The Kansas state girls basketball tournaments start Wednesday and continue through Saturday at three locations. Class 6A will play in Wichita (Koch Arena), 5A in Topeka (Kansas Expocentre) and 4A Division I in Salina (Tony’s Pizza Events Center).
All state tournament brackets can be found on the KSHSAA website.
1. Return of the crown
It wouldn’t be state tournament week without Bishop Miege. Coach Terry English has directed the Stags to a tournament-best 19 titles and 75 tournament wins since 1977.
Miege had not lost a game since Feb. 11, 2014, when it fell to undefeated Lee’s Summit North on Dec. 16. But after a second straight loss, the three-time Class 4A Division I champs went on an eight-game winning streak and lost just once more on its way to a substate championship. As the third seed, Miege will play Wellington (17-5) on Thursday night.
For the 23rd year in a row, defending champion St. Thomas Aquinas will be in the state tournament. Aquinas ended the season ranked second in its classification by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association.
If the Saints can defeat Bishop Carroll (18-4) in the first round Thursday night and win a potential semifinal matchup over top-ranked Leavenworth, they would be on track to win their sixth title in school history.
2. Olathe sends three to tournament
Olathe South has been here before. For the 13th straight year, South (18-4) will attempt a run at another title to go with the one from 2010. The Falcons will play Lawrence (18-4) — whose last state appearance in 2008 yielded a championship — on Thursday afternoon.
It’s the first time South will be joined in the tournament by two other Olathe schools. Olathe Northwest (15-7), which last played in Wichita in 2013, will face Manhattan (21-1) in the first 6A quarterfinal matchup Thursday.
After beating South for third place last year, Olathe East (18-4) returns to Wichita in the top bracket as the No. 4 seed and will face Derby (18-4) in the first round.
3. Fifth straight title on the line
The next state champion could come from Olathe — but it would be a major upset. Top-ranked Wichita South (22-0) has won four titles in a row. The team has also won 51 straight games, its last loss coming on Feb. 24, 2014.
4. Atop the rankings
For three straight years, Leavenworth has factored into the Class 5A title game. The Pioneers won championship trophies in 2014 and 2015.
This year, Leavenworth (19-3) goes into the tournament ranked first in its class by the KBCA. It could contend with Aquinas in the semifinals for a rematch of last year’s title game, which Aquinas won 39-38. Leavenworth already beat Aquinas in the regular season this year.
Joining those teams in the 5A tournament are De Soto (15-7) and Schlagle (19-3). Both are appearing at state for the second straight year, but this season is the first De Soto has competed in 5A.
Out in 4A Division I, Piper (21-1) will make its third appearance in the tournament in four years. The Piper girls lost to Bishop Miege in the substate championship last year but could potentially avenge themselves in a championship game if they beat Abilene on Thursday afternoon and go on to win their semifinal.
Piper has never appeared in a state title game, but Kansas coaches ranked the team first in its classification.