By Rick Peterson

My favorite week of the high school sports season is here and for what it's worth -- and it's not much -- here's my take on all 14 of this week's state basketball tournaments across the state.

If I didn't pick your team don't fret because it could bode well for you.

If I did pick the team/teams you root for, I hope it's not a jinx.

By early Saturday eventing we'll know, and win or lose it promises to be a fun week. Enjoy!


Finalists -- Shawnee Mission Northwest (1: 22-0) vs. Wichita Heights (2: 21-1).

Champion -- Wichita Heights. A good rule of thumb is never pick against Joe Auer. The Falcons coach is one of the most respected and successful coaches in Kansas, with six titles in two classes, and his 2023-2024 team (the runnerup in '23) will be hard to beat again this week although the 6A field is crowded with contenders.

Other contenders -- Blue Valley Northwest (3: 20-2) is the defending state champ and a perennial contender. Heights could have to get past Northwest in the semifinals, although the Huskies could get a tough first-round test from Wichita Northwest (6: 17-5), which handed Highland Park its only loss in the finals of the Topeka Invitational.

ZoeCanfieldWS 3Senior Zoe Canfield played a big role in Washburn Rural's 2022 state championship and will take aim on another title this week in Wichita. [File photo/TSN]


Finalists -- Blue Valley North (5: 18-4) vs. Wichita Heights (2: 20-2)/Washburn Rural (7: 15-7) first-round winner.

Champion -- Blue Valley North. When in doubt, and 6A is one huge bundle of doubt, go with the defending champs. Blue Valley North is a No. 5 seed, but the Mustangs have proven themselves to be up to challeng in the past, and could again.

Other contenders -- Rule of thumb Part II: never count out Kevin Bordewick. The Hall of Fame coach has led Washburn Rural to back-to-back 6A championship games (title in 2022, runnerup in 2023) and a pair of championships since 2019. The Rural-Wichita Heights first-round game could be the game of the tournament, with Rural beating Heights in the semifinals of the Capital City Classic on late January. Top seed Shawnee Mission South (21-1), Olathe South (4: 18-4) and Derby (3:19-3) are all capable of championship runs.

JaCoreyRobinsonBonner 1Highland Park junior Ja'Corey Robinson is coming off a 35-point performance in the Scots' sub-state final victory. [Photo by Kyle Manthe/Special to TSN]

KenDartingDeSoto 1Shawnee Heights coach Ken Darting will be shooting for his sixth state basketball championship this week in Emporia. [File photo/TSN]


Finalists -- Piper (4:19-3)/Shawnee Heights (5:19-3) first-round winner vs. Highland Park (2: 21-1).

Champion -- Highland Park. The No. 8 seed in the field, Great Bend, is 17-5, which tells you all you need to know about the 5A field, and I feel like seven of the eight teams have a legitimate shot at the title. We'll know by about 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday if the Scots can be in the hunt, with Highland Park taking on defending champion Andover, the team that ended Hi Park's title hopes with a 55-54 semifinal win a year ago, in the first round. Highland Park junior Ja'Corey Robinson has been dominant throughout the 2023-2024 season and could be the X Factor this week.

Other contenders -- Five coaches in the field have led teams to state titles and that pedigree could come into play this week. Both Piper and Shawnee Heights have played great basketball down the stretch, but Maize South has shown its potential all season and has the chops to finish off the daunting task of going wire to wire. The first-round winner between last year's runnerup, Kapaun Mt. Carmel (3:19-3), and 2022 runnerup De Soto (6:18-4) could be a dandy, with De Soto's David Cobin capable of taking over a game.

TaylinStallbaumerBL 1Senior Taylin Stallbaumer and the Seaman girls will be looking for a strong Class 5A state performance this week after dropping a first-round game last season. [File photo/TSN]


Finalists -- Andover (1: 22-0) vs. St. Thomas Aquinas (7: 16-6).

Champion -- St. Thomas Aquinas. The Saints will face a tough task to even get out of the opening round, facing off with 21-1 Maize South, the No. 2 seed. But until someone proves otherwise you have to go with the seven-time defending champion Saints. Former Topeka High coach Hannah Alexander coached the Trojans to a pair of runnerup finishes in 6A and has a definite shot to pull off a perfect season in her second season with her new Trojans at Andover.

Other contenders -- The field is loaded with contenders and Seaman (4: 20-2) and Emporia (3: 21-1) certainly fit this bill. Seaman will be looking to make a state statement after a disappointing first-round loss a year ago while Emporia has been red-hot since an early-season loss to 3A contender Hayden and owns two wins over Hayden and two over Washburn Rural, last year's 6A runnerup.


Finalists -- McPherson (1: 22-0) vs. Hugoton (3: 20-2).

Champion -- McPherson. The Bullpups have had a long legacy of success and Kurt Kinnamon has led the storied program to five state championships in two classes. No reason to believe that run of success can't continue this week.

Other contenders -- Seven teams in the field have at least 18 wins. No. 2 seed Atchison's only two losses in a 20-2 season have come against 5A power Highland Park while Abilene (6:19-3) and Rock Creek (7: 18-4) also loom as strong contenders.


Finalists -- McPherson (4: 18-4) vs. Bishop Miege (3: 19-3).

Champion -- Bishop Miege. Hard not to pick the team that has won four straight state championships, but a Miege-McPherson final could be a classic. Miege took a 67-53 win over McPherson in last year's championship game. Three of the Bullpups' four losses came against state title contenders Miege, undefeated 5A top seed Andover and 6A top seed Shawnee Mission South.

Other contenders -- Wellington is the top seed at 21-1 and is in the midst of a 20-game win streak entering state. On the other side of the bracket Fort Scott is the No. 2 seed, also at 21-1.

TreyBrownHaydenboysSabetha 1Trey Brown won a state championship as a senior for Shawnee Heights and has led Hayden to a state berth in his first season as the Wildcats' coach. [Photo by Kyle Grunert/Special to TSN]


Finalists -- Beloit (1: 22-1) vs. Cheney (2: 21-2).

Champion -- Beloit. The Trojans' lone loss came against 6A state qualifier Olathe North and Beloit is a clearcut favorite.

Other contenders -- Fun fact: Trey Brown closed out his banner high school career with a 5A state title for Shawnee Heights in 2017 and is making his first state appearance as a coach. Brown's Hayden team (8: 8-15) faces a tough hill to climb this week, beginning against Beloit, but the Wildcats have a history of big upsets. Goodland (3: 20-3) is very capable of making a run at the 3A crown.

KylePorterRoss 1Kyle Poter's Silver Lake girls will be making their fourth straight appearance in the Class 3A state tournament. [File photo/TSN]

LaurenSandstromSubstateBB 1Senior Lauren Sandstrom will be looking to make a deep run in the Class 3A state tournament after earning a 4A state berth in 2023. [File by Kyle Grunert/Special to TSN]


Finalists -- Silver Lake (1: 23-0)/Hayden (5:19-4) semifinal winner vs. Hesston (3: 20-3).

Champion -- Silver Lake/Hayden semifinal winner. As soon as Hayden dropped to 3A for the 2023-2024 season, the Wildcats and Eagles were a solid pick to play for the 3A championship. Unfortunately, that matchup will come in the semifinals if both teams win their first-round games. It shapes up as a great game and could ultimately decide the state title.

Other contenders -- Two-time defending champion Goodland (2: 20-3), Hesston (3: 20-3) and Cheney (6: 19-4) are all capable of making title runs and all three are on the opposite side of the bracket from Silver Lake and Hayden.


Finalists -- Lyndon (1: 23-0) vs. Sterling (2: 21-2.

Champion -- Lyndon. How cool would it be to see the Tigers go back-to-back with undefeated state championship seasons in football and basketball? We could find out Saturday.

Other contenders -- Salina Sacred Heart (4: 20-3), Sterling (2: 21-2) and Moundridge (3: 20-3) all appear capable of challending Lyndon for the title, with Moundridge the defending champ.


Finalists -- Wichita County (1: 23-0) vs. Colgan (2: 23-0).

Champion -- Colgan. Shapes up as a tossup, but I'll go with the Panthers.

Other contenders -- Five teams in the field have at least 21 wins and all eight schools in the field have at least 18 wins. That makes everybody a contender.


Finalists -- South Gray (1: 21-2) vs. Quinter (3: 20-3).

Champion -- South Gray. Rebels get the nod in a field that includes seven teams with at least 19 wins.

Other contenders -- The winner of the first-round game between Clifton-Clyde (4: 20-3) and Olpe (5: 20-3) could go all the way.


Finalists -- Little River (1: 23-0) vs. St. John (2: 22-1). 

Champion -- Little River. In a field that includes all eight teams with at least 18 wins, the lone unbeaten in the field gets the nod. 

Other contenders -- Hard not to root for 87-year-old Kansas sports legend Ron Slaymaker and his Olpe Eagles (8: 18-5). The longtime Emporia State men's coach is still coaching and still winning.


Finalists -- Dighton (1: 22-1) vs. Axtell (2: 21-2).

Champion -- Axtell. The Eagles gets the nod in what appears to be a very even field.

Other contenders -- Northern Valley (21-2) and Cunningham (19-3) loom as dangerous contenders for the championship.


Finalists -- Hanover (5: 20-4) vs. Lebo (2: 21-2).

Champion -- Lebo. The Wolves get a chance to howl this week after dropping a 59-34 decision to Hanover in the 2023 title game.

Other contenders -- The first-round winner between Bucklin (4: 20-3) and Hanover could make a run to the crown. Wallace County (3: 20-3) also looms as a title threat.









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