Friday night saw some exciting action as now every team in the city has played a game in this 2019-20 season. Let’s take a look back at what went down…
-On our Envista Credit Union Game of the Week doubleheader, the Topeka West Chargers and Lady Chargers opened their season with victories. The Lady Chargers held off Highland Park 51-46 in a game that went down to the wire. Credit the Lady Scots, playing their third game of the week, for fighting back from an early deficit and staying in the game all the way. That team has shown a ton of fight, and Asiya Taylor (17 points) is looking like the complimentary post scorer that will team with Dariauna Carter (15 points) to carry the offensive load. But the Lady Scots just didn’t hit enough shots and struggled with foul trouble, which hindered their ability to keep pace on the scoreboard. Still, Highland Park was within two in the final seconds when Topeka West broke the press and found Tialah Taylor for a layup that would ice the game. Taylor’s 15 points led the Lady Chargers and she is going to be a huge asset for a team that lost their two starting posts from last season. Miyah Larson added 11 points and played a solid all-around game, and the Lady Chargers had several freshman and sophomores who contributed and helped to hassle Highland Park defensively. Topeka West has won just four games in each of coach David Meseke’s first two seasons, but they’re off on the right foot and showing growth potential this season.
The boys game was an outstanding, high-level basketball game between two teams that look like they’re going to be much improved from last year. Star performances from both sides helped light up the scoreboard, but in the end it was the poise of Topeka West that helped them hold off Highland Park 74-69. Tre Alexander made all eight of his fourth quarter free throws, part of a 19-point performance from him. Elijah Brooks had 24 points, including the go-ahead bucket with just over three minutes to play after the Scots had battled back to tie the game at 63 apiece. And Dre Durall was a force in the post for the Chargers, posting a double-double with 23 points. Those three may not combine for 66 points each and every game, but they all have the potential to be consistent double-figure scorers. Alexander is a matchup problem on the wing and Brooks is electric off the bounce, as he showed with the play of the night, a transition dunk in the face of a Highland Park player that almost blew the roof off the Chargerdome. As for the Scots, their best players nearly carried them to a road win. Juan’Tario Roberts is nicknamed ‘Scrap’ but you could also call him ‘Smooth’ as he got to the rim at will and displayed a feathery shooting touch en route to a game-high 29 points. CJ Powell added 20, despite Topeka West keeping him from catching deep in the post for most of the night, and Jahi Peppers contributed 12 points. Even in defeat the Scots showed they have a chance to make teams in the Centennial League sweat night-in and night-out with their effort on defense and ability to score in bunches.
I should add that the atmosphere at the Chargerdome was tremendous for both games with fans from both schools filling the bleachers. That place was rocking for a fun night of hoops.
-Washburn Rural’s girls and boys kicked off their home schedules with wins over Hayden. The Lady Blues rebounded from a season-opening road loss to a very good Shawnee Mission Northwest team by routing the Lady Wildcats 55-25. Veterans Kasey Hamilton and Emma Krueger responded to that rough opener in a way you’d expect – by playing well and filling up the stat sheet. Hamilton scored 18 points, hitting two three-pointers, and Krueger scored 15 of her own and hauled down eight rebounds. Sophia Purcell scored 16 for the Lady Wildcats, but the rest of Hayden’s team hasn’t quite dialed in their shooting stroke just yet.
The boys game saw Rural turn in a defensive effort that surely pleased head coach Kevin Muff as they stifled Hayden 54-33. John Roeder scored 11 for Hayden, as did Trey Pivarnik, but Rural denied the rest of that Wildcat roster and played the game at a pace that suited them best. Offensively, they let Joe Berry shoulder the load again and the junior was up for it, pouring in 23 points. With Jack Hutchinson and Noah Krueger on the perimeter, you have to respect Rural’s outside shooting, which will open things up for Berry to penetrate and either kick out or finish at the rim. He’s on his way to a monster year for the Junior Blues.
-For the last handful of years, Washburn Rural and Manhattan have dominated girls basketball in the Centennial League. Topeka High kicked the door down last year to join those two as league powers. This year, it might be Seaman’s turn to join them, as they didn’t just beat Manhattan on Friday night at Viking Gymnasium – they mercy-clocked them. The Lady Vikes hit 10 of 18 from behind the three-point arc in a 58-28 thrashing of the Lady Indians. Raigan Kramer buried all three of her threes and Chloe Carter and Maddie Steiner each hit a pair from beyond the arc. The win snaps a seven-game losing streak in this series for the Lady Vikes and serves notice to the rest of the Centennial League.
It was a tough night for the Seaman boys against a much improved Manhattan squad. The Vikings’ inexperience caught up with them in the form of the turnover bug biting repeatedly in a 70-49 loss. With such a young backcourt, nights like this are an inescapable part of the learning process for Craig Cox’s squad.
-Topeka High’s girls had no problem with Junction City in their Centennial League opener, leading 57-9 at half and cruising to a 79-23 win. Kiki Smith continued her eye-popping start to her high school career, leading the way with 24 points. She’s averaging 22 points per game in her first three varsity contests. Nija Canady added 16 for the Lady Trojans. Topeka High did not mess around in this game, jumping to a 29-3 lead after one quarter of play. They have been locked in for their first three games this season.
The Trojan boys ended up placing third at the Leavenworth CNB Tournament, losing the semifinal to Liberty (MO) and then beating KC Washington in the third-place game on Saturday behind King Sutton‘s 21 points. It’s a promising start to the season for Eric King’s team, and they’ll have their first league tests of the season this week with Hayden and Washburn Rural coming to The Dungeon.
-The Shawnee Heights Lady T-Birds picked up a 44-32 win at Ottawa to conclude a 2-0 week. Alie Fulks led the way with 15 points for Heights, who showed their growth in experience in closing out the game impressively with a 21-11 margin in the fourth quarter. Learning how to win has been high on coach Bob Wells’ list for his girls this season, and that’s why this victory is so encouraging for them.
Meanwhile, the Heights boys fell to 0-2 with a 64-52 loss to a good Cyclone team, despite double-figure scoring efforts from Harvey Davis Jr., Isiah Johnson and Marquis Barksdale.