torn ACL. Two freshmen, Kirston Verhulst and Grace McCallop, have played key roles. Miege is the defending champion and the only Kansas squad to beat St. Thomas Aquinas. Miege has Andale in the first round, who is playing for coach Ted Anderson, who passed away unexpectedly in midseason.

Class 3A

Bethany Bowman

Favorite: No. 1 Silver Lake – The Eagles are playing well. The lone loss this season came to Rock Creek in January. They used it to get better and have since won 12 straight and avenged that loss to RC late in the season.

Runner-up: No. 3 Hugoton -Sitting at 21-2 after a really solid schedule is tough to do. Hugoton has been battle tested and is ready for a deep run.

Darkhorse: No. 5 Southeast of Saline – Experience and depth make SES a scary team as a 5 seed!

Chet Kuplen:

Favorite: This is likely the deepest class in boys and girls as there are teams sitting at home that are good enough to win the title. I feel like the championship comes down to the semifinal that I have Hugoton playing Nickerson. At this point I’ll give the edge to Hugoton and their trio of players that feature Wyoming commit Mikyn Hamlin, Gianna Vos and Summya Adigun. Its very possible three of five best players in girls basketball in Kansas this season come in 3A (Ava Jones – Nickerson, Mikyn Hamlin – Hugoton, Taryn Sides – Phillipsburg)

Runner-up: Goodland and Silver Lake matchup should decide who is the runner-up in this class. The Cowgirls have not been to state in 16 years. I will go with Goodland and the body of work they’ve done this season with their outstanding defense. Goodland has a close OT loss to Hugoton earlier this season in their league.

Darkhorse: Frontenac (15-5) and SE Saline (20-3) both make a case here. Southeast beat Hugoton earlier this season. Frontenac has been to back to back Final Fours and has everybody back on their team. The Raiders are very solid under HC Scott Fields while featuring multiple sport star Heather Arnett and Hattie Pyle. The question will be length for the Raiders against some longer teams at the state tournament.

Conor Nicholl

Favorite: Several possibilities, but the pick is No. 3 Hugoton (21-2) with its three excellent juniors of Mikyn Hamlin, Summya Adigun and Gianna Vos. Hamlin has averaged more than 18 points a game in her career, and Adigun has a double-double average this season. Hugoton and Nickerson should match up in a great semifinal.

Runner-up: No. 4 Goodland (21-2) – The Cowgirls give teams fits with its 1-3-1 defense, length and experience with Emma and Olivia Lehman, Talexa Weeter and Lindsey Cure, among others.

Darkhorse: No. 5 Southeast of Saline (20-3) – SES returned all five starters and is one of two teams to beat Hugoton this season.

Class 2A

Bethany Bowman

Favorite: No. 1 Sterling – You just can’t pick against a defending state champ AND a win streak like this.

Runner-up: St. Mary’s Colgan- Colgan has been dominant this season and carries a lot of momentum from last year’s state tournament.

Darkhorse: No. 5 Valley Heights – Valley Heights’ two losses this season come to 1A state power Centralia. Don’t count them out!

Chet Kuplen:

Favorite: Sterling (23-0) may be the favorite if they were playing in the 3A class this year. Led by star senior Kali Briar they have all the pieces to repeat.

Runner-up: Colgan (21-0) is back and ready to get to the title game. The Panthers are led by Lily Brown, a sophomore, who averages over 20 points per game and hit the game winner last season in the semifinal to put the Panthers over Valley Heights in the semi as well as Lauren Torrance and Lauren Yaghmour. It was SMC’s first two tournament wins ever at the state tournament last season before falling to Sterling in the title team.

Darkhorse: Berean Academy may not be considered a darkhorse with one loss to Sterling but this is a team more than capable of having a run at the state tournament, so I think they could fall into the category of not many are talking about them. If you’re looking for a team with some losses as the darkhorse then it’s Garden Plain. GP is always a dangerous threat at the title whether in 2A or 3A. This will be an interesting round one matchup for Colgan as its about as tough of draw as you can get for a two versus seven. GP has two losses to Nickerson, one each to Andale, Cheney & Berean Academy, all very high-quality contenders in their class. Andale is in the 4A tourney and Nickerson is one of the favorites in 3A.

Conor Nicholl

Favorite: 1. Sterling (23-0) – The Black Bears have the state’s longest current winning streak and are the defending state champions. Sterling is loaded with seniors, especially point guard Kali Briar.

Runner-up: No. 2 Colgan (21-0) – Panthers finished second to Sterling last winter for the best season in school history. Colgan have 6-footers Lily Brown and Lauren Torrance, and experienced PG Lauren Yaghmour.

Darkhorse: No. 6 Smith Center (19-4) – SC won state volleyball in the fall, and have basically everyone from that team in basketball. Senior Tallon Rentschler is second all-time in SC history for scoring.

Class 1A-I

Bethany Bowman

Favorite: No. 2 Centralia -The history speaks for itself with Centralia and the winning culture built there is a huge advantage for the Panthers.

Runner-up: No. 1 Hodgeman Co. -If anyone can make things difficult for Centralia, Hodgeman County is the team to do it.

Darkhorse: No. 3 Little River -Little River has impressed all season, with their lone loss coming at the hands of 1A-DII state qualifier Hutch Central Christian. They could surprise some people.

Chet Kuplen:

Favorite: Centralia has played a quality schedule on their way to a perfect 23-0 including a couple wins over Valley Heights, a 2A contender and the always successful Hanover program.

Runner-up: Hodgeman County has been very impressive this year off a returning semifinal appearance in 2021.

Darkhorse: Pretty Prairie is quietly a one loss team that dominated Norwich in their sub-state championship game. Not very many people are talking about them and the way their bracket sets up they have a shot in either game to get to a title game. Little River will be favored over Burlingame after beating them earlier this season in the round one matchup but could also be considered a dark horse here to win the whole thing.

Conor Nicholl

Favorite: No. 2 Centralia (23-0) – The Panthers are easily the most historically decorated team in this field. Centralia has the Deters sisters. The Panthers have two wins against Hanover, two against Valley Heights and have wins versus 3A Nemaha Central and 4A Rock Creek.

Runner-up: No. 1 Jetmore-Hodgeman County (23-0) – Defense, rebounding and athleticism are hallmarks for a deep team that went to the final four last winter.

Darkhorse: No. 7 Spearville (17-7) – The Lancers will face a massive task in Centralia in the first round, but Spearville has one of Kansas’ best point guards in Taegen Pedigo, a great 3-point shooter in Tessa Kuker, and plenty of height. Spearville is 10-2 in its last 12 contests.

Class 1A-II

Bethany Bowman

Favorite: No. 2 Central Plains It’s impossible for me to pick against a Central Plains team that has won so many consecutive state titles. 1A-II belongs to Central Plains until someone takes them down.

Runner-up: No. 1 Golden Plains -That being said, you have to beat the best if you want to be the best. Golden Plains has had a phenomenal season, and they’ll put up a hard fight in the title game.

Darkhorse: No. 3 Lebo – Lebo’s guard play has been fantastic this season and their lone loss came to 1A-DI state qualifier Burlingame (who the Wolves split with this season). Wouldn’t be surprised to see Lebo make a run!

Chet Kuplen:

Favorite: The Central Plains dynasty under Pat Stiles continues. The quality of basketball that has been going on here is off the chart. Nixon and Hammeke led them to a title last year over Cunningham and will look to do it again as the school has won every state title in girls basketball since 2014.

Runner-up: Golden Plains has had an impressive year on their way to a 22-0 season. GP always has a solid regular season but we feel like they get to the title game as their bracket side is wide open.

Darkhorse: Lebo may not be a darkhorse but they aren’t the favorite. A round one matchup against Hanover isn’t going to be easy and a win wont make it any easier against dynasty Central Plains. Lebo has all the right pieces to win a title if the ball bounces their way. The Wolves were also state runner up in volleyball.

Conor Nicholl

Favorite: No. 2 Central Plains (22-1) – The Oilers have won every state championship since 2014, excluding its undefeated Forever Four squad in 2020. CP has arguably the classification’s top-two players in Kassidy Nixon and Brynna Hammeke.

Runner-up: No. 1 Golden Plains (22-0) – Longtime coach Parker Christensen has enjoyed 25-plus years of success with the Bulldogs and could win his first championship. Golden Plains has by the longest current regular season winning streak in Kansas.

Darkhorse: No. 6 Hanover (19-4) – The Wildcats won state volleyball in the fall and have tremendous athleticism. Hanover has two state titles, a runner-up and a Forever Four in the last five seasons. The top-six players average between 6.7 and 9.6 points a game.

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