The city’s hoops schedule takes a holiday the next two weeks, so Friday night’s action brought down the curtain on 2019. It was an exciting night of basketball with a lot of overtime and fantastic finishes. Here’s what went down…
-I will spare you any hyperbole in regards to the highly-anticipated first meeting of the season between defending 6A champions Washburn Rural and preseason 6A #1 Topeka High in girls basketball, and simply say this: the performance by the Lady Trojans was, given the quality of the opponent they were facing, the most dominant 32 minutes of basketball I think I’ve witnessed, girls or boys, in my four seasons of covering hoops in the capital city. The Lady Blues are a very good team, with a terrific senior point guard in Kasey Hamilton, an outstanding sophomore wing in Emma Krueger, and a future star in Brooklyn DeLeye. They’re going to have another great year, and it would shock nobody to see them back at the state tournament to defend their crown. But they were absolutely overwhelmed and frustrated by the relentless Lady Trojans, who forced 20+ turnovers, made nine three-point shots, and enacted the mercy clock in their 75-37 win. Kiki Smith continued her remarkable freshman season with 22 points, Nija Canady showed off her all-around skills in a 21-point effort, and Lilly Smith made it rain from the perimeter, netting five threes as part of her 17-point night. Topeka High is still so young, and the way they were locked in on both ends of the floor with a matter of revenge on their minds may be tough to duplicate every single night. But I am confident in saying this: when they play like that, I don’t know if anybody can beat them. They are #1 with a bullet.
The boys game at The Dungeon was a dandy, with lots of twists in the tale before the Trojans outlasted the Junior Blues in overtime, 71-60, to hand Rural their first loss of the season. After a back-and-forth first half, Rural seemed to seize control with a 21-11 margin in the third quarter. But this time, unlike in their Tuesday night defeat, Topeka High didn’t wait until the final two minutes to flip the switch. They turned it on to start the fourth quarter and went on a 13-0 run to take the lead back. The Junior Blues almost survived thanks to some free throws from freshman Jack Bachelor in the final seconds – apparently clutch and poise run in that family – but Jalen Smith‘s bucket with five ticks left forced the extra period and King Sutton took over from there, scoring the first five points of the OT as part of his game-high 22 points. It was Sutton’s dunk that kickstarted the 13-0 fourth quarter spurt, and he showed off a lot of his offensive arsenal as he took over the game late. Credit the Topeka High defense, too, for limiting Rural star Joe Berry, who scored 20 in the first three quarters but didn’t score in the final period or in the overtime. Manhattan may be emerging as the early favorite in the boys Centennial League race, but both Rural and High are in it to win it, too.
-It’s always fun when Seaman and Shawnee Heights get together, and the boys game ended up being a vital victory for the T-Birds, who held on late for a 51-44 triumph to go into the holiday with two straight wins. Harvey Davis Jr. is relishing being the go-to man for Heights, and his 16 points led the way for them. Seaman got 12 from Kaeden Bonner, who seems poised to follow older brother Kobe as a long-time steady contributor for the Vikings, but they’ll still be seeking their first win when the calendar flips to 2020. In the girls game, the Lady Vikes went to 4-0, starting the game on a 17-0 run and never looking back in a 49-27 win. Camryn Turner had another big night with 20 points for Seaman, who was rarely tested in December and look improved from their state-qualifying season last year. Heights dropped to 2-3 and are still looking for consistent offense aside from Alie Fulks, who had 10 points.
-Hayden’s girls and boys suffered losses at Manhattan, but both squads, especially the Lady Wildcats, can be pleased with portions of their effort. The girls game was nip and tuck until the end, with the Lady Indians hanging on, 37-33. Sophia Purcell and Macy Smith are becoming quite the backcourt combo for the Lady Wildcats, and though they are winless through Friday, they’ll find success in the new year when those two play well. The Hayden boys struggled out of the gate in a 67-42 loss to the still-unbeaten Indians, but they found some offensive rhythm in the second half and Trey Pivarnik has posted back-to-back double figure scoring games in the post.
-Late game heroics helped Highland Park to a boys and girls sweep at Junction City. In the girls game, Darianua Carter‘s game-winning driving layup moved the Lady Scots back to .500 with a 51-50 win. Carter finished with 19 points in delivering the game’s signature moment, and it’s a testament to her skills and leadership that her team has fought their way to a 3-3 start. The boys game went overtime, where Donald Daniels scored five of his nine points to help Highland Park earn a 54-53 triumph. Juan’Tario Roberts had another huge night, scoring 19 points to lead the way for the Scots, who are 4-1 and getting better every game.
-One overtime wasn’t even enough to decide a winner between Emporia and Topeka West in boys basketball – so they played another. Unfortunately for the Chargers, they ran out of steam in the second extra period, failing to score and falling to the Spartans 64-57. Elijah Brooks scored 20 points, but perhaps the Chargers’ lack of game experience so far (they’ve played just two) hurt them in this one. The Lady Chargers also lost to Emporia, 38-22, with Miyah Larson‘s 14 points not joined by enough other contributions to keep pace despite a solid defensive effort.