Joco Sports

Olathe East girls ready to step up to state

Olathe East’s Katie Gleason (5) and Sydney Wilson (23) celebrate a Class 6A state tournament berth with their teammates after a 50-33 win against Blue Valley in the substate championship game March 2 at Olathe East High School.
Olathe East’s Katie Gleason (5) and Sydney Wilson (23) celebrate a Class 6A state tournament berth with their teammates after a 50-33 win against Blue Valley in the substate championship game March 2 at Olathe East High School. Special to The Star

It’s been a long time since Olathe East has sweated out a girls’ basketball game. That’s a potential problem for a state tournament-bound team facing higher stakes and tougher competition.

But Hawks coach Clint Evans doesn’t see that as a problem with this team.

“I’m more worried about them being too loose in practice,” Evans said. “In years past, I definitely would have been worried about those things.”

Undefeated Olathe East (22-0) rolls into the Class 6A state tournament this week as the No. 1 seed after beating Blue Valley 50-33 on March 2 in its substate final. The Hawks meet No. 8 Olathe South (15-7) at 3 p.m. March 7 in the quarterfinals at Koch Arena in Wichita.

Olathe East won its last six games during the regular season by an average of 35.2 points, including a 40-23 win Feb. 16 against Olathe South. That was the Hawks’ closest game since Olathe Northwest took them to overtime Feb. 2 in a game Evans’ crew won 71-63.

“It looked like it wasn’t close, but that was a rival game,” Evans said of the previous meeting against Olathe South. “I don’t think we’ve been completely void of tight games.”

Olathe East — led by Sydney Wilson, a 6-foot wing who averages 19.6 points and 6.7 rebounds a game — is making a third straight state-tournament appearance for the first time in program history.

Wilson, who also averages three steals and 2.5 assists a contest, is the Sunflower League girls’ player of the year and a Missouri State signee.

“She’s as good a kid as she is a talent,” Evans said. “She can do everything.”

Makenna Winemiller, a 5-6 junior guard, has contributed 14.5 points per game and Molly Kaemmer, a 5-11 sophomore center, is almost averaging a double-double at 8.8 points and rebounds per contest. They lead a team that Evans believes is experienced enough not to wilt under state-tournament pressure or come in too overconfident.

“Our kids don’t expect to walk in the gym and beat South just because we beat them twice before,” Evans said.

BVNW boys eye another repeat

Defending champion Blue Valley Northwest has the No. 1 seed in the Class 6A boys’ tournament. The Huskies (18-4) open state-tourney play against No. 8 Lawrence (13-9) at 6:30 p.m. on March 8 in the quarterfinals.

BV Northwest didn’t look like a defending champion when it started out the year 4-4, but all four of those losses came against Missouri powerhouses like Grandview and Lee’s Summit West.

Now, the Huskies head to state on a 14-game winning streak after pounding Shawnee Mission West 67-36 on March 3 in its substate final.

“Those losses have helped us become a better team,” BV Northwest coach Ed Fritz said. “We’re playing some really good basketball right now.”

Balance has been the name of the game for the Huskies, who have made it to state eight of the last nine seasons.

Sam Ward, a 6-3 senior guard, leads the Huskies at 15 points per game. Brothers Parker Braun, a 6-9 senior, and Christian Braun, a 6-5 junior, both average 14 points as does 6-6 senior Joe Pleasant.

“We’ve got a lot of balance on our team and that kind of makes it nice,” said Fritz, who is in his 16th season at BV Northwest. “It’s not just one guy. We always have four or five guys that add to our totals.”

More state-bound squads

Olathe East and BV Northwest are two of 12 boys’ and girls’ teams from Johnson County taking part in state tournaments this week.

Also in the Class 6A boys’ quarterfinals on Thursday are No. 5 seed Olathe North (14-8), which plays No. 4 seed Derby (15-6), and No. 6 seed Olathe East (13-9), which takes on No. 3 seed Topeka High (16-6).

In the 6A girls’ quarterfinals, No. 7 seed Shawnee Mission Northwest (16-6) meets No. 2 seed Wichita South (21-1), while No. 6 seed BV North (17-5) meets No. 3 seed Derby (21-1).

In the 5A state tournament at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, St. Thomas Aquinas (20-2) is seeded No. 2 in the girls’ bracket and faces No. 7 Salina Central (15-7) on March 8 in the quarterfinals. No. 3 seed Mill Valley (18-4) plays No. 6 seed Maize (16-6), while No. 8 seed St. James Academy (8-14) plays top-seeded Liberal (21-1).

Finally, among 5A squads, Mill Valley’s boys (11-11) are seeded No. 8 and meet No. 1 Goddard-Eisenhower (19-2) on Wednesday.

The Bishop Miege girls vie for a fifth consecutive Class 4A, Division I championship at the Tony’s Pizza Events Center in Salina. The Stags (20-2) are seeded fourth and meet Towanda-Circle (18-4) on March 7 in the quarterfinals.

Lastly, Miege’s boys (19-3), who are gunning for a third straight title, are seeded second and play No. 7 Altamont-Labette County on March 8 in the boys’ quarterfinals, while Spring Hill’s boys (14-8) are seeded eighth and take on No. 1 McPherson (20-1).