The season is almost in full swing with all but one city team (Hayden’s boys) having made their 2017-18 debuts. Let’s get into a recap of Tuesday night’s play, where league foes met each other for the first time (but not in official league play)…
-…but first, let’s go back to Monday, where the Highland Park Lady Scots made another statement. How does a 75-point swing in one year sound? The Lady Scots lost twice to 5A state qualifier KC Schlagle, including a 99-36 drubbing – a margin of 63 points. But these Lady Scots are a year older, and a year better, and Monday night they pulled away from the Lady Stallions in a 12-point victory, 67-55. Sophomore guard Dariauna Carter – one of this week’s Wendy’s Athletes of the Week – once again led the Lady Scots in scoring, with 14 points. She was one of four double-figure scorers, all of whom are underclassmen. Fellow sophomore Ariyana Grassity had 13 points, as did freshman TiaLah Taylor, and freshman Jae’Mya Lyons posted a double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds. Mike Calhoun has some skilled players, with a good mix of backcourt and post skill, and they proved on Monday night they could take a team’s best shot, withstanding Schlagle’s run to put them away in the fourth quarter. Don’t sleep on the Lady Scots.
-Also opening some eyes with a victory – the Topeka West Chargers. This is the team Rick Bloomquist has been building towards in his six seasons at Topeka West. They have experience, they have leadership, they have one of the – if not the – best backcourts in the Centennial League with seniors Koriyon Carr and Elijah Griffin, and one game into their season they’ve got an impressive victory over a league foe. It won’t count in the league standings, but the Chargers’ 57-48 win at Washburn Rural will definitely lift some eyebrows, to say nothing of lifting the confidence of the Chargers. Carr and Griffin combined for 33 points, while Dane Struble and Elliot Mehrens hit some big shots that helped Topeka West outscore the Junior Blues 23-10 in the fourth quarter. Rural got 16 points from Raymond Swopes, but their 0-2 start has been marked by difficulties in the final eight minutes of regulation.
-Fourth-quarter comebacks are starting to feel like old news for Steve Wallace’s Shawnee Heights Thunderbird squads. This year’s T-Birds are 2-0 with two final-frame rallies after beating Lansing 73-62 on the road. Down three with just under seven minutes left, Chris Glenn and Tyler White – our other Wendy’s Athlete of the Week this week – caught fire, contributing three of the team’s 10 made three-pointers down the stretch. Two things are for certain about the T-Birds – they’re mentally tough, and they can really shoot it from deep. That combination is going to make them very difficult to beat.
-In girls action on Tuesday, there was ‘league’ play Tuesday night at The Dungeon, where Seaman topped Topeka High 47-34. A 21-point second quarter lifted the Lady Vikes to the lead that they would keep for the rest of the game. Megan Skoch, one of the best and most experienced point guards in the city, had 15 points to lead the Lady Vikes, who have scoring threats up and down their rotation. Everyone knows names like Skoch, Katera Mayfield, and Hallee Olson-Thomas, but any one of Matt Tinsley’s players is capable of contributing offense, as evidenced by Maddie Ritz’s nine points off the bench. The Lady Trojans played a good first quarter, jumping out to a 12-10 lead, but their inexperience showed as Seaman sped them up and forced 23 turnovers on the night, crippling T-High’s comeback efforts.
-Washburn Rural didn’t let Friday night’s blowout loss at Blue Valley North keep them down for long, as they raced past Topeka West 64-18. The Lady Junior Blues scored the first 18 points and never looked back. That had to please Kevin Bordewick, who wanted to see his team play tougher and with more intensity after that 19-point loss in their opener. Carly Bachelor (15), Shelby Ebert (13), and Bailey Sigmund (10) all scored in double figures. The Lady Chargers had a tough draw for new head coach David Meseke’s debut and were just 6-of-30 from the field. Gabby Rivera showed up well, though, as she typically does, with nine points and seven boards.
-Also debuting on the sidelines Tuesday night – Luke Noll, the new Hayden Lady Wildcats head coach. The Lady Wildcats acquitted themselves well on the road against the third ranked team in Class 6A but ultimately fell to Lawrence, 61-49. Brooklyn Hunter, who will be the focal point for Hayden offensively, at least early on, scored 18 points. But only four Lady Wildcats scored in the game, and Noll will want to find more scoring threats as his team grows throughout the season.
-Things got away from the Shawnee Heights Lady Thunderbirds in a hurry as they surrendered a 22-2 run in the second half in a 50-38 loss at Lansing. It’s a frustrating way to lose what felt like a winnable game, especially after a 10-0 run to start. The challenge for Bob Wells’ team will be playing 32 consistent minutes at a time, as when they are able to settle down and settle into their offense, they have shown well in their first two contests.
-Finally, the Highland Park Scots opened their run at the Blue Valley Shootout with a 59-48 loss to a tough Grandview (MO) team. The Scots will be disappointed in an 0-2 start but the tough challenges they face early in the season should pay dividends once league play arrives. The key for them will be developing scoring threats beyond Dasani Giardina and Kenny Stewart, two gifted bucket-getting guards who combined for 37 of Highland Park’s 48 points.