By CONOR NICHOLL
The Dodge City Tournament of Champions highlighted the annual first of two midseason tournament weekends. Below is a look at the top-three TOC squads: Campus, Bishop Miege and Manhattan. Campus is No. 1 in 6A, Bishop Miege is third in 4A, and Manhattan stands sixth in 6A. Manhattan coach Benji George labeled the TOC the best tournament in Kansas.
Class 6A: No. 1 Campus boys, use depth, experience wins TOC in thrilling fashion, hallmark moment for program
The celebration wouldn’t stop for the Haysville-Campus boys’ basketball team, a program that has long waited for success on a big stage.
Last Saturday, Campus defeated Bishop Miege, 64-59 in overtime, in the Dodge City Tournament of Champions title game at United Wireless Arena. The TOC, in its 77th year, is one of the state’s most prestigious competitions, and the longest running boys’ tournament west of the Mississippi. The Colts played in the tournament, normally reserved for elite programs, for the first time.
After the awards and medal presentation, Campus remained on the court for the customary photos with the entire team. The four coaches, with sixth-year head coach Chris Davis, took a picture together. Several teammates had smaller group photos.
Then, the cheerleaders went down to the other end of the court to celebrate with the student section. After a short pause, the players at the other end yelled for the cheer squad and the student section to join them. Everyone took off in an excited sprint to join the players.
Then, in a moment rarely seen, Campus snapped photos of everyone together on the court: players, cheerleaders, student section, all huddled en masse with big smiles. It was a long time coming for a Colts’ boys squad which hasn’t made the state tournament since 1996.
The girls’ have not reached state since ’01. Last year’s 17-5 record marked the first time Campus boys had posted double-digit victories since a 10-11 mark in ’09-10.
The Campus coaches finally needed to tell the players to come off the court. The Colts did, with joyful exclamations the entire way as they turned a right corner and went to the locker room. Campus has raucous cheering inside the locker room. Then, Davis emerged, his dress shirt wet from the celebration. Davis didn’t mind.
“I will take it,” he said with a smile.
The victory propelled Campus, helped by an influx of new players the last two winters, to an 11-0 record. It kept the Colts ranked first in Class 6A by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association in the latest poll released Tuesday. Davis has turned around a long struggling program that won four games each in ’15-16 and ’16-17 before a 9-13 season in ’17-18.
Campus has never won a state basketball title for the boys or girls. The best year is a boys’ state runner-up in ’88. The last regular season conference title came in ’89 for both teams.
“It’s a great win, and hopefully it just propels us to more,” Davis said.
Last year, the Colts, with several veterans and Wichita Southeast transfer Shawn Warrior, enjoyed the eight-win jump. Campus entered this winter with high expectations, including a preseason No. 2 ranking in 6A. The Colts, with a blend of chemistry, experience, athleticism and height, have stayed first in 6A since Dec. 16.
Campus is the lone undefeated 6A boys’ squad. The Colts average 73 points a game, the only 6A team above 69, according to KSHSAA statistics.
“We have got good players, and they want it,” Davis said. “They want a common goal, and Campus has had some really, really bad years. This is my sixth year, and our first couple years were hard, were tough.
“We were young, and I had 14-year-olds playing against 18-year-olds, and that’s a heck of a difference,” he added. “And now these guys are 16, 17 years old, and they can make plays. It’s just been a process, but you appreciate that process so much more when you have gone through that.”
Campus has five seniors: Tai Johnson, Warrior, Kaleb Selenke, Steele Chapman and Thomas King. Warrior, Chapman and King start. Johnson is first off the bench, and Selenke is part of the rotation.
As well, juniors Keither Florence (6-7) and Sterling Chapman (6-5) are key starters. Florence transferred in from Wichita Heights this winter. He averaged six points and 4.9 rebounds for the Falcons last year.
Warrior and King are both 6-5. Warrior said the team is “like brothers” and “really bonded.” Both Chapman brothers are three-year starters. The Chapman duo was honorable mention all-league as sophomores, and second team all-conference as juniors.
“They have that really good chemistry,” Warrior said. “I have been playing with them for 12 years, since I was little, they have always been together. They always play together. They know how to play with each other.”
The team is very balanced. Sterling Chapman leads in points, and Florence in rebounds. The top-six players all made at least two impactful plays in the fourth quarter/overtime versus Miege.
“We just practice everyday and every time we go to practice, we practice like we are going to play in a game,” King said. “And then we push ourselves.”
In the three-game TOC, King led Campus with 45 points, Warrior tallied 43 and Sterling Chapman finished with 35. Florence added 29, and paced the tournament in total rebounds (26) and offensive rebounds (13).
Sterling Chapman led the TOC with 13 assists. Warrior, King and Sterling Chapman collected all-tournament team honors. Davis believed Steele Chapman should also have been honored.
“They all play together in the summertime on the same team,” Davis said. “They are wonderful friends. It’s a great nucleus to have.”
Three different players led Campus in scoring. King delivered 23 in the 73-69 quarterfinal win versus Wichita East. Sterling Chapman tallied 15 in the 71-45 semifinal victory against Shawnee Heights. Warrior delivered 16 points and 10 rebounds in the final versus Miege.
“He did great,” King of Warrior. “He was a key factor in that game. Just an amazing player, and I love him as a teammate and as a person.”
The tradition-laden Stags, 8-2 and ranked third in Class 4A, featured sophomore Mark Mitchell, the tournament’s Most Inspirational Player and leading scorer. Mitchell has a Kansas offer.
“They beat us on the boards a little bit,” Miege coach Rick Zych said. “Their athleticism, their physicality, they got some rebounds. The big one’s offensive. They got some offensive rebounds, stuck them back in. We had been doing a good job up to that point. Sometimes the ball bounced their way. They made plays down the stretch, and we didn’t. That’s what won it.”
Last season, Warrior collected 14 points a game in his first season with Campus, and King was at 11.2 points a contest. Warrior was honorable mention all-league. Last season marked King’s first year with the Colts after he came from the homeschool system.
“At Southeast, it was a good environment, but I think Campus is a lot better, a better choice for me, academically-wise, and sports-wise,” Warrior said.
In 2018-19, Campus earned a pair of milestone wins Jan. 4 and 8 against AVCTL I rivals Salina Central and Derby, respectively. The Colts defeated SC, 55-45, and Derby, 52-48. The Colts ended losing streaks of at least 20 games versus both teams.
Campus’ losses came against Maize (twice), Maize South, Andover Central and Wichita Southeast. The opponents were a combined 83-13. AC won 5A, Maize was third in 5A, and SE third in 6A.
This winter, Campus defeated Maize, 76-50, on Dec. 19. The Colts were 1-24 in its previous 25 games versus the Eagles. On Jan. 14, the Colts held off Derby, 56-53, in front of a standing room only crowd. Derby is currently eighth in 6A.
In the finals, Miege led virtually all second half, outside of a very brief stretch within the first minute of the fourth quarter. However, in the third, Warrior walked up to Johnson in the backcourt during free throws on the other end. Warrior told Johnson “everything was going to be all right,” and that Campus would pull through and get the victory.
Miege led 56-49 with 3:47 left. Davis kept belief.
“With the guys we have one through five, absolutely,” he said. “I always tell our kids, ‘next play, next play.’ I harp on that. Don’t let one mistake become two, and I thought they had next play mentality, and they just battled.”
Then, Warrior made two free throws, Steele Chapman scored off his own offensive rebound, and Johnson forced a five-second call on defense.
“The little things, the tough, rough plays, get on the floor, get a steal, that’s why he is a good player,” Warrior of the 5-11 Johnson, Campus’ only key player under six-foot tall.
Just inside a minute left, Sterling Chapman hit a huge 3 from the right side that tied the score at 58.
“We were coming out of the timeout and he said, ‘Coach, I am going to hit it,’” Davis said. “And I just knew the minute he caught it and let it fly that it was nothing but net. He is only a junior, and he’s obviously a great leader for us, and we feed off of Sterling.”
“It was crazy,” Warrior added. “I didn’t believe it myself when it went in.”
In the overtime, Steele Chapman missed a free throw, but Florence gathered the offensive rebound and scored.
A deflection from Johnson led to a steal by King, who made two free throws for the game’s final points. Miege committed just 10 fouls in its semifinal win versus Manhattan and had 16 versus the Colts.
“They don’t foul a lot,” Davis said. “But they did tonight, because of our aggressiveness and being able to get to the basket, and we weren’t scared. We took it in there, and we knew we were going to score or get fouled.”
Class 4A: Mitchell impresses for Bishop Miege; leads heavy non-senior Stags
By 247, a recruiting industry leader, Mitchell is ranked as the No. 20 player nationally and first in Kansas for the 2022 class. Mitchell tallied 20 points and 10 rebounds in the title and showed an excellent all-around game, including ball handling full court and driving inside.
He guarded the perimeter some in the first half and helped force several Campus turnovers. Mitchell easily led the tournament with 61 points and free throws attempted (27). He was third with 22 rebounds. Mitchell missed just two foul shots all tournament.
“We know he’s a good player,” Warrior said. “We know that he has the offers, and we know that they are not going to lie. We just tried to contain him, but he played a good game.”
He wore a disappointed look after the championship loss. Mitchell accepted the Most Inspirational Player award and walked out to center court. The crowd noticed Mitchell’s effort and provide a loud ovation. Campus guarded Mitchell with King and Sterling Chapman.
“Sterling just battled his tail off against him,” Davis said. “The kid earned everything he got. A good athlete, and he is such a weapon, because if you foul him, he is going to go to the line and make free throws.”
Zych, with 595 career victories at Miege, has coached multiple high-level players, including Trevor and Travis Releford, and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. Trevor played for Alabama, Travis at KU, and Robinson-Earl is currently at Villanova. Zych has been impressed with Mitchell’s work ethic. The team departed for Dodge City at 7 a.m., and Mitchell was in the gym before they left.
“Nobody works harder than him,” Zych said.
Miege won championships in ’16, ’17 and ’18, though took an upset loss to Chanute in the sub-state title game last year. This season, the Stags have either ranked second or third in 4A. All of the points from the Stags in the title game came from non-seniors.
Mitchell and sophomore Christian Bowen-Webb earned all-tournament team. Bowen-Webb tallied 15 versus Campus, and freshman Aiden Wing scored 11. Junior Harrison Braudis tallied eight, and sophomore Xavier Hall scored five.
Miege had the TOC’s top-four players in minutes played: Mitchell with 98, Braudis and Hall at 94, and Bowen-Webb with 90.
“We are young,” Zych said. “We didn’t know if we could win one game, two games from watching video. We won two, and we had a chance to win three. I think that’s what’s eating everybody. Our expectations are high at Miege, with some of the players we’ve had, and we want to win state championships, and this helps you win state championships, games like this.”
Class 6A: Manhattan boys bounce back from tough season behind big senior class
Sixth-year Manhattan coach Benji George suffered his first losing season with Manhattan last winter in an 8-13 season. The Indians finished 2-6 in games decided by seven points or fewer, and did not win a close game after Dec. 11.
This winter, Manhattan returned 97 percent of its key statistics and has eight seniors: Peyton Weixelman, Raeshon Riddick, Mitch Munsen, Antonio Barron, Tyce Hoover, Tyler Higgins, Colton Sullivan, and Chandler Marks.
Manhattan has already bested last year’s win total and stands 9-2 after a third-place showing at TOC. Teams often help at one of the local schools during the week, and George was happy how the Indians represented themselves off the court, too.
In the last week, Hoover also committed to Butler County football. Hoover, known for his defense in basketball, was out three weeks this winter with a concussion. Weixelman and junior Owen Braxmeyer have led the offense.
As well, the Indians won the season-opening Hays City Shoot-Out, including a victory versus Lawrence Free State, currently ranked seventh in 6A. Manhattan is 5-1 in tournament games.
“I have been coming to TOC since I was an assistant, and just loved it,” George said. “And it’s a phenomenal tournament. I think it’s the best tournament in Kansas to be honest. They take care of you. The facilities are great. I know it’s a tournament with history, so it’s an honor. I always communicate that to our kids.”
Manhattan was not ranked in the preseason, jumped to fourth in the first poll, was ranked as high as second and is sixth the last three weeks.
In the TOC, Manhattan opened with a 62-34 victory versus Maize. In the semifinals, the Indians led by Miege by two entering the fourth quarter. Then, Miege outscored Manhattan, 15-4, in the fourth.
In the third-place game, Manhattan defeated Shawnee Heights, 63-48.
“It’s just kids growing up together and going through adversity together and succeeding together,” George said. “And they are all just a year older, and so we are seeing the product of that. Twelve months ago, our struggles, we’d maybe have 37, 40 points. Now, we are talking with 63 points, and we are talking about getting greedy and we want 80 up on the board, so we have come a long ways, and we still have a ways to go.”
Against SH, Manhattan was plus-13 on the glass. The 6-foot-5 Marks had 16 points, while Riddick tallied 11. Munsen had a solid game with eight points, eight rebounds and four assists. Marks has averaged around eight points a game.
“Our approach with tournaments has always been get two wins,” George said. “And if you get that third one, that’s just icing on the cake. We had a hurt locker room last night. I really thought we poured ourselves into that game, and we had a hurt locker room, and I am just proud of the guys for bouncing back, because it’s not easy to do. I thought we gave great effort today, and I thought the rebounding showed that.”
Riddick earned all-tournament team and paced Manhattan with 36 points and shot 76 percent from beyond the arc.
“He has always been a natural scorer,” George said. “Really the rest of his game has come along. Now you are seeing him get some steals. He is running the floor pretty well.”