ebl, Alex Hickel, and Myles Menges and coach Brett Rolfs elected to not return. Central Plains plays Barton County rival Hoisington. The boys' streak of 54 straight wins could be in jeopardy versus the Cardinals, 10-11 last winter for veteran coach Kyle Haxton. Hoisington returns its top-two scorers with juniors Drew Nicholson and Mason Haxton. Nicholson averaged 16.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists a contest. Haxton is at 14.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and three assists. Central Plains boys have won seven straight in the series. Hoisington last bested Central Plains, 38-32, on Dec. 21, 2012.
3. Dighton vs. Trego – WaKeeney-Trego will open its season with four straight home games, Friday versus Dighton, and then next week's Purple and Gold tournament. The Friday contest serves a litmus test for all four teams. The WaKeeney girls won 20 games and finished fourth in 2A, the program's best finish in 42 years.
Trego girls are preseason ranked fourth in 2A, and return 95 percent of its scoring, led by junior Lili Shubert with 15.4 points, seven rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.3 steals a game. Senior Libby Frost delivered nine points and 4.4 rebounds a contest. WaKeeney won this game, 38-33, last year.
Dighton, though, had a six-win improvement and reached a 1A sub-state semifinal last winter despite often having just eight players for longtime coach Amy Felker. Senior Ella Roberts is back after 12.5 points, eight rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. Sophomore Traci Cramer delivered 6.2 points and four rebounds.
The Trego boys finished 7-13, though is expected to take big strides with fourth-year coach Sean Dreiling. Trego has four returning starters, along with standout sophomore Charlie Russell. The Golden Eagle boys won 44-39 versus Dighton last season, part of a year with many close games. Trego lost three games by one point apiece and another contest in triple overtime. Dighton was 11-11, though returns six of its seven top scorers, including senior Kaden Bradstreet.
4. Top Girls Players – A prevailing theme is the excellent girls' basketball talent returning this winter. Ryan has signed with Iowa State. Haven's Faith Paramore has inked with Division I Oral Roberts. Liberal returns its standout pair of point guard Katie Horyna (Abilene Christian) and post Machia Mullens (UM-Kansas City). Maize South's Katie Wagner, who has averaged at least 15 points per game in the last two seasons, is headed to Fort Hays. Goddard's Kade Hackerott plays for her dad, Kevin, led the Lions to the state tournament in 2019 and has signed with Central Missouri. Alma-Wabaunsee's Madelyn Hutley has inked with Washburn.
Derby's Sydney Nilles and Hesston's Elise Kaiser have signed with Newman. McPherson has its quartet of seniors Andrea Sweat (Washburn), Lakyn Schieferecke (Washburn), Emma Ruddle (Fort Hays) and junior Grace Pyle, who holds an offer from Wichita State. Pyle is one of multiple standout juniors, that includes Cheney's Kylie Scheer, Halstead's Karenna Gerber, Wichita Heights' Laniah Randle and 6-foot-4 Kapaun forward Ella Anciaux. Halstead returns all five starters. Scheer averaged 18.1 points per contest, and Randle helped WH to the City League crown.
Additionally, Bishop Miege, the defending 4A champion, has the Verhulst sisters in senior Ashton and junior Payton. Ashton has signed with Central Florida, and Payton has dozens of Power 5 Division I offers.
5. 20-point game scorers – The CIK area features multiple returning players who averaged 20 points a game, according to MaxPreps statewide lists. Wichita Southeast junior Jackie Johnson is the state's top returning boy scorer at 25.9 points per game. SE is preseason ranked third in 6A boys.
Eisenhower senior Jordan Vincent delivered 24.2 points a game. Udall senior Brayden Sadler averaged 24.1 points a contest. Minneola senior Tuck Lang had 21.5 points per game, and Plainville senior Jared Casey had 21 points a game. All players ranked in the top-14 in Kansas in scoring.
Ryan led Kansas with 30.6 points per game, and Plainville senior Aubree Dewey delivered 28.3 points a contest and has signed with Washburn. Ryan has more than 2,000 career points, and Dewey is at 1,462 points. Plainville has a key season-opening home Mid-Continent League contest versus Smith Center. The Cardinals lost 71-49 to SC in the season opener, though beat SC, 53-50 in sub-state.
Otis-Bison senior forward Maddie Wiltse has 20.8 points per contest. She has signed with Nebraska-Kearney. O-B has three experienced seniors with Wiltse, forward Cora Anderson and guard Cristen Trapp. Topeka sophomore Nijaree Canady delivered 20.6 points a game. Ellis junior Grace Eck had 19.5 points per game.
6. Derby reloads; standout freshmen – Derby girls graduated its two standouts with point guard Tor'e Alford (Hutchinson Community College) and forward Kennedy Brown (Oregon State). The Panthers have finished second, first and third the last three winters. Derby returns five seniors with Nilles, Heather Mills, Sadie Svymbersky, Blaize Gruden and Kaitlyn Strobel). However, the Panthers feature 6-foot-3 talented junior Jaidyn Schomp, and 6-foot-2 sophomore Tatum Boettjer, a Circle transfer. Boettjer enjoyed a big volleyball season and helped Derby reach state volleyball for the first time since '02.
Wichita Heights transfer Derryana Cobbins has come to Derby and can play in January, according to the Derby Informer. The Panthers also have highly touted freshmen Maryn Archer and 6-foot-2 Addy Brown. Both guards have already earned national recruiting attention. Derby is ranked fourth in 6A girls, Liberal fifth.
7. Top-ranked boys' squads – The CIK area has multiple No. 1 and No.2-ranked teams. In Class 6A, Haysville Campus is ranked second. In 5A, defending champion Andover Central is first, followed by Bishop Carroll in second, and Eisenhower fourth.
Class 3A boys has Wichita Collegiate, Beloit, Hesston and Larned. St. John and Little River are 1-2 in 1A. AC features senior Xavier Bell, who is an 1,000-point career scorer and has Division I interest in both football and basketball. Beloit features Vincent Palen, while St. John has post Tanner Halling, and Little River with Jayden Garrison.
8. Phillipsburg's Sides siblings look for strong starts – Phillipsburg boys graduated four-year starting point guard Trey Sides, now at Division I Jacksonville University. His dad, Keith, is back as the veteran Panther boys' coach. Trey's brother, Ty, returns at guard from an 18-3 squad after 13 points and 4.3 assists. Ty's sister, Taryn, is a freshman, and like Archer/Brown, has already enjoyed great recruiting interest. Phillipsburg is at Ellis on Friday. Ellis boys are No. 8 in 2A and returns three of its top-four scorers from a 17-6 team. Phillipsburg boys have won six straight in the series. On the girls' side, Ellis captured four in a row before Phillipsburg won 67-37 last season.