Tournament Week Preview – Girls Basketball Edition
The midseason tournament action heats up this week, with six of the city’s seven girls teams scheduled to take the floor three times in bracket play this week. As we did last week with the boys teams (and the Highland Park girls, who placed seventh at the Colby Orange & Black Invitational), we take this opportunity to look back at the start to the season for the girls squads and look ahead to their tournament and their second halves.
Hayden Lady Wildcats – 5-5, 4-4 Centennial League
‘FIRST HALF’ HIGHLIGHTS: It took a while for the Lady Wildcats to find their traction, but once they did, they’ve hit the gas. Hayden has won five of their last six games after an 0-4 start, with the biggest win coming in a road game at then-unbeaten Seaman. They have grasped the up-tempo style that first-year coach Carvel Reynoldson wants them to play, and with good shooting, improving post play, and a steady senior hand at point guard in Sophia Purcell, this feels like a team with even bigger things ahead.
BREAKOUT PLAYER: Macy Smith. The strides the sophomore guard made at the end of last season have continued into this year, and she and Purcell have provided a one-two scoring and playmaking punch that has elevated the entire team.
PRIORITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT: The Lady Wildcats have quality shooters on their roster but will continue to seek consistency on offense as they pursue wins that will give them a better seed in the 4A sub-state round.
Wellsville Top Gun Tournament bracket:
Seaman Lady Vikes – 6-3, 4-3 Centennial League
‘FIRST HALF’ HIGHLIGHTS: The Lady Vikes sprinted out to a 6-0 start, with their most impressive performance being a thirty-point shellacking of Manhattan, 58-28. And although they’ve lost three straight since, simply stating that doesn’t do their efforts justice. They played 6A powers Washburn Rural and Topeka High to the hilt, falling in the last seconds to the Lady Blues and giving the Lady Trojans their toughest game this season. Seaman’s standout scoring duo of Camryn Turner and Chloe Carter have been terrific throughout the season, with Turner contributing in every stat category and Carter scoring from inside and outside. The Lady Vikes are a serious contender to get back to state.
BREAKOUT PLAYER: Riley Cowan. Her hard work in the post hasn’t just resulted in personal improvement, but it’s also allowed Seaman to let Carter play on the perimeter more often, where she’s a three-point threat.
PRIORITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT: The Lady Vikes have to dust themselves off after this tough stretch of the season, continue to play with confidence, and get better on defense to match their offensive potential each night.
Shawnee Heights Lady Thunderbirds – 4-4, 1-3 United Kansas Conference
‘FIRST HALF’ HIGHLIGHTS: The Lady T-Birds have only played three times since the winter break, but they’re 2-1 in those games, using stifling defense to defeat Bonner Springs and Turner in a United Kansas Conference game. Alie Fulks continues to be the team’s offensive pacesetter, and with additional size this season, they are much better defensively, putting less strain on their offense on a nightly basis.
BREAKOUT PLAYER: Adysen Burghart. She’s become the second offensive option for Heights behind Fulks and is growing her offensive skillset by leaps and bounds while also getting better as a perimeter defender.
PRIORITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT: Once Heights is able to more consistently score in the high-40s to 50s, they’re going to be that much tougher to beat with how disciplined they are capable of being defensively.
Topeka West Lady Chargers – 1-7, 1-5 Centennial League
‘FIRST HALF’ HIGHLIGHTS: In their opening game of the season, the Lady Chargers emerged with a victory over Highland Park. That’s been the lone victory for them to this point, but David Meseke’s group has been competitive against the opponents they have hoped to be more competitive against this season. Miyah Larson is having a fine senior campaign thanks to improved three-point shooting, and Tialah Taylor has provided an interior scoring threat.
BREAKOUT PLAYER: McKinsey Jones. On a young Lady Chargers team with lots of freshman and sophomores earning playing time, Jones, a freshman, has stood out with her size and athleticism, particularly on the defensive end.
PRIORITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT: West has a chance to be a good offensive team, with Larson’s ability, plenty of shooters around her, and Taylor finishing inside, but they have to do a much better job taking care of the basketball. Avoiding turnovers will allow them to get up more shots while also limiting transition baskets for their opponents.
Top City Classic bracket:
Topeka High Lady Trojans – 9-0, 7-0 Centennial League
‘FIRST HALF’ HIGHLIGHTS: The preseason #1 team in Class 6A has done nothing to suggest they shouldn’t be considered the class’s best team. They have stampeded to their 9-0 record, with their most impressive win a 75-37 rout of Washburn Rural back in December. Their 76-67 win over Seaman last Friday night is the only win they have that’s been closer than 17 points. Kiki Smith is arguably the best freshman in the state, Nija Canady is dominating in the low post, and a deep roster around them has dedicated themselves to defense in a major way.
BREAKOUT PLAYER: Lily Smith. The junior doesn’t start for the Lady Trojans, but once she’s off the bench, she can heat up in a hurry with one of the best three-point strokes around.
PRIORITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT: For this talented group, the key will be to avoid what Pat Riley once called ‘The Disease of Me’. If every player embraces their role and commits to the success of the team, there may be no stopping them.
Firebird Classic bracket:
Washburn Rural Lady Blues – 8-2, 7-1 Centennial League
‘FIRST HALF’ HIGHLIGHTS: After a 2-2 December, the Lady Blues have hit the gas in January, reeling off six straight wins including a hard-fought road win at Manhattan and a last-second two-point home triumph over Seaman. Kasey Hamilton and Emma Krueger, the two mainstays from last year’s state championship team, have elevated their scoring and rebounding and are leading this young roster to consistent, game-by-game improvement.
BREAKOUT PLAYER: Brooklyn DeLeye. It’s not easy, and maybe even impossible, to try and fill Carly Bachelor’s shoes, but DeLeye has provided the post production that the Lady Blues have needed. Only a freshman, she clearly has the skill set and athleticism to be a standout, both now and into the future.
PRIORITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT: We’re already starting to see this team grow as the season goes on, as the younger players on the team embrace the kind of defense and mental toughness it takes to win at a high level.
Glacier’s Edge bracket: