It was a thrilling night of hoops in the capital city Tuesday, with some heart-stopping finishes. And the night ended the way it began – with a tie at the top of the Centennial League. Let’s get into all the action with a Hoops Rewind…
-Washburn Rural and Topeka High stayed atop the Centennial League heap on the girls and boys sides with victories. For the Lady Trojans and Lady Junior Blues, the wins could not have come in more different fashion. The Lady Trojans jumped out to an early lead and stretched their legs at Emporia, routing the Lady Spartans 62-33. Their stifling defense held Emporia to just seven first-half points, and offensively, NiJaree Canady had her finest outing of the season, scoring a career-best 30 points to go along with 15 boards. Jaryn Benning added 14 points as the Lady Trojans cruised to improve their league record to 11-1. The Lady Junior Blues also got to 11-1, but in much narrower fashion. It was always going to come down to the wire between Rural and Manhattan, with the reigning league champs making one last grasp at retaining their crown. But in the final moments, Carly Bachelor was Carly Clutch. The Rural star’s three-point play with 31 ticks left proved to be the winning basket, and Rural clamped down on defense to secure a 54-51 triumph. Bachelor poured in 27 points and went 14-of-15 from the free throw line, a trend-setting performance on a night when the Lady Junior Blues went 25-f0r-28 as a team at the stripe. Kasey Hamilton also had a big night with 20 points as Rural bounced back from their disappointing loss to the Lady Trojans last Friday and displayed their mental and physical toughness in a big way.
The Junior Blues boys had a much easier time with Manhattan, romping to a 54-34 victory that saw a welcome return to form on both ends after a frustrating loss to the Trojans last Friday. Four Junior Blues scored eight or more points in the win, but the key was defense. Rural held Manhattan to just six first-quarter points and got several easy baskets in transition off of steals. Kevin Muff’s squad is at their best when they’re able to rip and run like they did Tuesday night, and they should feel like their old selves coming off a victory that moved them to 16-1 overall and 11-1 in the Centennial League. Joining them at 11-1 is, of course, Topeka High, who looked like they might ease to a road win at Emporia behind a night where Da’Vonshai Harden looked more like James Harden. The junior buried seven three pointers on his way to a season-high 27 points, but credit the Spartans for making a run late and cutting a 20-point halftime deficit down to four points with a minute left. The Trojans regained their composure and finished off Emporia 75-66 for their second win in as many nights.
Both Washburn Rural and Topeka High have a common opponent left – Highland Park gets Rural Friday and High next Tuesday. The Trojans and Lady Trojans must get through Manhattan Friday, and Rural must find a way past Topeka West next Friday.
-It’s been a trying season for Highland Park, but the Scots are beginning to reap the rewards of their hard work and are now, for the first time this season, on a winning streak. The young Scots rallied from a ten-point halftime deficit to top Hayden 52-47. Their level of commitment has never wavered this season and it was fully evident on the defensive end as they held Hayden to just 12 total points in the second half. Levi Braun scored 19 for Hayden, but only three of those came in the second half. Meanwhile, Juan’Tario Roberts and CJ Powell continue to light it up for Highland Park, combining for 32 points in the victory. That duo is going to present real problems for the Centennial League down the road, as Roberts is tough off the dribble, Powell can post up with his 6’6″ frame, and both players have smooth shooting strokes.
In the girls game at ‘The Ken’, the Lady Wildcats scored one of their best wins of the season, out-gunning the Lady Scots 75-70 behind a season-high 29 points from Brooklyn Hunter and a career-high 21 points from three-point ace Haley Karolevitz. That’s the kind of offensive breakout Hayden has sorely needed and should be a big boost of confidence for them as the season winds down. Ariyana Grassity lit up the nets for 29 points for Highland Park, and Jae’Mya Lyons added 15 in just her second game back from injury, but a 13-for-29 performance at the free-throw stripe proved costly.
-Seaman and Topeka West played one of the city’s most thrilling games of the season, a two-OT heartstopper that ended with the Vikings victorious, 61-58. It was a welcome return for Seaman’s leading scorer Trey Duffey, who contributed 14 points in his first game after missing eight with a foot injury. But some of the biggest plays of the night came from Seaman’s supporting cast, like Brock Hillebert‘s game-tying three in regulation and Trent Cox‘s game-winner with 30 seconds left in the second overtime. Between Duffey, Hillebert (who scored 14 points), Kobe Bonner (who led the way with 15 points) and Kobe Jordan, Seaman now has four legitimate offensive threats and have the potential to be a team that peaks at the right time. It’s hard not to feel for West, who suffered their second loss in a multiple-overtime game this season. It feels like they’re on the cusp, with solid defensive effort and scoring options all over the floor, but they could use a win or two to help them really turn the corner before sub-state.
The girls game was devoid of such drama as Seaman had another excellent shooting night and clamped down on defense in a 58-28 win over the Lady Chargers. Camryn Turner continued her excellent sophomore campaign with 18 points, Chloe Carter had 13, and Maddie Steiner stroked four threes for her 12 points. The Lady Vikes have now won three straight and seem poised to hit the gas as they come down the stretch.
-Finally, Shawnee Heights’ boys and girls earned routine victories over Turner in United Kansas Conference play. The Lady T-Birds made it rain from the three-point arc in a 61-28 triumph. Kam Wells buried three of her team’s 10 triples and led the way with 15 points. The Heights boys got a perfect night from Marquis Barksdale in a 65-23 win, as the junior scored 19 points on 9-for-9 shooting from the field. With tough tests ahead this Friday against Leavenworth, both the T-Birds and Lady T-Birds did some good things to make sure they’re ready for that big league challenge.