Everyone in the city was on the hardwood last night as the season resumed in earnest after the holiday break. Let’s recap the night’s action…
-The Highland Park Scots continue to show that their turnaround is real, and they’re winning close games on the road to prove it. They held off Hayden 57-52 at ‘The Ken’ to improve to 5-1 on the season. The Scots raced out to a 23-8 first-quarter lead but Hayden deserves a ton of credit for adjusting at both ends of the floor and rallying back to within one point of the Scots on three separate occasions. But every time Hayden made a run, Highland Park had an answer, mostly from CJ Powell, who scored a game-high 22 points. Senior guard Donald Daniels scored 12 points, and that the Scots are 5-0 when Daniels plays does not seem coincidental because of how important he is to the Scots on both ends. John Roeder and Cade Pavlik each dialed up 12 points for the Wildcats in the loss. It’s a tough one to swallow for Torrey Head’s Wildcats, but they seem on the verge of turning a corner and starting to reel off some wins. In the girls game, the Lady Wildcats finally saw their offense erupt in a 65-48 win over the Lady Scots. Four Hayden girls were in double figures, with Sydney Hillmer, who has proven to be a vital addition in the post this season, scoring 12 to lead the way. Sophia Purcell and Rhen Calhoon scored 11 apiece and Macy Smith added 10 in a game that is sure to be important for Hayden’s offensive confidence moving forward. The Lady Scots got 18 points from the typically excellent Dariauna Carter, but they couldn’t get enough stops on defense to stay in the game.
-In the other matchup between city teams last night, Topeka West’s boys routed Seaman 75-39 in what was just their third game of this season. The Chargers showed no ill effects from having played just two games before the holiday break, as they sprinted out to a 43-25 halftime advantage and never looked back. Elijah Brooks scored 20 points and Tre Alexander added 12, but having five other players score at least half a dozen points on the night might be most exciting when it comes to West’s potential moving forward. Seaman started brightly offensively but struggled with West’s zone as the game wore on. The Vikings were led by Dagen Brewer‘s 12 points. In girls action, the Lady Vikes remain unbeaten after a 63-33 win over the Lady Chargers. It looked like it might be a high-scoring affair early on as Topeka West kept pace, but as the game wore on, their well ran dry and Seaman kept on filling the nets. Chloe Carter submitted another outstanding game, scoring 15 points to tie Raigan Kramer for team-high honors on the night. Camryn Turner finished with 10 points and pulled the strings offensively and defensively, as per usual.
-The stakes were high in Manhattan with the Washburn Rural Junior Blues and Lady Blues coming to town. First, the Lady Blues held off Manhattan in a battle of the two most successful Centennial League programs in recent vintage, taking home a 53-41 victory. Forty-seven of Rural’s 53 points came from three players, as Emma Krueger and Brooklyn DeLeye each scored 16 and Kasey Hamilton chipped in 15. Illness slowed Krueger before the holiday break, but she’s started 2020 with a pair of big scoring and rebounding games and is reminding everyone why she’s one of the best and most complete players in the city, even as a sophomore. In the boys game, Rural dealt the Indians their first loss of the season and knocked them from atop the league ladder with a 54-47 triumph. The game was back-and-forth all night, with 14 lead changes, but down the stretch the Junior Blues showed a mental toughness and a defensive edge that coach Kevin Muff had to absolutely love. Jack Hutchinson knocked down the big shot with four minutes left that gave Rural the lead for good as part of a 10-point night for him. Joe Berry once again led the way offensively for the Junior Blues, pouring in 23 points to lead all scorers and match his season average so far. The Junior Blues are 5-1 and serving notice that they aren’t going to relinquish their Centennial League crown without a fight.
-You could say the same thing about the Topeka High Trojans, too, who shared that league title with Rural last season. The Trojans have now followed a home loss to Hayden with wins over Rural and now Emporia, as they beat the Spartans 76-69. Topeka High overcame some sloppiness in the first half, regaining their composure to go into the locker room tied at 29, and then broke the game open late in the third with a 15-4 run. Offensive balance won the day for the Trojans, with King Sutton scoring 20 points, Carlos Esquibel adding 15, and Isaiah Esquibel and Geivonnii Williams each scoring 13. The Trojans were an eye-popping 22-for-30 shooting two-point shots in the game, and seem like they are finding the identity their first-year coach Eric King wants to see from them. In girls action, it took a while for the top-ranked Topeka High Lady Trojans to get rolling, but once they did they had no problem with Emporia in a 61-32 win. High started slowly and led by just 12 at the half, but cranked up the offense in the second half to ease to the win. Nija Canady dominated to the tune of 20 points, while Kiki Smith added 14 – an off-night by her lofty standards thus far this season – and Lilly Smith dropped in 11.
-In the only non-league games of the night, the Shawnee Heights boys and girls each picked up wins at Bonner Springs. The Lady T-Birds stifled the Lady Braves in a 41-26 victory, holding them to just 13 second-half points while they got their own offense going from behind the three-point arc. Kam Wells hit three of her team’s six threes and led the way with 14 points while Alie Fulks hit a pair of triples and added eight points. The Heights boys won their third straight after an 0-2 start, holding off Bonner Springs 64-59 thanks to 18 points from Marquis Barksdale and an impressive debut from senior transfer Nasire Anderson, who scored 14 points and gives the T-Birds a big body in the post that they sorely need.