913 girls hoops: Kansas state tournament preview

03/11/2014 4:39 PM

03/11/2014 4:39 PM

For the last decade, the Olathe South High School girls basketball team has presented itself as a beacon of consistency and success in the state tournament.

This year, the Falcons head to Wichita as the No. 3 seed in the Kansas 6A state tournament with a 20-2 record. Olathe South will face Sunflower League foe Shawnee Mission Northwest, 16-6, at 8:15 p.m. tonight at Koch Arena.

“We feel like we have a chance to do some things down there if things go right for us,” coach Steve Ingram said. “We feel like we have an opportunity and have to take advantage of an opportunity.”

Last season, Olathe South went to the state quarterfinals and lost to Wichita Heights, but the Falcons lost only two seniors from that team. Among their returners, the Falcons have Kansas State commit Kylee Kopatich and Mid-America Nazarene signee Bailey Rinehart.

“They always play hard, they don’t beat themselves and they’re fundamentally strong,” Shawnee Mission Northwest coach Jeff Dickson said. “The names and the numbers on the roster change, but the consistent level of play and commitment is just remarkable.”

Olathe South won the first matchup between the schools 62-50 Jan. 7.

Saints looking to repeat

Though the St. Thomas Aquinas girls basketball team has lost only two games this season and went undefeated in Eastern Kansas League play, the Saints' road to repeat as 5A state champions appears ominous.

The Saints, 20-2, enter the tournament in Topeka as the No. 4 seed in a bracket that features six teams with three or fewer losses.

“We’ve played pretty well the last couple of weeks, and they are fired up and ready to play,” coach Rick Hetzel said. “We’ve got a tough draw, and there are a lot of good 5A teams this year so it’ll be tough, but we’ll hopefully have some fun.”

Aquinas will face Kapaun Mount Carmel, 20-2, at 4:45 p.m. Thursday at the Topeka Expocentre.

St. James capitalizes on chemistry

Coming into this season, the St. James Academy girls basketball team wanted to unite as one.

Now, just a few months later, that unity and chemistry has led the Thunder to the 5A state tournament with a 17-5 record.

“I couldn’t feel any better,” coach Greg Hohensinner said. “It’s always nice to see hard work and dedication pay off in the end, and that’s truly what has happened.”

St. James will face Salina Central, 21-1, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Topeka Expocentre.

Mustangs strengthened by tough EKL

For the Blue Valley North girls basketball team, there may be no better preparation for the Kansas Class 6A state tournament this year than competing in the Eastern Kansas League.

The EKL produced three state tournament teams including defending 5A state champion St. Thomas Aquinas and Bishop Miege. Blue Valley North lost only four times, and three of them came against St. Thomas Aquinas or Bishop Miege.

“I think that’s got to help because our league is so tough, and there are no nights off,” coach Ann Fritz said. “I think the schedules just around this area always help going into state.”

Blue Valley North, 18-4, will face Maize, 18-4, at 4:45 p.m. today at Koch Arena in Wichita.

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