Rainbow Communications Northeast Kansas Athletes of the Month: Jackson Heights girls off to undefeated start behind depth and defense


Twenty-three teams are undefeated in Kansas girls’ basketball. The class with the most perfect teams entering Thursday’s action is 2A, which includes 9-0 Jackson Heights. The Cobras are enjoying another excellent season under ninth-year coach Dan Shupe. JH has its well-known junior duo of forward Kaylee Thompson and guard Kanyon Olberding, along with plenty of depth.

Jackson Heights is currently ranked fifth in 2A behind Sterling, Valley Heights, Berean Academy, and St. Mary’s Colgan. The back half features one-loss Smith Center, undefeated Elkhart, Ell-Saline, Remington and Garden Plain.

Last Friday, Olberding had a near triple-double against an improved Horton team in a 62-16 win: 37 points, 7 of 14 from 2-point range, 6 of 9 on treys, with five rebounds and nine steals.

Through nine contests, Olberding delivers 18.6 points, 4.8 steals, 4.2 assists and 3.3 rebounds a contest. Thompson delivered 20.6 points per game through the first seven games. She is currently at 16.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.3 steals and 3.1 assists.

Both are excellent in other sports. On the 27-10 volleyball team this fall, Olberding paced in kills, Thompson in aces, digs and receptions. Olberding is the reigning 1A state long jump champion.

Junior guard Rebekah Hutfles is at seven points a contest. Senior 5-foot-9 forward McKenzie McMahon has 5.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Senior point guard Kylee Dieckmann has 2.3 points, 2.2 assists and 2.1 steals a contest. The key reserves are sophomores Dawson Cochren and senior Annie Allen.

JH has filled the gap after Amaya Marlatt graduated. She was second team all-league as a sophomore and junior, along with first team as a senior. Thompson collected second team honors. McMahon was an honorable mention selection. Education-wise, McMahon has earned her CNA. She also collected recognition from Jackson Heights in 2020 when she made an impressive wooden two-seated red bench in shop class.

“Statistically Kaylee and Kanyon shine, but if it wasn’t for all of them, we wouldn’t be where we are at right now,” Shupe said. “…All of my starters and a couple of bench players deserve credit for the success we are having up to this point. It is a lot of time overlooked at what a lot of the role players do for teams.”

Last year, McMahon delivered eight points and five rebounds a contest. Thompson averaged a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds a game. Hutfles and Olberding were at eight points a contest, and Dieckmann delivered two points a game.

Jackson Heights is headed for its fifth straight winning season and has capably replaced key players. Two years ago, Kylie Dohl graduated after she set school marks in points and rebounds. The Cobras are 13-6, 14-6, 23-3 and 19-2 in the previous four.

Last season, JH opened with a 59-44 loss to Royal Valley, and then didn’t lose until a sub-state defeat to Clifton-Clyde. Jackson Heights has not fallen to a Northern Kansas League school since a 62-53 defeat against Jefferson County North on Dec. 6, 2019.

This year, JH has already beaten Royal Valley and Jeff County North. Jackson Heights continues to run the same system that Shupe has used for years: uptempo game, pushing the ball up the court in the full court and applying full court pressure when needed. Shupe, a Cobra alum, said JH has enjoyed “complete buy in on the defensive end.”

“We are fortunate to have a couple of very good posts that allow us to play inside out which also gives us opportunities from the perimeter,” Shupe said. “Also the understanding of roles on the team and doing your role to the best of your ability in our system.”

Each girls’ basketball classification has at least two undefeated squads.

In 6A East, Olathe North is 9-0 and Shawnee Mission West stands at 8-0. For 6A West, Derby and Topeka High are both 8-0. In 5A East, defending state champion St. Thomas Aquinas stands at 11-0, and Lansing is 9-0. Salina Central is 9-0 in 5A West.

Wamego (9-0, East) and Wellington (10-0, West) are the lone perfect teams in 4A. Nickerson (10-0) and Silver Lake (8-0) are the only undefeated 3A teams.

In 2A, Valley Heights (10-0), Sterling (10-0), Elkhart (9-0), Colgan (9-0), Berean Academy (9-0), Jackson Heights (9-0) have perfect marks. In Jackson Heights’ Valley Falls sub-state, Atchison County is 8-2, and Jefferson County North stands at 5-4.

Centralia (7-0) and Jetmore-Hodgeman County (11-0), St. Paul (7-0) and Norwich (10-0) are the lone perfect squads in wide-open 1A, Division I. Lebo (11-0) and Golden Plains (8-0) are the only undefeated squads remaining in Division II.

Jackson Heights will play in the Hiawatha Girls Invitational tournament that will be Jan. 25, 27 and 29. JH opens with a contest versus J.C. Harmon. Hiawatha and Atchison County are also in the six-team field.

JH has an average score of 54-23. The Cobras opened with a 61-30 win versus Royal Valley, which won state in 2019. While the two teams have rarely played, Jackson Heights was 0-2 against RH since 2013.

That resume includes a 44-35 win versus Pleasant Ridge on Dec. 10, a 42-22 victory against Jefferson County North on Dec. 17, and a 47-28 win against Atchison County on Jan. 11.

JCN is a perennial power that stands at 5-4 this season. AC is 6-2.

Jackson Heights reached state in 2019, its first trip to state in 20 years, and lost to eventual runner-up Sterling by eight.

Jackson Heights has won four in a row against Jefferson County North after a 3-18 stretch in the series. This marked the fewest points JCN has scored versus Jackson Heights since before 2006.

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