By CONOR NICHOLL
Day 1 was dominated by Doniphan West’s girls’ win against Central Plains in the Class 1A, Division I state tournament. SIK’s Bethany Bowman has online interviews from Class 5A girls. Chet Kuplen of Sports in Kansas also has an audio statewide recap here
Doniphan West comes out of challenging Twin Valley League; creates state history
In terms of state showings, Highland-Doniphan West girls’ basketball coach Perry Smith labels his trio of Kyra Johnson, Avery Weathersbee and Claire Cole the most successful senior class in school history.
“We truly do have great kids, great competitors and great girls,” Smith said. “They are good people. You can never write enough about them in my mind. They are good ones.”
Cole was a four-time all-state cross country runner. She helped the Mustangs to first, first, second and ninth place team finishes in the fall. For track, Cole has seven state medals the last two springs. DW finished fifth and fourth as a team.
In 2021, all three players were key sophomores on the first Doniphan West girls’ basketball team to reach a state tournament. Smith believed the Mustangs were “good enough to win a state title.” DW finished third after a close semifinal loss to Norwich.
Last fall, Doniphan West enjoyed the best volleyball season in school history. Weathersbee earned first team all-state, Johnson second team. Doniphan West again felt like it was a state title contender. The Mustangs were up a set to Flinthills in the state semifinals, lost and finished third. Smith said the girls were “hungry” for a state title after the near-misses.
On Wednesday afternoon, the seniors etched Doniphan West into Kansas high school basketball history. The Mustangs used their pace and depth to defeat Claflin-Central Plains, 60-40, in the Class 1A, Division I state quarterfinals at Dodge City’s United Wireless Arena.
DW led by 10 after the first quarter, 14 at halftime and by 24 points in the fourth quarter. Doniphan West, from the ultra-tough Twin Valley League, gave Central Plains problems with its pace.
“Proved tonight our toughness and battle-tested schedule,” Smith told SIK on Wednesday.
That ended the Oilers’ record of eight consecutive played state titles. In 2020, Central Plains was also a COVID Forever Four team with an undefeated record. CP had won every state title it played in since 2014. The stretch included Central Plains’ state record 138-game winning streak that ended in Dec. 2020.
It marked Central Plains’ second ever state loss. In 2012, the Oilers, the consolidation of Claflin and Quivira Heights, fell 59-46 to Olpe in the 2A state quarterfinals, per Kansas historian Carol Swenson.
Doniphan West is known for its depth with multiple Mustangs between eight and 12 points per game. Johnson finished 7 of 12 from the field for 18 points, along with seven rebounds and four assists. Cole delivered 10 points. Weathersbee delivered 13 points, nine rebounds and four assists on 6 of 8 shooting. DW shot 49 percent from the field and made 5 of 11 treys. Malaina Whetstine, who saw time as a freshman on the state team, finished with nine points on 3 of 8 shooting. Katie Johnson logged 17-plus minutes off the bench.
“Central Plains probably hadn’t seen a team that could run the floor and attack the way we did today,” Smith said.
This season, Central Plains finished 19-5 after it bumped up from Class 1A, Division II. The Oilers had graduated multiple stalwarts, notably co-player of the year Kassidy Nixon. However, Brynna Hammeke returned after her co-player of the year season.
She averaged 19 points a game. Central Plains was still considered a slight favorite in a close bracket. Quinter, and the Twin Valley League duo of Doniphan West and Frankfort were considered the other favorites.
“The Twin Valley League prepares you for games like this,” Smith said.
Doniphan West held Central Plains to 33 percent shooting and 18 turnovers. Hammeke, who has fought a back injury during the past year, finished with nine points on 4 of 12 shooting. Addyson Ogle led with 11 points. Central Plains averaged 0.69 points per possession and allowed 1.03.
During the season, CP scored .89 points a possession and allowed .56. Brennah Edie, whom Smith called a “little bulldog,” normally guards the opposing ball handler and did a great job limiting Hammeke. The senior got in foul trouble early. DW defended Central Plains’ ball screens and dribble handoffs and hit outside shots. Smith believed Central Plains and Hammeke “got a little tired.”
“We are kind of known for our pace,” Smith said.
In 2016, his No. 8 Wetmore girls upset No. 1 Norwich. On Friday, Smith and longtime Norwich coach Mike Klaver meet for a third time at the state tournament.
On Friday, top-seeded Norwich (22-2) faces Doniphan West (19-5) in the state semifinals at UWA. Brooklyn Sheetz led with 12 points and six rebounds for Norwich.
In the second semifinal, Quinter (21-3) plays Frankfort (21-3). Quinter has a plus-13 win improvement from last year and defeated Olpe, 57-47. Anna Briggs, likely the leading 1A-I player of the year contender, delivered 14 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks. Point guard Cashlyn Kvasnicka, one of the state’s most improved 3-point shooters, had 16 points and made two treys. Bryn Gillespie finished with 11 points.
In a game that had seven lead changes and featured 59 possessions a contest, Frankfort won 61-53. Sydney Wapp had 22 points. Emma Hardwick and Hattie Gros both had 15.
Norwich plays a much more deliberate style. The Eagles’ quarterfinal win had just 45 possessions. Doniphan West’s victory had 58. Two years ago, Norwich’s slower pace played a role in its win.
“They are long, they are big, yeah, they play a different style than we do, and that will be key on Friday night, which style can impose their will,” Smith said.
The TVL consistently has multiple girls teams deep in the state tournament.
Last year, Centralia was second in 1A-I, Hanover third in 1A-II. On Wednesday, Hanover improved to 24-0 with a 63-32 win in the 1A-II quarterfinals against Wallace County.
The Wildcats won state titles in 2017 and ’18. In the last five years, Smith called games against TVL rivals like Frankfort, Hanover, Centralia “absolute street brawls.”
During the season, Doniphan West lost by three to non-league Riverside, a 2A state qualifier, and by five to Frankfort. DW lost by 10 and nine to Hanover. Those are two of Hanover’s four closest margins this season. In non-league, DW defeated Atchison County, a 20-win team that was ranked in 3A throughout the year.
In front of a packed sub-state title game crowd, Doniphan West held off Centralia, 44-39.
“Our kids are used to seeing that type of tenacity,” Smith said.
For Central Plains, Smith did mention to his team the Oilers’ consecutive state championships.
However, in study, Smith and the coaching staff believed DW had faced harder teams in its league, though sometimes comparisons are “hard to tell” on film. That opinion proved correct when DW jumped out to an early lead and commanded the game en route to more state achievements for the decorated senior class.
“We haven’t had a senior class ever be this accomplished at the state level,” Smith said. “They are tremendous kids.”
Notables/big performances/league strength shows
The Eastern Kansas League went 5-0. In 6A boys, Blue Valley North and Blue Valley Northwest won. In 5A girls, St. James Academy and St. Thomas Aquinas both won. In 4A boys, Bishop Miege won.
The Mid-Continent League finished 2-0 with Phillipsburg girls and TMP boys winning.
Class 5A St. James and 3A Phillipsburg girls both won the first state tournament games in program history. SJA, a SIK Potential Breakout Team in December, rolled top-seeded Topeka Seaman, 65-42. No. 1 Phillipsburg held off upset-minded Riley County with a big fourth quarter in a 40-27 win. Taryn Sides, a Kansas State signee and 2,000-point career scorer, had a double-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and three assists.
Andover’s Brooke Walker, a top-5 junior recruit in Kansas, had 26 points in a 58-48 win against Emporia. Andover is in its first final four in 27 years.
In 3A, Goodland held off Frontenac, 53-48, after it built a big lead. Goodland has the state’s longest winning streak at 37 games. Talexa Weeter, a Fort Hays signing, hit at least 20 points for the 33rd time in her career, per GHS broadcaster Ross Volkmer.
In 1A-II girls, Lebo matched Hanover’s 24-0 record with a 56-12 win against Pawnee Heights. PH had six players but entered with five because of an injury. Another player exited with injury, and PH had to finish with four. Lebo put one player in the corner of each possession to make it like 4 on 4. Lebo was 0-3 in its last three state appearances and won a state game for the first time since 2001.
In 2A boys, Moundridge defeated St. Marys, 63-31. This is legendary coach Vance Unrau’s last year before retirement. Moundridge is guaranteed to play Saturday. The Wildcats will face Thomas More Prep-Marian, which rolled Horton, 52-27, and has won 21 straight games.
In 4A boys, Hugoton won its 20th straight contest with an 80-63 win against Clay Center. Ryle Riddlesperger hits 1,000 career points.
In 6A boys, Blue Valley Northwest defeated Shawnee Mission Northwest, 73-54. Grant Stubblefield had 27 points, seven assists and seven rebounds. He is the reigning player of the year and headed to Division I Nebraska-Omaha basketball.