Another exciting season of high school basketball in the city ended in the best possible fashion – with three of the best teams in Topeka taking center stage on Championship Saturday, and two of them playing against each other for the big gold in a first in city history. The moment in the spotlight for Topeka High’s girls and Washburn Rural’s girls and boys proved to the entire state what anybody paying attention in Topeka had known all along – there’s some real good basketball being played, night in and night out, on the high school hardwood here.
For the third straight year I’m proud to celebrate the best of those hardwood performances with our WIBW All-City Boys and Girls Basketball honors. Unlike the past two seasons, I will name only a first and second team, and in lieu of a third team or an honorable mention, I will credit players that stood out to me for one reason or another in my own travels across the city in a section I’ll simply call ‘shout-outs’. My own observations, along with my conversations with coaches throughout the season, form the basis for these selections. Players are listed along with their rankings among stat leaders in the city, with top-15 in scoring, top-5 in blocks, and top-10 in all other major categories cited. Players are listed in alphabetical order within each team.
Without any further ado… let’s start with the ladies.
WIBW ALL-CITY GIRLS:
Carly Bachelor, senior, Washburn Rural
19.4ppg (2nd), 9.5 rpg (2nd), 3.4 apg (3rd), 3.0 spg (3rd), 1.3 bpg (2nd), 78.1% FT (3rd)
Maybe the best Lady Blue ever. She finished her career as the all-time leader in scoring and rebounding at Rural, and, oh yeah, as a state champion, too. A fabulous athlete and a tenacious competitor.
NiJaree Canady, freshman, Topeka High
20.6 ppg (1st), 10.6 rpg (1st), 2.4 spg (4th), 1.4 bpg (t-1st)
Burst onto the scene with a 20+ point game in her first ever high school contest, and never stopped scoring and rebounding in big numbers from there. Bullied her way to the hoop over, around, and through double- and triple-teams, and flashed an outside scoring touch, too. The sky is the limit.
Kasey Hamilton, junior, Washburn Rural
13.5 ppg (6th), 4.4 rpg (12th), 3.2 apg (4th), 1.6 spg (12th)
Smooth southpaw who could get her own offense as easily as she could set up a scoring look for a teammate. When the going got tough, she made big plays, especially in the second halves of her team’s wins in the state semifinal and final.
Brooklyn Hunter, senior, Hayden
16.0 ppg (4th), 6.0 rpg (6th), 75.6% FT (4th)
In a tough season for the Lady Wildcats, Hunter was their rock, their veteran presence inside, and their leading scorer. She capped off one of the most decorated high school careers in city history with an excellent season on the hardwood.
Camryn Turner, sophomore, Seaman
14.0 ppg (5th), 5.1 rpg (11th), 3.9 apg (2nd), 3.3 spg (2nd), 35.2% 3FG (8th), 73.6%FT (5th)
The catalyst for the Lady Vikes’ return to the 5A state tournament this season. Offensively, she can score from anywhere, but she’s just as fun to watch on the defensive side, where her quick feet and quicker hands make her a threat to take the ball away on any possession.
Jaryn Benning, senior, Topeka High
12.7 ppg (7th), 7.3 rpg (3rd), 1.8 spg (9th)
Athletic and versatile, Benning was a huge part of the Lady Trojans’ breakout season. She was especially excellent in the state tournament on both ends of the court.
Chloe Carter, junior, Seaman
12.5 ppg (8th), 6.1 rpg (5th), 1.3 apg (t-14th), 1.2 bpg (4th), 35.6% 3FG (7th)
Asked to play out of position many times, Carter put in able shifts in the post while still remaining a threat from all over the floor on offense.
Alie Fulks, junior, Shawnee Heights
12.0 ppg (10th), 44% 3FG (2nd), 69.4% FT (7th)
Stepped forward to become the scoring threat the Lady T-Birds desperately needed. A good ballhandler and an outstanding three-point shooter.
Ariyana Grassity, junior, Highland Park
18.2 ppg (3rd), 6.8 apg (1st), 4.0 spg (1st), 52.6% 3FG (1st), 78.5% FT (2nd)
Injuries threatened to derail the Lady Scots’ season, but Grassity’s immense improvement as a playmaker and scorer helped Highland Park to a winning season.
Emma Krueger, freshman, Washburn Rural
9.9 ppg (12th), 5.4 rpg (9th), 1.9 spg (t-7th)
The fearless frosh rose to the challenge offensively and defensively each night for the 6A champs.
Hayden: In Sophia Purcell, the Lady Wildcats have leadership and toughness from the point guard spot… Hayley Karlovitz put on some of the best shooting displays in the city this season… I think Rhen Calhoon has a chance to be really good in the post. Highland Park: Tilah Taylor did work in the post for the Lady Scots, shouldering the load inside in her sophomore season… Cierra Sherman can really shoot it. Seaman: Taylor Russell’s physical post presence was indispensable for the Lady Vikes… Megan Skoch wrapped up a terrific career by being a heady ball-handler who rarely missed at the free throw line… Raigan Kramer showed tremendous toughness this season and a great deal of growth as a shooter. Shawnee Heights: Kam Wells is a willing, and able, three-point shooter who more consistently provided double-figures for the Lady T-Birds as the season wore on… Adysen Burghart has a chance to be a really good player on both ends of the floor. Topeka High: I absolutely loved watching the guard mix of Talayah Thomas, Ja’Neysha Hendricks, Lilly Smith and Laryn Murray play this season and grow as a unit. They are fearless players who compete hard every single game and showed composure beyond their years when the stakes were highest. And about that ‘beyond their years’ thing; all four will be back next year and only Murray will be a senior. That’s an exciting core, especially when you add in their first-team monster in the post in Canady. The Lady Trojans have only just begun. Topeka West: Miyah Larson’s unique skill/size combo makes her fun to watch and I think she’s primed for a huge senior season… Gabby Rivera had a fine career as a Lady Charger, scoring and rebounding well… I liked the spark that Mayela Edwards brought to the squad in the second half of the season as a transfer. Washburn Rural: Three starters made my first or second team, but the other two starters, Shelby Ebert and Riley Bagshaw, were every bit as important to the team’s championship season. Ebert hit some big shots in important spots, and Bagshaw’s tireless rebounding and defensive efforts in the post were vital for the state champs. And at state, where everybody has to be at their best in the three-game sprint to the title, Campbell Bagshaw and Shelby Wichman both provided contributions off the bench.
WIBW GIRLS BASKETBALL COACH OF THE YEAR: Kevin Bordewick, Washburn Rural
WIBW GIRLS BASKETBALL FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: NiJaree Canady, Topeka High
WIBW GIRLS BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Carly Bachelor, Washburn Rural
And now, the boys…
WIBW ALL-CITY BOYS:
Joe Berry, sophomore, Washburn Rural
13.0 ppg (5th), 2.2 spg (3rd), 85.1% FT (2nd)
Rural’s leading scorer exploded on opening night and didn’t stop finding the basket from there. Can get to the rim and finish, and make the free throws if you foul him. He’s also a ball-hawking defender who loves a breakaway dunk off a steal.
Kobe Bonner, senior, Seaman
16.6 ppg (3rd), 3.4 apg (3rd), 1.9 spg (4th)
Always a solid point guard, Bonner added more ways to score this season and also guarded the other team’s best player just about every night. Kept the Viking ship afloat while injuries hit.
Levi Braun, senior, Hayden
20.3 ppg (1st), 5.2 rpg (8th), 42.3% 3FG (5th), 83.8% FT (3rd)
Became more than just a shooter this season as the Wildcats needed him to defend more, handle the ball more, and lead more. He did all those things willingly and well. But man, he’s still a heck of a shooter, too. Give him an inch and he’ll take three points.
Da’Vonshai Harden, junior, Topeka High
12.4 ppg (6th), 6.3 rpg (2nd), 36.4% 3FG (9th), 79.8% FT (6th)
When the Trojans were at their best it usually involved big nights from Harden, who has a package of size, skill, and quickness you don’t often see. Was Topeka High’s most consistent player throughout the season.
Jordan White, senior, Washburn Rural
12.0 ppg (7th), 6.8 rpg (1st), 2.5 apg (7th), 2.8 spg (1st), 85.7% FT (1st)
A great athlete, a clutch player, a leader, and a winner. He was everything and anything Rural needed him to be in any given game. His scoring numbers dropped, but that never bothered him. I’d take one of him on my team any day.
Tyce Brown, senior, Shawnee Heights
11.2 ppg (10th), 35.2% 3FG (t-10th)
Led the re-loading season for the T-Birds as their do-everything presence for Ken Darting in his first season. A great athlete and great competitor.
Trey Duffey, senior, Seaman
20.1 ppg (2nd), 6.1 rpg (5th), 79.4% FT (7th)
Only an eight-game injury absence keeps Duffey off the first team for a second straight year. The best true post player in the city with a nearly unstoppable mid-range game.
Savian Edwards, senior, Washburn Rural
10.8 ppg (12th), 2.7 apg (6th), 1.4 spg (t-8th), 41.8% 3FG (6th)
I lost count of how often I referred to Edwards as ‘steady’ this season. Unflappable with the ball, a good defender, and a big-shot maker.
C.J. Powell, sophomore, Highland Park
14.2 ppg (4th), 6.3 rpg (3rd), 1.6 spg (t-7th), 1.2 bpg (t-3rd)
It was a year of growing pains for the Scots, but Powell stood out among the rest of his young teammates, and not just because he’s 6’6”. The bounce in his step and the silk in his shooting stroke make him a player to watch.
Ky Thomas, junior, Topeka High
11.3 ppg (9th), 4.1 apg (1st)
You could put Thomas on any field of any sport and he’d find a way to catch your attention by making dazzling plays. A great passer, and on nights when he got hot shooting the ball, he carried his team.
Hayden: The future in the backcourt looks bright, with John Roeder and three-point specialist Jack Hutchinson showing a great deal of growth throughout the season. Highland Park: Juan’Tario Roberts’ nickname is ‘Scrap’ and it’s a perfect nickname for a player who played as tough as nails as a freshman… another young guard who impressed was Jeremy Kendrick, who can heat up from deep in a hurry. Seaman: The Vikings wouldn’t have gotten within one win of a return to state as just a two-man team. Brock Hillebert and Kobe Jordan both made the most of opportunities in their senior seasons to score and help their squad. Shawnee Heights: Marquis Barksdale and Harvey Davis Jr. are both undersized for post players, but both young men are so strong and so hard-nosed that they played bigger than their size… there weren’t many purer shooting strokes in the city than the one belonging to Quentin Donohoe… point guard Elijas Watson was one of the city’s most improved players. Topeka High: Every time I saw him this year it seemed like Kee’Andre Smith had a big scoring night. He improved offensively this season for sure, but it was his defense and leadership that made him so indispensable to the Trojans… King Sutton has immense potential as an all-around player and was the best rim protector in the city… An excellent shooter, Carlos Esquibel was vital to the Trojans’ success. Topeka West: As the most experienced player, Korbin Kido had to set an example every night for the Chargers, and he proved up to the task with his shooting and ball-handling… freshman Elijah Brooks and sophomore Tre Alexander both showed the ability to score and will be a frightening wing duo together moving forward… the Chargers always have kids who play their tails off, and Khalen Harrison was a prime example. Washburn Rural: When the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, as it was for the Junior Blues, everybody stands out in their role. Armahn Downing played excellent defense and showed a vital mid-range touch, and kept Rural in the state title game with his long-range shooting. Drew Bortz made up for his lack of size in the post with tremendous effort each night. Noah Krueger was a reliable three-point marksman. And Austin Van Aalst drawing a charge and getting to his feet fired up is one of the most indelible recurring images from their magical season.
WIBW BOYS BASKETBALL COACH OF THE YEAR: Kevin Muff, Washburn Rural
WIBW BOYS BASKETBALL FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Juan’Tario Roberts, Highland Park
WIBW BOYS BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jordan White, Washburn Rural