Seven games in the city last night, the final night of play before the Centennial League schedule officially gets underway.
-We were at Seaman last night for the Seaman-Shawnee Heights rivalry, and neither game disappointed. In the boys game, the T-Birds took it right to the injury-depleted Vikings, who were without big man Jackson Cobb and Nathan Heinen, the city’s leading scorer through the first two weeks. Heights did what they usually do – stretched the floor with long-distance shots, including a pair of threes by Tyler White that helped them to an 18-9 lead after one quarter. But then Seaman coach Craig Cox went deep into his bench, and his second unit changed the energy and changed the game. Brock Hillebert, Jake Spence, Trent Cox and Uziah Irvin made the most of their opportunity. Irvin showed skills around the basket in scoring seven points, Trent Cox drew a pair of charges (the latter of which got the Seaman students chanting his name – a cool moment and surely a ‘proud papa’ moment for Craig Cox on the bench), and Hillebert and Spence proved to be defensive pests that took the T-Birds out of offensive rhythm. They never did get back into it again, and Seaman surged in front late in the third quarter and took the lead for good with an 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter in a 51-45 win. Junior point guard Kobe Bonner made several big plays on both ends down the stretch to help ice the victory, finishing with 14 points, but on a night where two starters were down with injury, it was the often-forgotten players at the end of the bench who deserve a huge amount of credit for sparking Seaman to the win and a 3-0 start. As for Heights, they’re already a better defensive team than they appeared to be in their season opener against De Soto, but their last two games, both losses, will have them looking for more consistency on the offensive side.
-In the girls game at Seaman, the Lady Vikes improved to 2-2 with a 50-38 win in what was a tight game until Seaman’s Camryn Turner took over. Turner was individually responsible for a six-point swing in the fourth quarter. As the lone defender back on a 2-on-1 with the Lady Vikes up seven and around three minutes left, Turner blocked not one, but two shots and ended up getting fouled on the rebound of the second miss. She sunk both bonus free throws on the other end, and then stole the ball on the ensuing Heights possession and made a break-away layup to push the lead back to double-digits. Turner’s 10 points on the night all came in the fourth quarter – a very impressive performance by the freshman point guard. Also impressive was the work of Seaman’s Delaney Kramer on the defensive end, as she gave Lady T-Birds star Lydia Ostenson fits and limited her to just 10 points. Seven of Ostenson’s points came in the fourth quarter as she tried to lift Heights to a comeback. Ultimately, it was a much-needed breakthrough night for the Lady Vikes offensively, as they hit some jumpers, got scoring from eight players in total, and withstood the loss of both of their starting posts, Hallee Olson-Thomas and Katera Mayfield, to their fifth fouls early in the fourth quarter. One last note on this game – Heights senior post Ali Crawford must know when WIBW is in the building because we’ve had two Lady T-Birds games and she’s been excellent in each. She had 12 points in the losing effort.
-When I talked to Topeka West boys coach Rick Bloomquist earlier this week, I told him that the word among coaches in the city is that his Chargers have impressed by playing hard. The veteran coach chuckled and said, to paraphrase: “Well, you’re supposed to play hard. But we don’t just want to play hard, we want to play the hardest for the longest.” Clearly, the Chargers have gotten that message, as it took all 32 minutes at the Chargerdome last night for them to improve to 3-0 in dramatic fashion with a 48-46 win over Ottawa. Elliot Mehrens’ buzzer-beater gave the Chargers the victory. Mehrens scored eight points and has shown early on that he can be the much-needed inside component that takes some of the pressure off West’s outstanding backcourt. Of course, seniors Koriyon Carr and Elijah Griffin were excellent, combining for 31 points. The Chargers will be riding high going into league play, having proven to themselves that they can beat league foes (even if those games didn’t count in the league standings) and that they can find a way to win a tight game late.
-Congratulations are in order to Topeka West girls coach David Meseke for his first career victory and the Lady Chargers’ first win of the season, a 48-32 win over Ottawa. It was the breakout game for junior post Gabby Rivera who posted a monster double-double – 15 points and 15 boards. Rivera is capable of being one of the best players in the city, but she’ll need some help on the offensive end. Last night that help came from Riley Zook, who’s starting to find her rhythm after not playing last year. She scored 11 points, as did sophomore post Brendeja Holloman, who I believe at 6’2″ is the tallest girls player in the city. I’m sure you – the reader – will correct me if I’m wrong!
-It’s not yet the holiday break and already the Highland Park Lady Scots have matched their win total from last season. They went to 4-0 and once again proved they can be fourth-quarter closers with a 56-44 win over Topeka High at the Dungeon. The inside-outside combo of sophomore guard Dariauna Carter and freshman forward Jae’Mya Lyons scored 17 of their team’s 19 points in the final frame. Both players finished with 18 points. The Lady Trojans counter-punched impressively after falling behind by double-digits early, tying the game at 23 at the half and leading briefly in the third quarter. Nine different players scored for Topeka High in the loss, led by a dozen points from junior Jaryn Benning. But the fourth quarter was all Lady Scots, and they’re the lone unbeaten Centennial League team going into league play. Raise your hand if you saw that coming!
-Tough night for Hayden hoops on the road at KC Piper. The Lady Wildcats struggled offensively in a 58-28 loss. A very good Lady Pirates team forced 31 Hayden turnovers, and that’s too high a number to overcome no matter who you’re playing. But again, the Lady Pirates are very good. One positive sign for the Lady Wildcats – Jaydn Jay led the way with nine points and is the fifth different player to score at least that many points in a game in their first three contests. That shows the potential for some good scoring balance for Hayden moving forward.
-As for the Wildcat boys – just not their night. A 74-61 loss to the Pirates was the result of errant shooting by the Wildcats (36% from the field and 4-22 from three-point range) and much better efficiency from Piper (52% shooting). Hayden’s outstanding trio of Zach Harvey, Jett Canfield and DeShawn Hanika combined to go 10-39 shooting. Don’t bet on that happening too often this season. But as much as it’s easy to see the offense improving, this game also signals the need for Hayden to be more committed on the defensive end. With two games in two days coming this weekend, we’ll see how the Wildcats absorb the lessons of this loss fairly quickly.