The Sunflower League had seven teams in tournament championships over the weekend and brought home four tournament championships. Three of the four were won against fellow Sunflower League opponents.
By KATHLEEN GIER
The Kansas City Star
“Coming into this season, I knew there was going to be great balance in the Sunflower League, but this has even exceeded what I expected,” Olathe East coach Jim Super said. “That speaks highly of the athletes in the Sunflower League and the coaching as well.”
Olathe East defeated Shawnee Mission Northwest to win the Saints Classic at St. Thomas Aquinas, Lawrence topped Topeka Highland Park in the Topeka Invitational, Shawnee Mission South downed Olathe North in the Chanute Classic and Lawrence defeated Shawnee Mission East to win the McPherson Tournament.
Olathe East leading league
With a mixture of accuracy from beyond the arc and aggressiveness in the paint, Olathe East is pacing a talented Sunflower League.
The Hawks are 11-1 overall and 4-0 in league play, including a victory against Shawnee Mission Northwest last Saturday to win the Saints Classic. Senior Caelan Neal was named tournament MVP after averaging 18.6 points through three games. He was joined on the All-Tournament Team by senior Ezra Talbert.
“Ezra has been very consistent with his perimeter jump shot, and Caelan has been aggressive to the bucket and finishing at a high percentage,” Olathe East coach Jim Super said. “Ezra posts up well, too, so it makes them pretty difficult to defend. And then we’ve got other players that can knock down threes, so if you help too much on the penetration, we kick out and can shoot over.”
Mustangs growing up quickly
When Blue Valley North returned only two starters, head coach Ryan Phifer was not sure what to expect.
The Mustangs started the season with a 58-57 loss to Olathe East, but then rattled off seven straight victories before losses to Blue Springs South and Rockhurst led to a fourth place finish in the Vikings Classic at Shawnee Mission West.
“I thought we had a chance to be pretty good, but we were also pretty inexperienced in some areas,” Phifer said. “I thought it could take a little while for things to get gelling, and I wouldn’t say we’ve exceeded my expectations, but we are playing a little bit better and faster than I thought.”
Blue Valley North's 7-3 record includes a 5-0 mark in the Eastern Kansas League, but the Mustangs will have a tall task this weekend in a rivalry matchup with Blue Valley Northwest.
Huskies still on top of KBCA rankings
Blue Valley Northwest has the top spot in the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association 6A poll, but after the Huskies, there are six Sunflower League teams vying for power.
Olathe East leads the pack at No. 2 followed by Lawrence (No. 3), Shawnee Mission South No. 4), Shawnee Mission Northwest (No. 6), Olathe North (No. 7) and Lawrence Free State (No. 9).