With just two weeks to go in the regular season, the Centennial League championship races were injected with some intrigue based on Friday night’s action at The Dungeon. Those games highlighted a very good night for city squads on the hardwood. Here’s a look back in the Friday Night Hoops Rewind…
-The Dungeon was rocking for girls and boys games between Washburn Rural and Topeka High where the stakes were the same. Rural wins would have meant the league crowns were all but theirs, while wins by the home team would have brought them even in the loss column.
For the second time this season, we got a heavy dose of drama in the girls game between the Lady Trojans and the Lady Junior Blues. It felt like Rural was taking control in the third quarter when they built a seven-point lead. But High rallied back to tie the game going into the final quarter, and the final eight minutes were all black and gold. The Lady Trojans outscored the Lady Junior Blues 19-9 on their way to a 48-38 triumph that avenged their December loss at the Washburn Rural Activities Center and pulled both teams even at 10-1 in the Centennial League. Topeka High’s fearless young guards carried the day down the stretch, with Lily Smith‘s go-ahead three kicking off the fourth quarter. Smith, Ja’Neysha Hendricks, and Talayah Thomas pulled all the right strings in the final quarter, conducting the offense and showing composure beyond their years at the charity stripe as High canned 12 of their 16 free throws. Inside, NiJaree Canady battled her way to a 15-point, 15-rebound double-double, outpacing Rural star Carly Bachelor, who was held to just 13 points before fouling out. The Lady Trojans have shown their talent, but Friday night was about their toughness. For the Lady Junior Blues, they have to regroup in a hurry before a very good Manhattan team comes calling Tuesday night, lest their hopes of a league crown and a top-4 6A West sub-state seed begin to slip away. But we’ve seen how they respond to defeat already this season, and you can expect to see a very motivated and locked-in Lady Junior Blues squad in that one.
The boys game also proved to be a role reversal, as unlike the December matchup, it was Topeka High who came out firing and Washburn Rural who looked at a loss offensively. The result was the first defeat of the season for the Junior Blues, who dropped to 15-1 as the Trojans controlled the proceedings throughout in a 53-42 win that was only even that close thanks to a late barrage of Rural threes. The Trojan defense smothered Rural, who was without a double-figure scorer on the night and managed just 14 points in the first half. Topeka High got 17 points from Ky Thomas, who is so dangerous when he forces teams to guard him from the perimeter on a hot shooting night, and 12 points from Da’Vonshai Harden. We’ve talked a lot this year about how Topeka High’s offense hasn’t erupted yet this season, but maybe we’ve got that group all wrong – they just might be so good on defense that they don’t need to score 60 a night to win. As for Rural, don’t expect that veteran group to let their first loss snowball on them.
-Elsewhere in the city on Friday night…
Seaman got a pair of non-league victories over De Soto, with the Lady Vikes turning in perhaps their best performance of the season in routing a very good Lady Wildcat team 60-40 on the road. The Lady Vikes shot a sizzling 62% from the floor and got four players into double figures, with Raigan Kramer‘s 12 points leading the way. A win over a team of that caliber in 5A is a huge boost for Seaman as they face four winnable games in the final two weeks with a chance to take momentum into sub-state. Meanwhile, the Viking boys had themselves a much-needed 2-0 week, rallying from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat DeSoto 51-46. It was the Kobe Show for the Vikings – Bonner took over the game in the second half and scored 19 points, while Jordan added 12 points as he continues his hot scoring spell. While Seaman waits on the return of their star Trey Duffey, last week’s victories should help steady things after a rocky stretch.
The grind was rewarded for the Highland Park Scots as they got back into the win column with a 66-56 win over Junction City. Fabulous freshman Juan’Tario Roberts and scintillating sophomore CJ Powell combined for 45 points on the night, but the young Scots won this game with defense, limiting the Blue Jays to just five points in the third quarter and keeping them at bay in the fourth. It was a road sweep for Highland Park, as the Lady Scots won in a 73-21 rout. Aryianna Grassity‘s dime-dropping double-double – 20 points and 11 assists – would have been the story of the night any other night for the Lady Scots, but their big highlight of the night was the return of Jae’Mya Lyons. The sophomore’s return from a summer knee injury could not have gone better, as she scored 15 points and hauled in nine rebounds. Her presence in the post completely changes the equation for the Lady Scots, who will go into big games with Rural and Topeka High in these final two weeks with the major lift that her return provides.
Topeka West’s boys put their stamp on proceedings early in Emporia on Friday, racing out to a 13-point halftime lead and never looking back in a 58-35 win over the reeling Spartans. The Chargers have been at their best when their offense has been balanced, and that was the case Friday, with Hunter McDaniel‘s 11 points pacing an effort where five players scored nine or more points. These Chargers are starting to gain some confidence, and as hard as they are to play against, nobody’s going to be happy to see them show up in their sub-state bracket at this rate. Unfortunately, the Lady Chargers didn’t make the drive back up the Turnpike with a win of their own, as despite their post duo of Gabby Rivera and Brendeja Holloman more than holding their own against a pair of solid Emporia posts, they were still handed a 37-31 defeat by the Lady Spartans.
The Hayden Wildcats proved they could be more than just the Levi Braun Experience on Friday night, as they got important contributions from elsewhere in a 53-43 win over Manhattan. Braun still managed 16 points, but the Indians threw tough defenders at him all night and he struggled at times. When he did, the Wildcats had others to pick him up. John Roeder scored 12 points, Jack Hutchinson added 11 points, and Noah Schneider scored eight points in the post. Combine that with a stingy defensive effort, and you’ve got a season series sweep of the Indians and a big confidence lift for Hayden. The Lady Wildcats couldn’t find much in the way of offense against the always-tough Lady Indians, falling 40-21.