What a night of basketball for the squads in the capital city! Three overtime games – including one preposterous play to send one to an extra session – two one-possession thrillers at The Ken, and a major statement made by the Chargers. Let’s get into a full recap:
-Our featured game on 580 WIBW took us to Seaman, where we saw and can confirm something that we haven’t been able to say for a long time: the Topeka West Chargers are for real. The Chargers raced past the Vikings 65-41 to improve their Centennial League-best record to 6-1 and move into a tie atop the league standings. Seaman took the fight to West early, slicing up their press and taking a 9-0 lead, but once the shots started falling for the Chargers, their defense ratcheted up another level. They responded to that opening 9-0 spurt by the Vikings with a 15-0 run of their own and Seaman never got within one possession again. Koriyon Carr sparked that initial run with a pair of threes and then really took over in the third quarter, where he scored nine of his game-high 26 points. With his ability to get off a quick release, whether in transition, off the dribble, or off a screen, there’s a little Steph Curry to Carr’s game. Elijah Griffin added a dozen points, all in the second half, but the most influential player for the Chargers might have been Kendall Sutton, who came off the bench to score 11 points, block shots, provide a force on the glass, and throw down two dunks – including an alley-oop from Carr that almost brought the visiting bleachers down. After several years spent at the bottom of the league table, this is the Charger team coach Rick Bloomquist has been building towards. With their defensive intensity and the scoring of Carr and Griffin, the Chargers are a legitimate threat to win the league. Read that again – and believe it. Meanwhile, the most positive development for the Vikings last night was the return of Kaden Henley from injury. Henley scored nine points off the bench after missing his team’s first game of the new year. When Nathan Heinen rejoins the lineup – hopefully soon, according to coach Craig Cox – the Vikings at full strength will be deep and dangerous.
-In the girls game, perhaps last night was the ‘putting-it-all-together’ performance we’ve been looking for from the Seaman Lady Vikes. They suffocated T-West defensively and got a huge night from Katera Mayfield in the post in a 51-23 win. Mayfield scored a game high 17 points and the Lady Vikes forced 20 turnovers in the first half. Hallee Olson-Thomas added 10 points as Seaman continued their pattern of alternating losses and wins in their first eight games – but if they bring that defensive focus and shot-making forward, they’ll snap that pattern soon enough. The Lady Chargers just got sped up by the Lady Vikes pressure and never could find a foothold in the game, but when they did break the pressure they were able to get good shots near the basket – unfortunately, not enough of them fell to allow them to keep pace.
-What a night at the Ken Bueltel Activities Center. The boys game between Hayden and Topeka High was a nail-biter, won by the Trojans 64-63 on Larry White‘s last-second tip-in. White led the way for the Trojans with 24 points and 10 rebounds, and over the last two games seems to be emerging as their main man on offense. His athleticism is difficult to cope with on both ends of the floor. Da’Vonshai Harden and Ky Thomas added 14 and 13 points, respectively. This is the kind of win that has seemed to elude the Trojans over the last couple of seasons, and could do wonders for the confidence and chemistry of the team. Hayden got 24 points from Zach Harvey, who was his typically unguardable self for most of the night, but he left with an ankle injury with 2:44 to play. No matter who you root for, you have to be hoping the junior standout heals quickly and can get back out on the floor, because he puts on a nightly show like few other players in the state.
-The Lady Wildcats and Lady Trojans played a heart-stopper too, with Hayden hanging on for the 49-47 win. The Lady Wildcats are getting used to playing in tight games, and in this one, they held on after building a lead with a quick run to start the fourth quarter. They got great scoring balance, with four players in double-figures – Brooklyn Hunter led with 13, Sophia Purcell scored 11, and Jaydn Jay and Joelle Shurtz added 10 apiece. T-High got a huge night from Jaryn Benning, who scored 21 points and got a bucket in the final seconds to give the Lady Trojans a chance. The Lady Trojans are clearly improving after a tough start to their season, even if the record doesn’t yet reflect it.
-Extra basketball was necessary at Junction City in the boys game, and the Washburn Rural Junior Blues used clutch foul shooting to hold off the Blue Jays 53-48. The four quarters of regulation were nip-and-tuck the whole way, but in the OT, Rural drove the ball, got to the line, and finished 8-9 on charity tosses to account for eight of their 10 points. Raymond Swopes led all scorers with 19 points, the best night of the season for the sharp-shooting guard. Armahn Downing, who has been a welcome addition to the Junior Blues lineup since the start of the new year, added 12 points. The win puts Rural into a three-way tie atop the Centennial League.
-The Lady Junior Blues cruised past Junction City 60-32. When a team’s stars play like stars, generally that team wins big, and such was the case for Rural last night as Kendall Michalski torched the nets for 20 points, including five three-pointers, and Carly Bachelor added 18 points. The two outscored the out-gunned Lady Blue Jays by themselves, but seven other Lady Junior Blues who played also scored. Rural has yet to be tested on their way to a 4-0 start in league play.
-I keep watching this video trying to think of a better word to describe the play other than ‘impossible’ and I’ve come up empty so far. Watch for yourself:
Shawnee Heights senior Tyler White hits a layup at the buzzer to send it to overtime. Tied at 48. pic.twitter.com/4sXI2LSeyr
— Shane Jackson (@SJacksonMERC) January 10, 2018
That’s how Shawnee Heights forced overtime in what ended up being a 62-57 win over Manhattan at the Birdcage last night. Marquis Barksdale threw the strike from just beyond half court and Tyler White managed to lay it in in one motion to beat the buzzer. Watch it again. Are you kidding me? What a way for the T-Birds to snap a four-game losing skid and get into the Centennial League win column. In addition to throwing the perfect clutch pass, Barksdale finished with 17 points on 8-8 shooting. The sophomore has been Heights’ main scorer in their two games in 2018 and might just be the kind of big-game player that the T-Birds need after losing so many to graduation last year.
-It was a tough go for the Lady T-Birds last night, but in fairness everyone’s having a tough go against talent-laden Manhattan. The Lady Indians never allowed Heights to find an offensive rhythm and defeated them 55-21. Lydia Ostenson was held to eight points and no other Lady T-Bird had more than four points.
-The Highland Park Scots saw their five-game winning streak come to an end at the hands of Emporia last night, falling at home 66-60 to the Spartans. A perimeter-oriented team, the Scots need shots to fall to win, and the shots weren’t falling last night. They missed 18 of their 23 three-point attempts while Emporia was able to get easier looks and take advantage of their opportunities at the free-throw stripe, going 20-for-31. Dasani Giardina and Kenny Stewart each scored 14 points, and Tyree Florence-Patton played his best offensive game of the season, scoring 11 points in the loss.
-Finally, fittingly, we conclude with an overtime game – the girls tilt between Highland Park and Emporia. The Lady Scots used their defense to help them pull away late in the extra session and earned a 58-51 win. Dariauna Carter scored 23 points to show the way for the Lady Scots, who snapped a three-game skid. Mike Calhoun’s young squad will only benefit from playing in close games like this, and learned a big lesson in closing out this game by outscoring Emporia 7-1 in the dying seconds. The next seven games for Highland Park are all winnable if they play to their potential and continue to mature.