1. Second week of midseason tournaments, paced by Haven tournament – This week marks the second week of midseason tournaments, most notably key girls’ tournaments and the Southern Plains Iroquois league competition.
The Haven Wildcat Classic has a terrific field, paced by Nickerson, Cheney, Rose Hill and Haven. At the time of seeding, Nickerson was 10-0, Cheney 10-0, Rose Hill 9-1 and Haven 8-2. Nickerson is No. 3 in Class 4A, Rose Hill is No. 9 in 4A, while Cheney is No. 2 in 3A, and Haven is No. 3 in 3A.
The other seeds feature No. 5 Moundridge (8-2), No. 6 Garden Plain (7-2), No. 7 Andale (4-4) and No. 8 Kingman (4-6). Moundridge is unranked, but owns a victory against rival Inman, ranked No. 3 in Class 2A.
Garden Plain is the defending Class 3A champion and is ranked first in 2A. Cheney defeated Moundridge, 40-37, on Dec. 13, and beat Garden Plain, 47-32, on Jan. 8.
Cheney features three players in double figures, led by sophomore Kylee Scheer, who averages 17.5 points, 4.2 steals, 4.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists a game. Senior Destinee O’Shea is second at 10.5 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.1 assists. Senior Layne Needham averages 10.3 points and 6.8 rebounds, while sophomore Lexi Cline delivers five points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.6 steals a game.
2. Derby girls at Emporia – The Panthers, ranked No. 1 in Class 6A, are, along with Bishop Miege (No. 1 4A) arguably the state’s top-two girls’ programs. Derby, led by its Division I tandem of point guard Tor’e Alford and post Kennedy Brown, are 8-0. Liberal, Washburn Rural and Olathe South are also perfect in Class 6A girls.
The Panthers first play at Salina South on Tuesday before heading to the Emporia tournament. Derby owns multiple quality wins versus Wichita-area schools, including Heights, McPherson and Maize, and could have a ranked Topeka-area team in the championship.
Derby faces Shawnee Mission North in the first round, and then gets either Eisenhower/Wichita Northwest in the semifinals. The top-half of the bracket features Topeka High and Topeka Seaman. Topeka High is ranked sixth in Class 6A. Both Brown (Oregon State signee) and Alford (Missouri State) recently earned nominations to the McDonald’s All-American game.
3. SPIAA tournament at Dodge City – The SPIAA has enjoyed a banner year, especially on the girls’ side. Spearville and Coldwater-South Central are undefeated in league play at 6-0 and 8-0, respectively. Overall, Spearville is 11-0, and South Central stands at 10-2. The top-eight teams have winning records. Bucklin (8-3), South Gray (8-3), Ingalls (8-4) and Kiowa County (8-5) are all high quality teams.
Spearville is ranked third in Class 1A, and South Central stands eighth. The league has plenty of stars, including South Central’s Bri Rutherford, who averages 24.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 2.8 assists a contest.
Spearville’s top-three scorers are all non-seniors, paced by junior Ehlaina Hartman (14.2 ppg) and sophomore Alissa Heskamp (13.5 ppg). SG’s Hannah Askew collects 15.1 points and 9.1 rebounds, and Bucklin’s duo of sophomore Catherine Bowman and senior Tricia Hokanson combines for 26 points and 12 rebounds a contest.
4. South Gray boys look to continue 36-game winning streak behind Jantz, Miller – While the winning streaks of the Central Plains girls and boys – especially the girls – are well-known, Montezuma-South Gray boys have enjoyed a long winning streak. SG, ranked No. 2 in Class 1A behind Central Plains, went 26-0 last season en route to the fourth state championship under longtime coach Mark Applegate, who is in his 37th season.
Applegate, who entered this season 654-214, has paced the Rebels to an 11-0 start this season. SG already has quality wins at Ashland (70-51) and versus Minneola (62-48).
On Dec. 18, the Rebels won, 80-70, at home versus South Central. Austin Jantz averages 17.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.5 steals a contest. Clifton Miller delivers 21.5 points, seven rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.8 steals a game. Miller is an outstanding shooter with 2.3 made treys a game. Similar to the girls, the top-seven teams are at least .500. South Central (10-2), Kiowa County (8-3), Pawnee Heights (8-3) and Ashland (8-4) should provide the most resistance.
5. Other key tournaments – Inman girls highlight Steve Shepherd’s tournament in Sedgwick as the top seed. … The Mulvane Wildcat Classic has just six teams, including defending champion Conway Springs. … The McPherson Mid-America Classic always has its tournaments in back-to-back weeks and has the second week of competition this week. Teams include Dodge City, Manhattan, McPherson, Ulysses, Valley Center, Wellington and Wichita Southeast, along with likely favorite Olathe South … Bishop Miege (7-0) headlines the girls’ field at Newton.