By CONOR NICHOLL
Sports In Kansas has its fourth year of weekly basketball notes that highlights key players, tournaments, games, matchups, rankings and trends. A high number of teams have played one or two games at this point with much of the seasons opening last Friday. A wild first several days of games:
Wellington girls ends Cheney’s 37-game winning streak
St. Marys girls ends Olpe girls’ 51-game run
Golden Plains girls have won 60-plus regular season games
Ashland girls beat Bucklin for first time in 12 years
Big ranked versus ranked wins, especially for Lawrence Free State boys, Dodge City boys and girls, Derby girls, Maize boys, Sterling girls, Trego girls and Logan-Palco boys
Buzzer-beaters from Mulvane boys and Frontenac boys, among others
Huge starts from Division I-talent, including Blue Valley North’s Aubrey Shaw, Phillipsburg’s Taryn Sides and Salina Central’s Aubrie Kierscht
Salina Central’s Kierscht sets school record to start high expectation year
Salina Central senior Aubrie Kierscht is extremely well-known for her love of basketball and overall ability, especially with 3-point shooting. Kierscht is a 5A SIK Player of the Year finalist each of the last two seasons.
Last winter, SC coach Chris Fear told SIK he’d believed he’s never coached a player who has worked harder. Kierscht, a Navy commit, continually improves her game. She also spends ample time training young players in the Salina area. Kierscht has been a great role model.
Salina Central had no seniors last season, and Kierscht was a first team 5A all-state pick (top-five) by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association. SC finished 19-5 last year, with three losses to 5A runner-up Andover Central and a buzzer-beater defeat to Liberal. All three defeats to AC came by 10 points or fewer.
On Friday, Kierscht etched her name into the Salina Central all-time record book with a 53-24 cross-town rival against Salina South. Kierscht delivered 15 points and five steals for the Mustangs, ranked third in 5A.
Kierscht is now the Mustangs’ all-time leading scorer with 1,182 points. As well, senior Hampton Williams posted 14 points, seven rebounds, four steals and four blocks. She has committed to Division I Abilene Christian. Senior post Chaliscia Samilton delivered 10 points and six rebounds. Senior Landry Stewart delivered four rebounds and six assists.
Wellington ends Cheney’s win streak on Tuesday
On Tuesday, Wellington, ranked No. 8 in 4A, delivered a 55-49 upset win versus 3A No. 1 Cheney in the 27th annual Cheney Cardinal Classic tournament.
Cheney had won 36 straight games entering this year and captured its season opener last Friday.
The game was tied at 12 after the first quarter. Wellington opened with an 18-7 margin in the second quarter. Cheney had 14 points from Brynn McCormick and 15 by junior Leah Durr.
Wellington finished 18 of 25 from the foul line, and Cheney was 6 of 13.
Wellington is 3-0 with a 57-41 win versus Mulvane, a 50-17 victory versus El Dorado and the win versus Cheney. Wellington had lost four in a row to Cheney dating back to a 56-44 win on Jan. 29, 2016. The Crusaders fell by 16 to Cheney last winter.
Wellington was 10-9 last season. The Crusaders have two seniors: Ali Zeka and Airalyn Frame, both key players. Plus, freshmen Valerie Norwood and Brit Zeka are early standouts.
Against Cheney, Norwood delivered 16, and Ali Zeka 12.
Frame led with 18 points versus El Dorado, and 14 versus Mulvane.
Brit Zeka scored 13 and junior Kami Reichenberger had nine points in the season opener.
On Friday, Cheney girls defeated Conway Springs, 71-18. Cheney went 25-0 and won the Class 3A state title last winter, its third straight final four team. Cheney’s Rod Scheer, SIK All-Classes Coach of the Year, retired.
His daughter, Kylee Scheer, graduated and is now at Emporia State after three-time 3A Player of the Year honors. Plus, key point guard Lexi Cline graduated. However, the Cardinals return a number of key pieces for coach Sarah McCormick, who has enjoyed great success at every level of coaching. McCormick led Scott City to its first state tournaments in school history, then went to Cheney last year as an assistant.
Her daughter, Brynn, is among the state’s best and most experienced players. Plus senior Brooklyn Wewe, senior Korri Lies and 6-2 junior Campbell Hague are part of a stacked group of Cardinals. In the last five sports seasons, Cheney was Forever Four in basketball, state volleyball quarterfinals, state champions in basketball and softball, and state runner-up volleyball this fall. Cheney is ranked No. 2 in 3A behind Hugoton. Cheney has won four in a row versus Conway Springs.
Hugoton went 2-1 and took third place at the Hays City Shoot-Out with a season-opening loss to 6A Olathe West.
Goddard’s James with near quadruple-double
Goddard’s Maycee James, a returning top-10 5A player, finished with 11 points, 12 assists, 10 steals and nine rebounds in the Lions’ win versus Arkansas City. Lauryn Gordon paced Goddard with 16 points. In the season opener versus Augusta, Goddard won 46-28, including 14 points from 6-foot-2 freshman Marayah Coleman. James tallied 22.
Goddard is 3-0 after the 61-23 win versus Arkansas City. Goddard was 7-14 last season and should be much improved this year.
Dodge City opens with wins
Last Friday, Dodge City girls opened in a big 45-33 home win versus McPherson in a matchup of two state ranked teams. DC is seventh in 6A, and McPherson is second in 4A. Dodge City and McPherson split two matchups last season. Both were state final four teams; DC in 6A, and McPherson in 4A. Dodge City shot 52 percent from the field, and held McPherson to 31 percent shooting. DC led the entire game.
Becca Unruh, who had a nice sophomore season on a senior-laden squad, finished with 17 points on 5 of 9 shooting. Standout senior Camree Johnson finished with nine points, five rebounds and three assists. Newman commit Amaya Perez delivered seven points. Dodge City is ranked seventh in 6A.
Dodge City boys beat McPherson, 62-58. McPherson was ranked fifth in Class 4A, and Dodge City is now ranked tenth in 6A. Dodge City ended a seven-game losing streak to McPherson, per DC broadcaster Sean Boston. It marked the first win for Dodge City boys against McPherson since 1963. Dawson Taylor finished with 17 points and nine rebounds. McPherson led by eight at halftime. However, DC outscored the Bullpups, 21-5, in the third quarter.
Trego ranked teams open with wins
Both Trego teams are state ranked. Trego girls, ranked seventh in 2A, have reached the state tournament the last three seasons. Trego girls held off Dighton, 35-27. The Hornets are ranked sixth in Class 1A, Division II.
The Golden Eagles graduated standout Lili Shubert, who is off to a nice start at Barton CC basketball. Still, Trego returns Madison Walt, Kaylee Walt, Kya O’Banion and Caroline Brungardt, all whom were recently inducted into the National Honor Society. Point guard Madison Walt is a returning all-Mid-Continent League selection.
Trego boys, ranked No. 10 in 2A, are a significant 2A state contender and had quality performances from Gunner Wilson, Cole Feldt, Charlie Russell and Tyler Malsam.
Miege, Olpe start with new coaches
Bishop Miege girls, ranked No. 1 in 4A, opened with a 68-39 win versus St. Joseph (Mo.). Allie Burns, Adrianna Smith, Gabi Artis, and Emajin and Grace McCallop, Lexi Kurt helped the Stags steadily pull away. Miege had 11 steals and was plus-13 on the glass. Legendary coach Terry English retired after a state title and 900-plus career wins. Miege graduated Payton Verhulst, the three-time 4A Player of the Year and now at Louisville. Jeff English, Terry’s son and longtime assistant, took over as head coach.
Perhaps no team in Kansas underwent more change than the Olpe girls, which lost for the first time in two years and saw its state-best 51-game winning streak end. Jesse Nelson, the state’s all-time winningest coach, and longtime assistant Carolyn Davis both retired. Olpe had posted back-to-back perfect seasons.
Ron Slaymaker is the Eagles’ new coach. Slaymaker is most famous for a long stint as Emporia State’s men’s coach and most recently served as Chase County girls’ coach. Slaymaker coached ESU men for 28 years. Nelson was famously the first player Slaymaker recruited to Emporia State.
Olpe graduated all five starters off a 1A-I championship team that set a state record for fewest points allowed in three games at the state tournament. Olpe is not ranked in the preseason top-10, which is essentially unheard of for the Eagles. Olpe fell to 3A St. Marys, 63-54.
Girard girls with a solid road victory over Carl Junction
The Girard girls team has become one of the most consistent teams in the 3A/4A ranks over the last several years under HC Brad Herlocker. Girard, who is known for being very deep, knocked off traditional Missouri state power Carl Junction on Tuesday. The CNC has several quality basketball teams this season including Frontenac (back to back Final Four) and Colgan (2nd place in 2A 2021).
Kaleigh O’Brien, formerly at Halstead, enjoyed a big opening night for Remington. She had 34 points in a 67-37 win versus Bluestem.
Marysville led Hiawatha by five points at the end of the first quarter. However, Hiawatha beat Marysville, 56-55, on a buzzer-beater. Hiawatha girls won 46-39.
Wichita North honored Lynette Woodard, one of the best women’s basketball players ever, and named the court after her in a Friday ceremony.
Coldwater-South Central girls opened with a key 50-38 win versus Spearville. Both teams are expected to be top SPIAA and 2A/1A programs. Each coach, South Central’s Tim Rietzke and Spearville’s Todd Cossman, were a coach of the year finalist for its classification last winter. Spearville won state volleyball. Rietzke has 800-plus career wins. Both teams are highly experienced in what is likely the first of a couple of matchups this winter. South Central is ranked sixth in Class 1A, Division I.
Lakin girls opened with a 43-36 win versus Southwestern Heights to start the Jacy Holloway era. Holloway, who starred at Moundridge and Iowa State, had a solid run as Garden City boys’ basketball coach.
Clearwater’s Carli Carlson returned from injury for a high-expectation season for the Indians. Clearwater cruised over Belle Plaine, 63-22. Clearwater is ranked fifth in 4A. The Indians have 6-foot-1 senior Brooke Berlin, 6-foot senior Laurel Streit, and standout sophomore Elizabeth Tjaden.
Eureka sophomore Ashley Singhateh delivered 36 points for legendary coach Shelly Hoyt against Humboldt on Friday. Hoyt won a then-state record 107 games at Hoxie and has also led Utica and Eureka to the school’s only state tournaments in school history. Last season, Eureka had another big year and had a close sub-state championship loss to Cheney, the eventual undefeated 3A state champions. Eureka is ranked sixth in 3A.
Phillipsburg, ranked fifth in 3A, enters with high expectations after it returns the majority of key players, especially junior point guard Taryn Sides, a Kansas State commit. Both of her older brothers, Trey and Ty, were all-state in multiple sports. Trey currently plays basketball at University of Central Missouri. Sides had 39 points in the season opener. Phillipsburg has made the state tournament for the first times in school annals the past two falls. Key posts Heather Schemper and Abby Babcock also return.
Golden Plains girls, ranked fourth in Class 1A, Division II, continued its regular season winning streak with a 48-28 win versus Weskan. GP has plenty of experience for Parker Christensen with six seniors: Kassie Miller, Lauren Patmon, Amie Cheney, Rayna Taylor, 5-10 Carli Nieman, sophomore Emma Weiner and junior Breanna Rath. Christensen has led GP more than 25 years. Weiner won state cross country while battling significant injury. GP is 70-3 since the start of the 2018-19, per MaxPreps archives. GP’s last regular season loss came in a 49-33 loss to Hill City on Feb. 15, 2018.
Blue Valley North freshman Aubrey Shaw, who has six-plus high Division I offers, defeated Olathe East, 72-53. Plus, BVN has 5-11 freshman Logan Parks and key 5-8 senior shooting guard Mary Crossland. Blue Valley North is fifth in 5A. Aubrey is a top-25 player nationally for her class by ESPN. She has a Missouri offer, among others.
Normally, the AVCTL/City League showdown is the week before Christmas. This time, the power conferences in the Wichita area opened this weekend at Koch Arena.
In a matchup with multiple Power 5 recruits, Derby beat Wichita Heights, 53-40, in the AVCTL/City League challenge. Derby is sixth in 6A, and Wichita Heights is ninth in 6A. Derby junior Addy Brown has multiple Power 5 offers. Heights has Cayanna Stanley and Zyanna Walker, a Louisville commit.
Also in the ACVTL/City League, Andover Central girls earned a quality 59-53 win versus Bishop Carroll on Saturday. AC is the defending 5A runner-up to St. Thomas Aquinas and is loaded with talent, including Brittany Harshaw (Creighton) and Ellie Stearns (Fort Hays), along with junior Maddi Amekporfor.
Harshaw finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Stearns delivered 11 points, four rebounds and three assists against one turnover. Amekporfor delivered 11 points, three rebounds and two steals. AC made 6 of 19 from 3-point range. Andover Central is second in 5A, and Bishop Carroll is ninth in 5A.
Sterling, the defending 2A state champions, are the significant 2A favorite with its loaded roster. The Black Bears defeated a quality Hillsboro squad, 51-32. Sterling returns all five starters, including reigning 2A Player of the Year Kali Briar. Sterling has won nine in a row versus Hillsboro, which is currently ranked sixth in 2A.
In the last eight years, Central Plains has won seven state championships and posted an undefeated Forever Four season. CP opened with a 54-34 win versus Barton County rival Hoisington. Central Plains returns Kassidy Nixon, who has earned a bevy of first team all-state honors in volleyball, basketball and softball. The Oilers are ranked first in Class 1A, Division II.
On Tuesday, Central Plains held off Smith Center, 61-57, at the Russell tournament. SC won state volleyball in the fall and is ranked fourth in 2A. Brynna Hammeke paced CP with 28 points, and Nixon added 17, with Madison McGuire at 15. Malie Hrabe posted 20 for Smith Center.
Little River is ranked No. 1 in Class 1A, Division I, a likely wide-open classification after Olpe and runner-up Norwich both took major graduation losses. LR has opened with three big wins: 60-25 versus Lincoln, 46-26 against Elyria Christian, and 50-21 versus Goessel. Senior Lily Boughfman, a Fort Hays State volleyball commit, delivered 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists in its season opener. Boughfman is a returning first team all-state volleyball and basketball pick from the Kansas coaches.
Smoky Valley, expected to be much improved this season, opened with a 55-34 win versus Abilene. Abby Rose, Adrian Hazelwood and Keira Mullen all had key games. SV was plus-seven on the glass, and made 30 percent of its treys, compared to 17 percent for Abilene. Smoky Valley is 2-0 in the last two matchups versus the Cowgirls after a 1-17 stretch in the series. Smoky Valley is unranked in 3A.
K.C. Sumner, which didn’t play a game until after Christmas last season because of COVID, opened with a win on Tuesday.
Reese Roper, a highlighted player the last several years for her dad, longtime Haven coach Dwight Roper, finished with 25 points, nine steals, five blocks and four rebounds in a 50-25 win versus Conway Springs on Tuesday at the Kingman Classic. Haven is ranked eighth in 3A.
Ashland, also expected to be much improved this winter, has opened with a 44-32 win versus Bucklin and 52-23 against Moscow. Ashland had lost 19 in a row to league foe Bucklin, the reigning Southern Plains Iroquois tournament champions. The last win versus Ashland versus Bucklin was a 47-46 win on Jan. 16, 2009.
Junior Mackenzie Walker and senior Victoria Milburn are key returning players. Walker has 15 points, three rebounds and 2.5 steals a contest. Milburn has 14 points, 12.5 rebounds and four assists a contest. Milburn collected 7.5 points and 8.6 rebounds a contest last year. Walker had 17.8 points, four rebounds and 3.4 steals a game in 2020-21. Walker is a returning second team (top-10) selection in 1A, Division II by Kansas Basketball Coaches.
On Tuesday, Uniontown girls beat Humboldt, 48-41, in the Humboldt Round Robin tournament. Uniontown features standout Danielle Howard, who has committed to Peru State College. Howard was a SIK 2A Player of the Year finalist last winter.
Olathe Heritage Christian Academy sophomore Caelyn Ferguson has averaged 21.5 points per game in two contests. Southern Coffey County junior Josie Weers has 20.5 points a game. Macksville sophomore Mayce Russell has 19 points a game, and Goddard senior Maycee James has 17.5 points a game.
On Saturday, Lawrence Free State won an epic contest, 45-41, in overtime against Hays High in the Hays City Shoot-Out championship game. HHS was fouled with less than a second to go in regulation when its shot just rolled off the rim and made one of two free throws. Free State is ranked No. 1 in 6A, and Hays High is seventh in 5A. FS’s Mozae Downing was the tournament MVP, and Hays High’s Jace Linenberger was the Most Inspirational Player. Carson Kieffer, Jordan Dale and Linenberger made the all-tournament team.
On Monday, Ellinwood junior Britton Dutton, featured on SIK several times in the last two years, tallied 41 points in a win versus Stafford. Dutton reached 1,000 career points in the second game of his junior year. Ellinwood is seventh for 2A.
On Saturday, defending Class 5A champion Maize held off Kapaun Mt. Carmel, 48-43. Maize is ranked No. 1 in Class 5A, and KMC is fifth in 5A. The Eagles feature Avery Johnson and Kyle Grill, a Fort Hays commit. Six days after he led Maize to a 5A state runner-up in football and earned 5A Offensive Player of the Year, Johnson is also a returning first team all-state basketball player.
On Friday, Logan-Palco beat Wheatland-Grinnell, 52-49, in a key Western Kansas Liberty League matchup of two ranked teams. W-G had just one week of practice after the best football season in school history, an Eight-Man, Division II state runner-up showing to Axtell. W-G is ranked fourth in Class 1A, Division II, and Logan-Palco is fifth.
Wichita Independent’s 6-foot-3 junior guard Conar Harris hit the game winner Friday versus Kingman. Harris delivered 32 points.
Tribune-Greeley County’s Jaxson Brandl, who has been featured several times on Sports In Kansas, went over 1,000 career points earlier in his junior season. GC is 2-0 with an 87-44 win versus Stanton County, and a 75-34 win versus Eads (Colo.)
Last Friday, South Gray opened with a huge 92-54 win versus Satanta. SG scored 56 points in the first half under longtime coach Mark Applegate. The Rebels are ranked second in 1A, Division II and defending state runner-up behind Olpe, which won the state title. SG only lost in the state championship game last winter. South Gray finished 12 of 23 (52 percent) from 3-point range, including 27 points from Brady Deges and eight assists from Ian Davis.
Sedan’s outstanding multi-sport athlete Dameion Hattan finished with 34 points on Tuesday.
Pratt defeated Chaparral, 68-54, on Tuesday behind 20 points from Karter Hoeme.
Mulvane’s Mason Ellis, a North Dakota State football commit and 4A Offensive Player of the Year finalist this year, hit the game-winning shot to beat Wellington. Landon Coe paced Mulvane with 28 points. Mulvane graduated 4A first team all-state selection Trey Abasolo, the school record holder in a number of categories, and had its best season since the ‘80s. Mulvane, though, returns plenty of talent with Ellis, Coe and sophomore Kaiden Abasolo.
Natoma’s Kayden Martinez scored 27 points in the season opener. In the fall, he helped the Tigers to a 9-0 season and six-man state championship en route to classification offensive player of the year honors.
Chaparral’s Jackson Swartz finished with 31 points for the Roadrunners after a big year as a wide receiver this fall.
Frontenac junior Mario Menghini was a key player in the Raiders’ 3A state runner-up showing. He hit the game-winning shot in overtime to beat Nevada (Mo.), 58-56.
The WaKeeney-Trego Purple and Gold and Quinter Classic Rock Classic are held within 20 minutes of each other on I-70. Both tournaments, which will be featured on SIK next week, have really strong fields, especially for the boys.
Purple and Gold has Trego, Ness City and Northern Valley. Castle Rock has Quinter, Pawnee Heights, Wheatland-Grinnell, Dighton and Natoma. PH and Ness City were both state final four teams last winter and return first team all-state players. On Tuesday, Pawnee Heights beat Dighton, 47-45, in overtime in Quinter.
In Class 1A, Division II, Northern Valley is second, Wheatland-Grinnell is fourth and Pawnee Heights sixth.
Trego boys defeated Northern Valley on Tuesday, and will face Ness City in a high-profile matchup at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.