And down the stretch they come. It’s Feburary, meaning the dead sprint to a league championship and sub-state seeding ratchets up in intensity. That was readily apparent on Friday night with hard-fought games throughout the city. We relive the action in the Hoops Rewind…
-Hopefully you didn’t bet the over in the boys contest between Hayden and Washburn Rural at a jam-packed ‘House of Blues’. The second meeting of the season between the two teams turned into a cagey defensive battle, with both teams willing to be patient on offense and working hard on defense. The Junior Blues did just enough to keep the Wildcats at bay despite not making a field goal for the game’s final nine minutes, winning 37-34 to remain unbeaten on the season. Hayden had a great chance to tie the game in the final seconds, but Levi Braun‘s three-point attempt just missed. It was a productive night for Braun, who scored 21 points, but he had to sweat for each one of them as Jordan White and Armahn Downing handled that defensive assignment with aplomb. The Junior Blues got just enough offense thanks to a balanced effort, with seven different players scoring. You don’t get to 14-0 without winning games in a variety of ways, and this was the narrowest margin of victory for Rural this season. They are proving their toughness on a nightly basis and are closing in on a top-four seed in the 6A West and a potential Centennial League crown.
The girls game between Hayden and Washburn Rural was more competitive than the first meeting, thanks to a monster performance from Brooklyn Hunter, but the result was the same, with Rural coming away with a 55-33 win. Hunter played one of her finest games of the season, scoring 19 points on a variety of mid-range jumpers and left-handed finishes at the rim. But not much else was clicking for the Lady Wildcats offensively thanks to Rural’s typically stingy man-to-man defense. Carly Bachelor scored 20 points and is beginning to show off an improved three-point stroke that makes her an even bigger problem to try and guard than she already had been. After a tough loss to Wichita Heights ended their unbeaten start, it was no surprise that the Lady Junior Blues made an early statement in jumping out to a 25-5 first-quarter lead and cruising from there.
-Highland Park and Topeka West delivered two exciting contests at the Chargerdome. The Lady Chargers posted their best offensive performance of the season, dominating the interior, and had a four-point lead in overtime before Aryiana Grassity took over the proceedings and led the Lady Scots to a 67-61 triumph. Eleven of Grassity’s 29 points came in the extra period as she continues to display her knack for carrying Highland Park offensively. She was able to overcome a big night for West’s post duo of Gabby Rivera and Brendeja Holloman, who combined for 32 points. Their collective size is a tough matchup for any team, and when those two see shots go down, their confidence rises and they’re capable of scoring big.
The boys game was a close contest as well, but Korbin Kido ensured there would be no overtime needed as his clutch three in the waning minutes helped West hold off Highland Park 49-45. The Chargers utilized their depth and some little-used players sparked a 21-9 fourth quarter that got them back into the win column, with Dylan Wolf and Bryson Bitler shedding their roles as understudies to deliver star turns in the clutch. CJ Powell‘s 15 points led the Scots, but they couldn’t overcome an off shooting night and earn their second win.
-Elsewhere in city action on Friday night: it was a rout as expected for the Topeka High Lady Trojans, as the dynamic duo of NiJaree Canady and Jaryn Benning combined for 46 points in a 72-27 win at Junction City. The Lady Trojans have their mojo back after their unexpected loss to Emporia last week, and if they can get through Hayden on Tuesday they’ll have a chance to tie the league leaders when they host Rural Friday… the Trojan boys also eased to victory, beating the Blue Jays 74-59. The hot hand designation has bounced around the Trojans all year, and right now it belongs to Ky Thomas, who had a pair of 20-plus point games last week, including 26 on Friday night… the Seaman Lady Vikes played the Manhattan Lady Indians as tough as they have been able to in recent years, but couldn’t find the tying hoop late and the Lady Indians iced their 44-35 win from the free throw line. Camryn Turner scored 14 points, but the Lady Vikes’ lack of size was an issue against a much bigger Manhattan squad… the Viking boys dearly miss Trey Duffey and it was never more evident than on Friday night when Manhattan ground their offense to a total halt in a 43-27 win. Kobe Jordan has stepped forward as an offensive threat in Duffey’s absence, scoring nine points, but having 21 points per game on the sidelines has proven difficult for Seaman to overcome… the Shawnee Heights boys dropped a tight 52-48 decision to Leavenworth at home despite 10 made three-pointers, including four from Quentin Donohoe, who I would love to see take on Hayden’s Levi Braun in a three-point shooting competition… the Lady T-Birds competed tough with perennially excellent Leavenworth, thanks to 16 points from Alie Fulks, but fell short 62-44 as the Lady Pioneers pulled away in the second half.