By RICK PETERSON
Hayden boys basketball coach Trey Brown has yet to see his entire Wildcat team for preseason practice.
But while Brown could use that practice time to get ready for his first season at Hayden, it's a situation that he would be happy to deal with each and every year.
And when Brown does get his full team in the gym, probably early next week, he's counting on the Wildcats coming in with a great mindset after their run to the Class 3A state championship game in football.
"I'd probably say about 75 percent of our guys are still in football, which is a good thing at the end of the day,'' said Brown, a former multi-sport athlete himself at Shawnee Heights. "I know they've got a big senior class and a lot of those guys play basketball so just getting to experience the run in football that they've had and all of that, I think it will just bring them closer together for basketball and it will be the same thing, that they'll expect to win and compete at a high level.''
By RICK PETERSON
Football coaches are always quick to preach the next-man-up philosophy to their teams while hoping they rarely have to use it.
But due to a rash of key injuries, Hayden coach Bill Arnold and his staff have had to rely on that next man up time and time and time again this fall, and it's a major reason why the Wildcats will take a perfect 12-0 record into Saturday's 12 p.m. Class 3A state championship game against 12-0 Cheney at Hutchinson's Gowans Stadium.
"I would classify this group as very resilient,'' Hayden coach Bill Arnold said. "They've really bought into the next-guy-up mentality.
"We didn't really change a lot of guys' positioning. It was just the next guy that was on the depth chart was the one that stepped in and everybody just kind of pulled together and played.''
Hayden played without star senior running back Finn Dunshee for a full five games while the Wildcats also lost senior lineman Doug Peterson, senior receiver/defensive back Cooper Colboch and starting junior quarterback Jett Wahlmeier and sophomore linebacker Jackson McGivern missed the entire season.
But in the wake of the injuries, Arnold said the Wildcats did a great job of coming together and continuing to get the job done.
"They've just been real resilient in terms of coming to work every day and getting better,'' Arnold said.
By RICK PETERSON
Topeka West interim girls basketball coach Angie Ketterman is playing catch-up after being tapped to take over the program about two weeks before the start of preseason practice.
But very few people know Topeka West better than Ketterman, and the veteran coach will count on that institutional and athletic knowledge to make up for lost time.
Ketterman is a Topeka West graduate and played and served as an assistant coach for West coaching legend Mike Goehring and was on the staff of former Charger coach Becky Svaty while also serving as the Chargers' head softball coach.
The goal now for Ketterman, West's third head coach since March, is to provide some stability for the Chargers.
Jeff Skar resigned following the 2022-2023 season and his replacement, Brent Reese-Hackett, was relieved of his duties last month for undisclosed reasons after being named as Skar's successor in July.
West's administration quickly turned to Ketterman to get things back on an even keel for the West program.
"I was open to it,'' Ketterman said. "Svaty contacted me and then Laura Nichols (a former West coach and current administrator) did,'' Ketterman said. "They said, 'You've got the weekend to decide.'
"It took me about 24 hours and I'm like, 'Let's do it.' ''
By RICK PETERSON
You don't graduate an outstanding senior class like Highland Park's boys basketball team did last year without feeling it.
But a group of players that have waited their turn to lead the Scots get that opportunity this winter and the goal remains the same for Mike Williams' team -- make it to the Class 5A state tournament at Emporia and challenge for a state title.
"The amazing thing about coaching and playing at Highland Park is that expectations do not change,'' Williams said. "There is always an expectation of winning and getting to the Class 5A state tournament.''
The Scots graduated TopSports.news Shawnee County player of the year Bo Aldridge and Top 10 picks Jahmir Kingcannon and Tre Richardson off last year's 24-1 team that finished third in 5A.
But Highland Park's cupboard is far from bare, with 6-foot-6 junior Ja'Corey Robinson, a second-team all-county pick in 2023, leading a solid group of returners that saw extensive action a year ago. Senior Tamir Anderson (6-4) and juniors Mikey Williams (6-3) and Jamon Wilson (6-0) received all-county honorable mention last season while senior Amari Taylor (6-0) also played a key role off the bench for the Scots.
"That was a dang good group of kids that we lost, but with that being said, this group of kids that is coming behind them battled them day-in and day-out for the last two years,'' Mike Williams said.
"And honestly, in any other locker room they probably would have got a little more time than what they got and they still got a good amount of time over the last two years and great experience. So they're biting at the bit to get out there.''
Robinson averaged 12 points and six rebounds as a sophomore while Anderson and Williams averaged 8 points and were two of the city's top 3-point shooters.
By RICK PETERSON
Playing for a state championship is something every high school athlete dreams of.
And no athlete feels more blessed to get that opportunity than Hayden senior star running back Finn Dunshee, who will help lead the 12-0 Wildcats into Saturday's 1 p.m. Class 3A title game against 12-0 Cheney at Hutchinson's Gowans Stadium.
"I'm just happy to be here,'' the 5-foot-10, 185-pounder said. "I wouldn't want to be here with any other team, these boys are great. It's really just pure joy.''
That joy was heartbreak just a few weeks ago after Dunshee suffered a torn medial collateral ligament in his knee early in Hayden's Week 5 district game against Perry-Lecompton.
"It was just a normal sweep, our bread and butter, and someone was being blocked downfield and he got off his block and he pulled me down from behind,'' Dunshee explained. "I just kind of got spun around and landed on it wrong and it just went.
"I could feel that something wasn't right in my knee. I think I stayed in for one play and then I came off. It was a complete tear.''
Dunshee's initial fear was that his senior season was over.
"At first the doctor said I'd be done, so I'm just happy to be out here and have gotten another chance,'' Dunshee said.