League play is fully underway for all fourteen city programs after Friday night’s action, which was also the last full night on the schedule before the winter break. There were some outstanding rivalries contested on Friday night, so let’s get right to the details…
-In the game we had for you on 580 WIBW, the Highland Park Scots made an early Centennial League statement by topping previously unbeaten Topeka West 61-52 at Ken Darting Gym. The Scots went on an 11-0 run early in the game and never trailed afterwards, keeping the Chargers at arms length throughout the night. T-West’s excellent backcourt combined for 34 points, but most of that was the work of Elijah Griffin, who had 20 in the first half on his way to 25 on the night. Koriyon Carr scored nine points, content to feed the hot hand in Griffin and dish out the assist of the night on an alley-oop slam by Kendall Sutton that had a sizable traveling contingent of Charger fans roaring. But the Scots 3-2 zone defense made it hard for the Chargers to get into their offense throughout, and their excellent backcourt of Dasani Giardina and Kenny Stewart staked their own claim as one of the top duos in the league. Giardina hit two long threes early on his way to an 18-point night, and Stewart had an efficient 19 points on 10 shots (8-10 FG). Both players can get to the rim and have plenty of shooting range, and the play of Will White and Donald Daniels as the other guards in HP’s small lineup compliments them very well. The Scots aren’t deep – only seven players saw action – but their starting five can run with anybody, and on nights where Giardina and Stewart are both feeling it, they’re going to be very hard to beat. It was a tremendous atmosphere for basketball at ‘The Pressure Cooker’, with West’s fans traveling well to support their team and the Scots fans in full voice as well.
-The girls game saw the Lady Scots move to 5-0 with a dominant 56-24 win over the Lady Chargers. Highland Park applied suffocating full-court defensive pressure throughout and flustered T-West’s inexperienced backcourt. On the occasions where the Lady Chargers did break the press they did a fine job taking advantage of odd-man opportunities, including a 6-0 run in the first quarter that trimmed an 11-point lead down to five at the end of the first eight minutes. But the waves of pressure were too much for T-West to overcome, as was the play of Dariauna Carter. The sophomore is establishing herself as one of the city’s top guards as she poured in a game-high 23 points. Sophomore post Brendeja Holloman led West with 10 points. She showed a nice touch around the basket and as she improves her pass-catching and free-throw shooting, she’s going to put up big scoring numbers down the road.
-Rivalry settings don’t get much better than Seaman vs Hayden at ‘The Ken’ and the Wildcats turned their game against the Vikings into a dunk-fest. Zach Harvey had some highlight-reel finishes above the rim on his way to a game-high 33 points in Hayden’s 53-40 win in the boys game. The standout junior has been dealing with an injury in the early going this season but nobody in the city can score the way he can when he’s at his best. With time over the holiday break to rest and heal, Harvey is primed for a monster run through the Centennial League. Seaman did a good job playing to a pace that favored them in a game where they were still without two injured starters, and Trey Duffey and Kobe Bonner both had the kinds of games the Vikings needed them to have scoring-wise, combining for 30, but it was just too much Harvey to handle. With their loss to Center (MO) on Saturday, it was an altogether rough week for the Wildcats, who go into the holiday at 2-2, but the break should help both Harvey and Jett Canfield get closer to 100% physically and spark the Wildcats in the thick of league play.
-The Hayden Lady Wildcats got their best win in the young coaching tenure of Luke Noll as they topped the Lady Vikes 51-43, rallying back from down six going into the final quarter thanks to a 16-0 run. Hayden is at their best when Brooklyn Hunter gets rolling, and did she ever get rolling, scoring 16 in the second half and posting a double-double with 18 points and 10 boards. Sophia Purcell joined Hunter in double-figures with 11 and Madison Ellis hit a pair of big threes in the fourth quarter to finish with seven points. The Lady Wildcats have a team full of girls with varsity experience, and nobody is afraid to take the big shot. They may have a chance to develop quickly and be much better in the league than they were last year. As for the Lady Vikes, it was a tough defeat that dropped them to a 2-3 record, but Katera Mayfield’s big night (14 points) and the best games of the season for Megan Skoch and Chloe Carter are great signs for them moving forward.
-Shawnee Heights and Washburn Rural always put on a show when the two of them get together and Friday night was no exception as the boys game went down to the wire. But after two games slipped away from them to start the season, the Junior Blues are starting to look like fourth-quarter closers after all. They held off the T-Birds 58-53 thanks to a crucial defensive stop in the final seconds and Jordan White’s pair of free throws that sealed the win. White scored 23 points including those big charity tosses, but most importantly for the Junior Blues, they didn’t panic when Heights made their run to get within a point in the fourth quarter. They secured a first league win of the season thanks to White and Raymond Swopes, who joined White in double-figures with 11 points and made the all-important steal late. Heights got 23 points from Zach Cummings, who has really emerged on both ends of the floor early on for the T-Birds, and 14 from Tyce Brown, but will have to carry the sour taste of a three-game losing skid into the holiday break.
-The Lady Junior Blues took care of business against Heights as well with a 56-33 victory, but it wasn’t as easy as that final score would make it look, at least not right away. The Lady T-Birds raced to a 9-0 lead and got a big, efficient scoring night from Lydia Ostenson, who scored 17 points on 13 shots. But the Lady Junior Blues were overpowering in the end thanks to the inside-outside duo of Kendall Michalski (15 points on five three-pointers) and Carly Bachelor (26 points). Bachelor gets the attention as the reigning City Player of the Year, and it’s well deserved, but the firepower Michalski provides is every bit as important to Rural’s success. Kasey Hamilton, Bailey Sigmund and Shelby Ebert also had positive contributions in their roles as Rural eased to the win and a 1-0 start in league play.
-Also 1-0 in the league to start – the Topeka High Lady Trojans, who picked a good time for their first win of the season, a 45-37 triumph at Emporia. It’s never easy to win on the road but the young Lady Trojans found a way with a big second half performance. Their 1-3-1 zone defense stifled the Lady Spartans in the second half and freshman Lily Smith starred on the offensive end with a team-high 15 points. Jaryn Benning added 13 points and Morgan Carranza just missed double figures with eight points. T-High had been competitive against very good teams in the early going but hadn’t found a way to close strong. They did exactly that on Friday night and the experience of doing so, away from home, will serve that team very well as league play continues. Keep an eye on Smith, who has a great deal of potential as a scorer for the Lady Trojans in her freshman season.
-The T-High boys had a rough start to their league campaign, falling 62-46 at a much-improved Emporia club. The problem for the Trojans is an easy one to spot – for all the fine individual talent on that roster, they have had difficulties scoring. Head coach Pat Denney cautioned from the beginning of the season that it might take his time some time to develop some offensive chemistry, but he’ll surely hope that starts coming together much quicker after the holiday. Larry White’s 15 points led the Trojans, but Ky Thomas had a tough shooting night, missing all 11 of his field goal attempts. One of these nights all of those skilled players are going to have good shooting performances and the Trojans are going to erupt, but it will have to come in the new year.