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Five Storylines to Watch for this Girls Basketball Season


By Brad Hallier


HUTCHINSON, Kan. – Less than a week ago, snow covered Gowans Stadium at Hutchinson during the Class 3A state championship football ago. There won’t be any snow in the gyms Friday night – at least, we hope not – when the high school basketball season starts.

The girls season promises to be great as usual. Berean Academy was the only area girls champion last season (Class 2A) but two others reached championship games, including Cheney in 3A and McPherson in 4A. Here are five storylines to watch for this season in area girls basketball.

Who will be in the mini-state tournament in Class 3A?

Substate assignments haven’t been announced yet, but it’s always a good bet that most area 3A schools will be lumped in the same brutal substate.

Last year, the substate was in Lyons, and it was a doozy. Cheney won, but teams like Halstead, Haven, and Hesston were all capable of being at Hutchinson for the state tournament.

Cheney will still be solid, even with the graduation of four seniors. Elina Bartlett and Reagan Ayers give the Cardinals a good starting point, but if the basketball substates matchup with volleyball, Cheney could still see the likes of Wichita Trinity, Haven and Kingman at substate.

If volleyball substates are the same, Halstead will be grouped with Hesston, Southeast of Saline and Smoky Valley. Look for Halstead to have its best team in three years, with Dominique Schutte leading an experienced squad that should be athletic and experienced.

Little River looks to move on from shocking defeat

As the score made the rounds last year, you couldn’t help but do a double-take.

St. John 43, Little River 38.

The top-ranked team in Class 1A Division 1 had just lost in the substate semifinals on its home court.

St. John was no slouch, though, and the substate was loaded with Pretty Prairie and Central Plains as well. Still, Little River was expected at worst to play on the last day of the season in Dodge City.

Little River brings pretty much everyone back from that team, including guard Alaina Eck, and this group is hungry. Many of them are coming off another state volleyball championship, and with first-year coach Cy Rolfs now in charge, Little River looks to move on while learning from that loss.

McPherson could have a team capable of another deep March run

McPherson collects trophies in almost every sport, Regional, substate and state. Girls basketball, of course, collects many and did so again last year. But without nemesis Bishop Miege, McPherson might have a lot more state championship trophies. The Bullpups made the 4A championship game last season but lost to Miege 67-53.

McPherson will still be good enough to contend.  Karter Alvord gives coach Chris Strathman a good cornerstone to build this year’s team, which might be a little inexperienced to start.

Hillsboro brings back strong core in effort to build on semifinal appearance

Hillsboro is one of the more underrated basketball schools in Kansas. A year after the boys team completed back-to-back 2A state championships, the girls reached the state semifinals in Manhattan and came away with a fourth-place finish.

The Trojans should have enough to at least match last year’s finish. Senior Zaylee Werth is one of the top players in 2A, and she’ll be joined by Savannah Shahan. Both players averaged nearly 15 points a game.

Just like Little River, many Hillsboro players are talented volleyball players and are coming off a second straight 2A volleyball title. Winning is embedded in Hillsboro athletics.

Central Christian looks to continue strong tradition

Might seem hard to believe now, but earlier this century, Central Christian girls basketball was lucky to win one game.

The Cougars then reached back-to-back 1A Division 2 state championship games in 2011 and 2012. By 2017, the Cougars were back at state. They went again in 2018, 2022 and 2023.

Coach DJ Kauffman has a young group but it’ll have talent this year in effort to reach the state tournament for the sixth time in 14 years. Belle Barnett and Jessa Losew anchor the Cougars as two of the top returning players. They should have loads of speed and athleticism against most opponents. Substate could be tough however, with the potential to be matched up with a talented Elyria Christian team.