By Joanna Chadwick
Is there anything more fun than trying to predict who will win a state title? Especially in basketball where we have 14 opportunities, all over the next four days. (Make your picks in the predictions contest – http://blogs.varsitykansas.com/blog/2013/03/05/2012-13-state-basketball-predictions-contest/)
Basketball in Kansas always has the promise of standout athletes and teams. This season is no different. But who will win? Who will falter, despite having the better talent? I’ll try to predict that, but regardless of whether I’m right or you’re right, there’s no doubt it’s going to be fun.
Let’s start in Class 6A.
Boys — I can’t pick against Blue Valley Northwest to win it all. The Huskies have played in the past three 6A title games, losing each time to Wichita Heights. But last season, they nearly got past Heights. This season, this Clay Custer-led team will win that elusive title. As for the runner-up? I’m going Wichita North. SM East and Wichita East have a ridiculous first-round game, so I’m giving the edge to Conner Frankamp and North to get into the title game.
Girls — Olathe Northwest is my pick over Maize. I know it seems odd to pick against Wichita Heights, the winner of the last two 6A titles, with undefeated records. But I haven’t seen Heights play a high-caliber game this season against the top teams. Maize has a lot of talent and will take that next step to the title game, but the Eagles don’t have the depth of Olathe Northwest, which has 3 Division I signees. Wichita South will cause problems, and frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them beat Olathe Northwest in the semifinals simply because of the Titans’ style of play. That being said, South lacks depth and is very young.
Boys — SM South over Kapaun. Picking SM South to win the title was easier than picking its opponent. I saw SM South at the Dodge City tournament and this is a deep team. There’s talent all over the place, including Dainan Swoope, Josh Pedersen and my favorite, DeAngelo Bruster. They love to run and they’re fundamentally strong. As for SM South’s opponent, I went with Kapaun and Braden Hullings because the Crusaders are the defending champ and plays in the oh-so-difficult City League. But Kapaun has a major test in Emporia, whose star is Jackson Perez, in the first round. It’s a game I’d like to see.
Girls — St. Thomas Aquinas over Miege. It’s tough for me to pick against Aquinas to win it all. The Saints have had yet another outstanding year and have rolled through Kansas opponents. I really liked Miege and Lexi Hughes. I took Miege over Kapaun simply because the Crusaders, the defending champ, struggled against Olathe Northwest and Newton in the midseason tournament. Kapaun’s depth could be a problem, although, again, it’s difficult to count them out when they are so well-coached and do all the little things right.
Boys — Highland Park over Ottawa. Honestly, I’m pretty sure I picked this game once we all knew Highland Park had dropped down from Class 5A. I’m pretty sure I’m one of many who picked this game. Highland Park’s depth will be the key, but Ottawa’s Semi Ojeleye, oh my. The state’s career scoring record holder is a dominant, versatile athlete. Now, Andale could cause problems against Ottawa in the semifinals. That is a young team with talent throughout its lineup.
Girls — McPherson over Wamego. Here’s another game I think we all saw coming before the season. McPherson is the defending champ and is led by Katelyn Loecker, an Oklahoma State signee. Wamego has Kaylee and Lanie Page, and they will cause problems for Mac. But I’ll take the Pups in a close one.
Boys — Talk about a loaded field. I’m taking Scott City over Beloit. Scott City is one of the best teams in the state, led by Drew Kite (a Top 11 pick) and Brett and Trey O’Neil. I liked this team when I saw them at the Dodge City tournament, especially in its game with Wichita North.
Girls — Garden Plain over Hillsboro. Yep, I’m picking an all-Wichita area final. Garden Plain is led by senior Alli Heimerman, an All-Metro pick as a junior, who is also an outstanding catcher for the Andale-Garden Plain softball team. But Hillsboro will be a tough out, especially with Tena Loewen, Addie Lackey and Dana Bina, who all average double-digit scoring.
Boys — Meade over Lyndon. Meade is loaded, including Randy Friesen, Jett Little, Morgan Davis, who all average double-figure scoring, and after finishing second last season, Meade will win it all.
Girls — Jefferson North over Smith Center. Coaches have contacted me about Jefferson North’s Jacee Kramer, calling her the best player in the state. She’s certainly highly skilled, and she’ll led Jeff North to its second straight title.
Boys — St. John over Hoxie. I feel like I’m repeating myself by talking about St. John’s depth, but it’s something you see from the most successful teams — they have a variety of weapons. St. John has Kade Kinnamon, Spencer Nusser, Zuriel Reyes and Dean Wade, who average between 9 and 16 points. Of the four, only Kinnamon averages fewer than 14 points.
Girls – St. John over Olpe. I know that Olpe is a formidable opponent, winning titles in 2010-11 and 2009-10. But I also saw how St. John, a deep, experienced team, took Wichita South to overtime.
Boys — Fowler over Hutch Central Christian. Fowler’s five starters average between 8 and 15 points apiece, with Jett Reese averaging 15, with 7 rebounds. That kind of depth at this class will be too much to overcome.
Girls — Norwich over Wilson. Norwich will have a tough time with Karlie Steinle, who averages 24 points and 10 rebounds. But Norwich’s lone loss is to St. John, whose lone loss is to Wichita South. It all adds up to me.