By CONOR NICHOLL
1.The Wamego/Bishop Miege 4A girls and 1A-II’s Axtell/Hanover quandary
Well-publicized, KSHSAA seeds and places its sub-states in two ways. First, in 4-6A, teams are seeded 1-16 in the East and West. In 3A-1A, squads are placed geographically. No strength of schedule component or other measures is used, except winning percentage.
This sometimes creates problematic issues and often doesn’t reward the top teams. Sometimes this creates top-heavy sub-states in 3A, 2A and IA-I. However in 4A, this put No. 1 seed Wamego (19-1) with No. 8 Bishop Miege (11-9) in the same sub-state. Wamego and Miege have met up several times in state competition in volleyball, basketball and baseball in the last three seasons.
By every measure, this is a terrible draw for Wamego, which shouldn’t have to face the Stags, which has rolled to back-to-back 4A state championships. Bishop Miege plays a regional schedule. This includes losses to Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas teams. Miege has fallen to Incarnate Word, a St. Louis team that currently has the nation’s longest winning streak in girls’ basketball. MaxPreps doesn’t have all of Miege’s results, but the Stags currently rank sixth in 4A with by far – by far – the classification’s hardest strength of schedule.
Miege is ranked third in 4A East and really should host its own sub-state. Miege’s Kirston Verhulst is arguably the state’s best sophomore. She has made around half her treys and averaged around 18 points per game, per KC High School Hoops. Grace and Faith McCallop and Mary Grant have also delivered nice seasons.
On the Wamego front, significant credit to coach Brian McIntosh and his Red Raider culture after a final four team last season. Wamego has capably replaced Paige Donnelly, a first team all-state player and KBCA all-star game selection. Plus, Ryann Alderson and Cadence Kueker graduated after they were huge parts of the team’s success.
“They were terrific leaders for us and taught the younger girls a lot about our culture,” McIntosh said. “We always talk about leaving the program better than you find it and they did that. This group of seniors will look to do the same thing for our current juniors, sophomores and freshman.”
Wamego has nine girls this season with starters: Trista Hoobler, Ashten Pierson, Lexi Hecht, Addison Denney and Maya Gallagher.
Rylie Meinhardt, Sara Springer, Kyla McAdam and Kirby McKee consistently come off the bench. Seven of the nine return from the third place team. Denney started as a sophomore, though had a torn ACL last season. Hecht is a standout freshman. Pierson has signed with Creighton softball, and Gallagher to Division I Holy Cross softball. Hoobler is heading to Fort Lewis basketball. Wamego is a great team and consistently ranked first or second in the coaches’ rankings and the MaxPreps’ statistical rankings.
Wamego has three girls who average double figures, and the rest average five points per game or more.
“This is a group of girls who know how to win and the seniors have done so since they were freshman,” McIntosh told SIK. “They got a taste of being one of the top teams in the state last year and have their sights set on finishing strong this year as well. They are a special group of girls that only care about team success.”
In 1A-II, Twin Valley League rivals Axtell and Hanover are located 39 miles apart. Axtell, a SIK Potential Breakout Team in December, is 17-4. Hanover stands at 16-5. They are both in the Axtell sub-state. Only two teams – both significantly on the western half of Kansas – have better records: Greeley County (19-1) and Northern Valley (17-3).
The Burrton sub-state has no team with a winning record. Axtell defeated Hanover, 52-51, in Jan. 10. Axtell and Hanover currently rank second and fourth in the MaxPreps’ statistical rankings in the classification. Last year, Hanover held off Bucklin in a great final four game, and lost to Greeley County on buzzer-beater trey.
2. Can 3A girls continue its historic rate?
3A girls looks to continue its historic season. Collectively, 3A could have the fewest losses for the eight qualifying state tournament teams since before 2019. Here are the top teams from each sub-state:
Eureka: Eureka (18-2), Neodesha (16-4)
Anderson County: Santa Fe Trail (18-2), Anderson County (13-7), Prairie View (12-7)
Girard: Cherryvale (16-4), Frontenac (14-6)
Lakin: Goodland (20-0, state’s longest current winning streak); Cimarron (17-3)
Cheney: Cheney (18-2), Hesston (15-5), Haven (15-5)
Marysville: Atchison County (20-1), Nemaha Central (18-2)
Perry-Lecompton: Silver Lake (19-1), Heritage Christian (15-4), Rossville (14-6)
Russell: Phillipsburg (20-0), Southeast of Saline (17-3)
3. Will Ellinwood face Moundridge in a potentially historic game?
Ellinwood boys has not made state since 1984. The Eagles are ranked fifth and feature 2,000-point scorer Brit Dutton. Moundridge is ranked third and has legendary coach Vance Unrau. Plus, No. 7-ranked Inman and No. 8-ranked Sterling are both in the same sub-state. Unrau has announced his retirement after the year is finished.
On Thursday, Ellinwood (20-1) faces Sterling (16-5), while Moundridge (18-3) gets Inman (18-3). Ellinwood has lost to Sterling in sub-state each of the last three years. The Eagles have not beaten Sterling since 2009.
Moundridge has defeated Inman twice this season.
4. The Class 1A, Division I Little River girls’ sub-state
On Thursday, the Little River sub-state features two massive matchups: No. 1 Little River (19-1) against St. John (14-7). Plus, Pretty Prairie (18-2) faces Central Plains (17-3). PP is the reigning 1A-I state champion, while Central Plains won 1A-II. CP has won state or posted an undefeated season every year since 2014. LR, CP and PP are ranked 1-2-3 in the rankings. LR defeated Central Plains, 67-56, on Feb. 21 behind 35 points from junior Alaina Eck.
5.Which teams will end long state droughts?
Multiple teams have a strong chance to break through and reach state for the first time in a long time:
La Crosse boys – no trips since 1991
Stafford boys – no trips since 1947
Cheylin boys – no trips since 1980
Southern Cloud (co-op Glasco/Miltonvale) – no trips for either school since 1988
St. Francis girls – tied the most wins in the regular season in school history at 16-3, one all-time trip in 1981