By RICK PETERSON
After losing a talented senior class, led by Shawnee County player of the year Brooklyn DeLeye, from last year's team that made a run to the Class 6A state championship game, Washburn Rural's girls basketball team might experience some growing pains early in the 2023-2024 season.
But by March, veteran Junior Blues coach Kevin Bordewick is hopeful Washburn Rural can play itself into position for another late-season run after capturing two state titles since 2019.
"People forget that last year we started off 1-2,'' said Bordewick, whose team went 18-6 a year ago after winning the championship in 2022. "We understand that we want to end up somewhere up there (in 6A), but it doesn't matter where you start. It's where you end up.''
In addition to graduating DeLeye off last year's team, the Junior Blues also lost All-Shawnee County Top 10 pick Chloe Carlgren and Second 10 pick MaRyah Lutz, but Washburn Rural will be looking to Kansas signee Zoe Canfield and several other players with varsity experience to help the Junior Blues become a title contender in 6A and the Centennial League.
"You lose an athlete like Brooklyn, who was a three-sport stud, and you lose that leadership, it just takes a while to find your bearings and the leadership that has to come through and shine through,'' said Bordewick, 253-76 at Rural. "But we do have a lot of parts that know what it takes and know what it was like getting there.
"They understand it's a process. You don't win a state championship in December. You build on that, but those girls last year really embraced the idea that every day you come to practice and you try to get better. It's just one day at a time and I think this is a group that's going to understand that, too.''
By RICK PETERSON
Ten Highland Park football players have received All-Meadowlark Conference recognition, including junior Adrian Burney, who was a first-team selection on both offense and defense.
Burney, a 6-foot-2, 220-pounder, was named to the first team as an offensive and defensive lineman while junior linebacker Ricky Crawford and sophomore defensive back Tremaine Savage also received first-team recognition after helping lead the Scots to a 7-3 record and the second round of the Class 5A playoffs this fall.
Scot senior running back Amari Taylor, junior receivers Jamon Wilson and Mikey Williams and freshman lineman Tayseaun Rouser were all named to the All-Meadowlark second team.
Sophomore Andres Ochoa-Perez, junior Jamelle Williams-Sanders, senior Jerome Toussaint and Wilson all received honorable mention.
ALL-MEADOWLARK CONFERENCE FOOTBALL
By Todd Fertig
The Cair Paravel Latin School cheer squad is a perfect three for three in state championship competition.
After becoming full Kansas State High School Activities Association members in the fall of 2020, the Lions’ cheer squad has participated in three state competitions and has yet to take home anything but gold.
For a school finding success quickly in KSHSAA competition, it is the cheer squad which leads the way.
Head cheerleading coach Courtney Bond took over leadership of the team in the fall of 2020. She presented the challenge of competition to the team that year, and they began preparing for the next year’s championship, held each fall.
“I had competed in cheerleading competitions in high school (in Ohio), so it was something that I was familiar with,” Bond said. “When I presented the idea to the girls, they were all about it. So, we went and competed in (Class) 1A and were pleasantly surprised to bring home the championship.”
“We went into it with no expectations, just trying to work our hardest and do the best we could,” said Isabel Gateley, the lone senior to have been part of all three championships. “None of us had ever been in a cheer competition before. Most of us had never even performed in front of that many people before. We went into it a little shocked, but we did our best and it really showed.
“That set the stage for the next couple of years. As each year went on, the expectations got a little higher. But we went with it and met those expectations.”
By RICK PETERSON
LaDAYSHA BAIRD, Topeka High
A 5-foot-4 senior, Baird earned TopSports.news All-Shawnee County Second 10 recognition last season after helping Topeka High post a 16-6 record. Baird averaged 7.7 points as a junior and shot 50 percent from 3-point range with 32 made treys. Baird also averaged 1.3 assists for the Trojans.
ANNA BECKER, Seaman
A 5-foot-10 junior point guard, Becker is a two-time TopSports.news All-Shawnee County Top 10 pick and was named the United Kansas Conference player of the year last season after helping lead Seaman to a 21-2 record and a Class 5A state tournament berth. Becker, who has made an oral commitment to Drake, averaged 12 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.3 steals and 3.7 assists last season.
BREEZY CANADY, Shawnee Heights
Canady, a 5-5 senior guard, is a top returner for Shawnee Heights after helping the T-Birds post a 15-7 record last season. Canady averaged 6.7 points, 2.6 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 2.3 steals as a junior for the T-Birds, earning All-Shawnee County and All-United Kansas Conference honorable mention.
ZOE CANFIELD, Washburn Rural
A 5-foot-11 senior, Canfield's junior season was cut short after nine games by an ACL injury after helping lead the Junior Blues to the Class 6A state title as a sophomore. Canfield, who has signed with Kansas, averaged 12.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, hit 18 3-pointers and shot 77.1 percent from the free throw line prior to her injury. As a sophomore Canfield earned TSN All-Shawnee County Top 10 TSN recognition.
ZOE CLARK, Topeka West
A 5-7 senior, Clark received TSN All-Shawnee County Second 10 and All-United Kansas Conference second-team honors last season for Topeka West, which posted a five-win improvement in the 2022-2023 campaign. Clark, who has played varsity basketball since her freshman year will be counted on to provide leadership for the Chargers this winter.
By RICK PETERSON
TAMIR ANDERSON, Highland Park
A 6-foot-4 senior, Anderson earned TopSports.news All-Shawnee County honorable mention last season after helping Highland Park post a 24-1 record and a third-place finish in the Class 5A state tournament. Anderson was one of Shawnee County's top 3-point shooters, hitting 47 treys on the season.
KADEN BALLARD, Washburn Rural
Ballard, a 5-10 junior, was a key player off the bench for the 15-6 Junior Blues last season, averaging 6.1 points, 2.0 assists and 1.7 rebounds. Ballard received TSN All-Shawnee County and All-Centennial League honorable mention as a sophomore.
KAEVON BONNER, Seaman
Bonner, a sophomore, was named the TSN All-Shawnee County co-newcomer of the year as a freshman while also earning All-United Kansas Conference honorable mention. Bonner averaged 8.4 points for the 13-8 Vikings while canning 32 3-pointers and shooting 39 percent on 3-point attempts. Bonner shot 77.4 percent from the free throw line.
BRENNON DODGE, Shawnee Heights
A senior guard, Dodge was the lone underclassman on the TSN All-Shawnee County Top 10 last season after helping lead Shawnee Heights to a 15-7 record. Dodge averaged 13.8 points a year ago to go with 2.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game. Dodge shot 52.5 percent on 2-point field goal attempts and hit 19 3-pointers on the season.
JACK DONOVAN, Rossville
Donovan, a sophomore, was named the TSN All-Shawnee County co-newcomer of the year and earned all-county honorable mention as a freshman for the Bulldawgs, who showed strides in a 7-14 season. Donovan also was named to the Valley Falls All-Tournament team and earned second-team All-Mid-East League recognition.
MALAKYAH DUNCAN, Topeka West
Duncan, a 6-4 sophomore, saw varsity action as a freshman for Rick Bloomquist's 14-8 Chargers and will be counted on to fill a more extensive role this season after Topeka West graduated several key players.