By CONOR NICHOLL
Sports In Kansas looks at key sub-state championship storylines, including the emotional game between Hugoton and Chaparral boys, and a high number of rematches throughout the state. Check out plenty of other content on SIK platforms throughout the next week. All history information courtesy of Carol Swenson.
Class 5A boys, 6A girls and 3A girls are previewed by SIK here:
American Implement Western Kansas Team of the Week: “Put in the work, put in the hours,” How Goodland girls qualified for state for the first time since ’06; part of loaded 3A field – Sports in Kansas (sportsinks.com)
Basketball in Kansas: “Our league is tremendously competitive” – How the high-octane Centennial led Topeka Seaman, others to big sub-state wins Friday; plus recap across state – Sports in Kansas (sportsinks.com)
1. Thomas More Prep-Marian boys switch to zone, beat Norton for the third time
A significant theme of the sub-state championship games came with multiple rematches. In many cases, league schools faced each other for a third or fourth time. That included Thomas More Prep-Marian and Norton boys in the Class 3A Goodland sub-state championship game Saturday. TMP defeated Norton by 17 in the Mid-Continent League tournament semifinals on Jan. 21. Then, the Monarchs needed a big comeback and overtime to win by two on Feb. 17 in Norton. That game effectively decided the MCL regular season title.
TMP coach Bill Meagher has matched up with Norton coach Doug Reusink on many occasions in the last several years. Reusink recently cleared 600 career victories; Meagher labeled him one of Kansas’ best coaches. In 2016, TMP beat Norton by 14 and 26 points in the regular season before the Bluejays won by 12 in the sub-state title game. Meagher was on staff as an assistant.
Even though TMP won twice this winter, Meagher knew he had to make some adjustments against Norton’s height that includes 6-foot-9 senior Nolan Juenemann, 6-4 junior Sean Anderson, 6-3 sophomore point guard Roman Hauser and 6-2 senior Drake Harding. The Monarchs, with 6-6 junior Dylan Werth, had practiced a zone throughout the year and decided to implement the defense.
TMP won 47-39 and advanced to state for the fourth time in five seasons. The Monarchs never trailed after 8-6 in a game that was tied early in the fourth quarter.
“I told our guys, ‘We were not going to be afraid to make a big change,’” Meagher said. “I think the team that wins two doesn’t want to change anything, and we felt the Juenemann kid has just been playing outstanding ball the last few games, and we didn’t want to take a chance of playing our usual man and getting Dylan in foul trouble.”
TMP is the No. 6 seed in 3A at 19-4. The Monarchs have not lost to a 3A squad this season and have one loss to a KSHSAA school since its third game. TMP faces No. 3 Galena (22-1) in the first round of the state tournament.
“It’s such a good group of kids,” Meagher said. “They have worked so hard. They have stayed together the whole season and fought.”
TMP limited Norton to 15 of 36 shooting (42 percent), including 5 of 20 from long range and just six foul shots.
“We played really hard,” senior Jace Wentling said. “Our team really hustled, and I think that’s what really helped us get the W.”
The Monarchs had several key steals and fast breaks from junior Kade Harris, including one for a 37-32 lead. With 1:44 left, Wentling missed a free throw. Harding tried to save the defensive rebound, and threw it right to Harris, who passed to Werth for a score.
“We ran that zone, we played really tough defense,” Wentling said. “Get out the shooters and close out, and double team Juenemann, and we could come with a win in this game, and that’s what we did. We have always really had that zone. We have kind of repped it here and there in practice and stuff. We have always been a man team, and we always been like out and attack, but for this game, we thought the zone would work the best against them.”
Afterward, Meagher believed not all teams who won games during the regular season would be victorious in the rematches. He proved correct. Both Hugoton teams were, though notably Spearville girls pulled an upset. Additionally, multiple squads had split during the regular season and faced for a chance to go to state.
“We understood that it would hurt us on the offensive side as well,” Meagher said of the zone. “Harder to get out and get some attacks, and then also there would be less possessions, but we thought that that would work out for us at the end.”
Those rematches helped form the brackets for this week’s state tournaments, held at Wichita State (6A), Emporia State (5A), Salina (4A), Hutchinson (3A), Kansas State (2A), Dodge City (1A-I), and Barton County (1A-II). Unlike last year’s COVID-19 influenced schedule, state returns to its normal setup with quarterfinals, semifinals and finals all held at the state site.
2. Both Hugoton teams qualify in Class 3A; Hugoton girls 3-0 against Cimarron; Hugoton boys 3-0 versus Holcomb; emotional moment for O’Neil and Baker families
Last season, Hugoton girls finished as a Class 3A Final Four squad when it lost to Sabetha on a buzzer-beater. Hugoton returned several key pieces, including its big three of juniors Mikyn Hamlin, Summya Adigun and Gianna Vos. Hugoton has been ranked No. 1 in 3A a portion of the season. Hugoton lost only to 6A Olathe West in the season opener, and Southeast of Saline, a 3A state qualifier, in midseason. Hugoton is 21-2 and is the No. 3 seed. The Eagles are a strong state contender in a loaded field.
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.
Hugoton defeated Cimarron, 49-34, in the team’s third matchup this season. Cimarron has junior McKayla Miller, who cleared 1,000 career points in the sub-state round and has multiple Division I offers. Hugoton has won seven in a row versus the Bluejays, including 66-44 on Dec. 17 and 54-49 on Feb. 8.
No. 3 Hugoton (21-2) will play No. 6 Santa Fe Trail (19-4) at 8 p.m. on Thursday at the Hutchinson Sports Arena.
Silver Lake (22-1), Cherryvale (15-8), Goodland (21-2), Southeast of Saline (20-3), Nickerson (22-1) and Frontenac (15-5) round out the girls’ field.
Hugoton boys, as SIK has noted this winter, has enjoyed a great season under first-year coach Trey O’Neil. Hugoton had to replace 74 percent of its scoring, though the Eagle squads swept the GWAC. Hugoton held off league rival Holcomb, 49-46, in the sub-state semifinals, and beat Chaparral, 59-19, in the title Saturday. Hugoton finished 3-0 against Holcomb this season. Juniors Ryle Riddlesperger and Carson Bennett and senior Gavin Williams have been key players.
O’Neil and first-year Chaparral coach Sloan Baker had an emotional moment when they met just before tipoff. The last time O’Neil and Baker were on the court together, they won the 3A state championship as seniors at Scott City for Trey’s dad, coach Glenn O’Neil. Trey told Sloan he loved him and was proud. Both had tears in their eyes. The O’Neils and Bakers are very close.
Sloan’s older brother, Ron, of Wichita State basketball fame, and Trey’s parents were among those in attendance. Sloan, Ron, Trey, and Glenn, currently the Dodge City football coach, took a picture together. Chaparral had a five-win improvement in basketball after a six-victory jump in football. O’Neil is on the short list for 3A Coach of the Year.
No. 7 Hugoton (19-4) faces No. 2 Hesston (22-1), the defending state champion, at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Last year, Hesston was first, Galena second and TMP a final four.
3. Both Bucklin teams qualify; Red Ace girls avenge loss to Ashland; Scott Price with near triple-double
Bucklin girls lost to Ashland, 44-32, in the season opener Dec. 3. Bucklin had won 20 straight against Ashland dating back to Jan. 16, 2009. However, Bucklin flipped the result with a 31-28 upset in the sub-state championship game.
Bucklin girls (11-12) are the No. 8 seed in 1A-II and will play top-seeded and undefeated Golden Plains (22-0) at 2 p.m. on Thursday at Barton County Community College. Second-seeded Central Plains (22-1) is the favorite to win its eighth straight state title, though there are several contenders. The No. 3/6 matchup is one of the more intriguing for all classes with Lebo (22-1) against Hanover (19-4).
South Haven (20-3) and Hutchinson Central Christian (20-3) are in the 4/5 matchup, while Beloit St. John’s-Tipton (17-6) draws Central Plains.
Bucklin boys, one of Kansas’ top stories all season, cruised into state with an 85-52 win at Moscow in the semifinals and 80-48 against Ingalls in the championship. Bucklin has won five straight and stands at 19-5 behind coach Derek Bevan. Bucklin boys have its fourth all-time state tournament, first since 1994.
Bucklin girls has seven total state appearances. This marks the first time both Bucklin teams have qualified for state in the same year. Bucklin girls receive more than 85 percent of its scoring from non-seniors for veteran coach Craig Bowman.
The Bucklin boys have its senior duo of Scott Price and Nathan Bowman, junior post Jaron Lindsay and sophomore Andrew Bowman. Bucklin has attempted more than 620 3s this season. Price has averaged around 20 points a game. Versus Moscow, Price finished with 12 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and five steals.
Bucklin (19-5) faces Caldwell (16-6) in the 4/5 matchup on Wednesday. Top-seeded Hanover (22-1) is the defending state champion and beat rival Axtell by running clock in the sub-state title game. Hanover gets Central Plains (4-18) in the quarterfinals.
Hanover, Northern Valley (21-2), Greeley County (21-2) and Bucklin are the top contenders. However, Caldwell did win the South Central Border League midseason tournament. The 2/7 matchup between Greeley County and Pawnee Heights (12-10) features two of Kansas’ top-15 scorers in GC’s Jaxson Brandl and Pawnee Heights’ Alec Carlson.
4. Pretty Prairie girls win rubber match with Norwich, reach state for first time since 2000; Norwich boys at state for first time since ‘94
Norwich girls are the defending 1A-I runner-up, though took key graduation losses to Brittany Gosch and Avery Rosenhagen. Norwich has key seniors Anna Kyle and Kira Kelly. In the regular season, Norwich made a big late comeback to beat Pretty Prairie, 38-37, on Jan. 14. Then, 15 days later, PP beat Norwich, 33-19.
On Saturday, PP defeated Norwich, 38-16, in the third matchup between the Heart of the Plains League rivals. Senior-laden PP is 22-1 and reached state for the first time since 2000. Three of PP’s top-four scorers are seniors: McKenna Vogl, Jorah Harbaugh and Aubrey Young. PP finished as state volleyball runner-up to Spearville.
Norwich boys, unranked in the preseason, advanced to state for the first time since 1994 and the fifth occasion in school history. The Eagles qualified once in the ’80s and then from ’92-94. Norwich boys are 22-1 behind coach Nick Kyle and assistant Wayne Morrow, a veteran of 30-plus years at several places. Morrow had led Little River boys to back-to-back final four appearances in the last two seasons. Norwich has its big four of senior Chance Hilger, 6-5 junior Jace Gosch, junior Dax Rosenhagen and sophomore Tray Schroeder.
Class 1A, Division I girls is arguably the deepest of any classification. All eight teams are legitimate state contenders. The 1/8 matchup is Hodgeman County (23-0) at Clifton-Clyde (16-8). In the 4/5, Osborne and Pretty Prairie are both 22-1.
Centralia (23-0) faces Spearville (17-7). Spearville, a SIK darkhorse candidate last week, is 10-2 in its 12 games.
Spearville was 0-2 against South Central this winter with a 50-38 loss to the Timberwolves in the season opener, and a 50-32 loss on Jan. 27. Spearville flipped the result with a 49-36 win against SC.
Coach Todd Cossman told SIK on Sunday that Spearville is “just executing on offense way better these last couple of weeks.” Spearville is getting five, six, seven passes an offensive possession, which has forced teams to guard the Lancers. Defensively, the Lancers have ratcheted up the perimeter pressure and trapping more and harder.
Post Kara Brakey had 12 points, 12 rebounds and four assists. Post Anna Stein had 10 points and eight rebounds.
The 3/6 is a regular season rematch between Little River (22-1) and Burlingame (20-2). LR beat Burlingame, 43-29, on Jan. 21 in a home contest. However, Burlingame standout Daelyn Winters, a school record holder in multiple statistics, missed a couple games in midseason with injury.
On the boys’ side, No. 2 Norwich (22-1) faces Solomon (16-7) at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Solomon, with coach Kyler Stein, scored eight points in the final 22 seconds in a remarkable comeback against Clifton-Clyde in the sub-state title game. Solomon won 53-50.
Burlingame girls and Solomon boys are at state for the first time in school history. Troy boys (16-7) are at state for the first time since 1998 after an upset win versus Cair Paravel. Troy faces Olpe (22-1) in the first round. Olpe has won back-to-back football titles, basketball last winter and has captured 22 straight wins.
Osborne and Macksville, both 21-2, are in the 4/5 matchup. A highly intriguing game comes in the 3/6 contest where South Gray (21-2) faces Ness City (18-5). SG beat NC in the state final four last season. SG has won eight straight against Meade, including four wins this winter.
Ness City had split two meetings against Hodgeman County before the sub-state title win.
5. Both Colgan teams qualify
In 2A girls, the top-five teams are 21-2 or better: undefeated Sterling (23-0), Colgan (21-0), followed by Jackson Heights (22-1), Berean Academy (22-1) and Valley Heights (21-2).
The No. 6 seed is Smith Center (19-4), which won state volleyball and is loaded with talent, including senior post Tallon Rentschler. Sterling and Colgan, which finished 1-2 respectively last winter, are the favorites.
Sterling has the state’s longest current winning streak at 37 games. Last year marked the first state tournament wins in Colgan girls’ history. Colgan, the CNC champs, is loaded with point guard Lauren Yaghmour and its two 6-footers of Lauren Yaghmour and Lily Brown.
Colgan faces Garden Plain (17-6) in the first round, and Sterling has Mission Valley (14-8). Garden Plain has five straight state appearances, including two state titles.
Colgan boys were a final four team in 2019 before rare back-to-back down seasons under legendary coach Wayne Cichon. The Panthers are back to state as the No. 8 seed at 14-8. Colgan is a darkhorse candidate to upset top-seeded Valley Falls (23-0).
Other 2A boy matchups are: St. Marys (20-3) against WaKeeney-Trego (18-4); Hillsboro (21-1) versus Wichita Independent (17-5); Lyndon (21-2) versus Sterling (18-5). Hillsboro is the defending state champion.
6. Dodge City, Olathe North with school history; Centennial League continues great showing
In 6A, Dodge City had a rare achievement when it qualified both teams. Olathe North achieved the same feat. DC boys qualified every year from ’09-12, then last in ’16. Coach Shane Traughber has now taken two teams (Stanton County) to state. ON boys have five all-time state appearances: 02, ’15, ’18, ’19 and this year.
DC girls have made back-to-back state appearances and No. 12 all-time.
This is the second time ever Olathe North has qualified both teams to state in the same season. ON girls, which won the Sunflower League for the first time in 25 years, are trying for the best season in school history. The Eagles, at state for a fourth straight year, have all five starters signed Division II or higher.
On the boys’ side, Lawrence Free (21-1), the state’s consensus best team, takes on Manhattan (9-13). Manhattan pulled two road upsets, part of a banner weekend for the Centennial League. Five Centennial League boy squads reached state: Topeka West (5A), Topeka Seaman (5A), Highland Park (5A), Manhattan and Topeka Hayden. Manhattan and Hayden (4A) both qualified with losing records.
The Centennial girls qualified three with strong 6A contenders Topeka High and Washburn Rural, along with Emporia (17-5) in 5A. Standout Gracie Gilpin paced EHS with 14 points. Emporia returns to state for the first time since 2015.
6A Boys Matchups: Lawrence Free State (21-1) vs. Manhattan (9-13); Blue Valley Northwest (19-3) vs. Shawnee Mission Northwest (18-4); Wichita Heights (20-2) vs. Olathe North (11-11); Dodge City (19-3) vs. Olathe West (14-8)
6A Girls Matchups: Olathe North (22-0) vs. Blue Valley North (13-9); Washburn Rural (20-2) vs. Dodge City (19-3); Derby (21-1) vs. Shawnee Mission West (18-4); Topeka High (20-2) vs. Blue Valley (19-3)
5A Boys Matchups: Kapaun Mt. Carmel (21-1) vs. Topeka Seaman (15-7); Maize (18-4) vs. Highland Park (18-4); Topeka West (21-1) vs. St. James (15-7); De Soto (18-4) vs. Blue Valley Southwest (15-7)
5A Girls Matchups: Salina Central (22-0) vs. De Soto (15-7); Lansing (19-3) vs. Emporia (17-5); St. Thomas Aquinas (20-2) vs. Spring Hill (16-6); Bishop Carroll (19-3) vs. Andover Central (17-5)
7. Teams end long state droughts
A number of squads ended state droughts. In addition Burlingame and Solomon reaching state for the first time, several notable teams are back to state:
Mission Valley girls (14-8, 2A), first trip since 1981
Norwich boys (22-1, 1A-I) first trip since 1994
Bucklin boys (18-5, 1A-II) first trip since 1994
Troy boys (16-7, 1A-I) first triple since 1998
Pretty Prairie girls (22-1, 1A-I) first trip since 2000
Spring Hill (16-6, 5A) first trip since 2003
Goodland girls (21-2, 3A) have its first trip since 2006
WaKeeney-Trego boys (18-4, 2A) first trip since 2009
Clifton-Clyde girls (16-8, 1A-I), last qualified in 2009
Smith Center girls (19-4, 2A), first trip since 2013
8. Can an undefeated team win a title/will Miege, McPherson keep its 4A hegemony?
Last season, no boys’ team finished undefeated. That’s been relatively common in recent seasons. In both ’16 and 2017, no squad was perfect. Valley Falls is the only boys’ team left with a perfect mark.
On the girls’ side, the majority of the undefeated teams are all squads that have never won a state title:
Olathe North (22-0, 6A) – one state finale in 1997; no titles
Salina Central (22-0, 5A) – one state finale in 2014; no titles
Wellington (22-0, 4A) – never made a state finale
Sterling (23-0, 2A) – four state finals, 1 title – 2021
Colgan (21-0, 2A) – one state finale in 2021; no titles
Hodgeman County (23-0, 1A-I) – never made a state finale
Centralia (23-0, 1A-I) – 9 state finals; 5 championships – last in ‘16
Golden Plains (22-0, 1A-II) – two state finals in ’74 and ’14 – no titles
Valley Falls (23-0, 2A) – three state finals in ’78, ’93 and ’01; no titles
This season, Bishop Miege and McPherson again both qualified for state. Miege boys beat McPherson in a 4A state title in ’16, ’17 and ’18. Miege won state last winter.
On the girls’ side, Miege beat McPherson for the 4A title last winter. In ’18, McPherson bested Miege. In ’17, Miege beat McPherson. This year, none of the Miege/McPherson teams are dominant favorites compared to most seasons. Especially 4A girls is the closest the classification has been in multiple seasons and is one of the more compelling brackets.
Class 4A Girls: Wellington (22-0) vs. McPherson (15-7); Miege (20-2) vs. Andale (18-4); Eudora (21-1) vs. Clay Center (16-6); Wamego (20-2) vs. Labette County (18-4)
Class 4A Boys: Eudora (18-3) vs. Topeka Hayden (9-13); Abilene (16-6) vs. Bishop Miege (16-6); Buhler (18-4) vs. McPherson (13-9); Andale (16-6) vs. Paola (15-7)