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Five Thoughts on 5A and 4A Substate Basketball


By Brad Hallier


HUTCHINSON, Kan. – Now, the madness can begin for everyone.

While Class 1A’s two divisions began postseason play Thursday and Friday, 6A, 5A and 4A were still finishing the regular season.

Now, substate brackets have been released for all classifications, with the larger classifications getting started Tuesday.

Here are five thoughts on the area substates.

Salthawk boys look for encore

While it’s easy to look at what coach Bryan Miller has done this year and shake your head in bewilderment, let’s not forget that Miller took the Salthawks to the Class 6A state tournament in 2021. Not just that, but the Salthawks battled a great Campus team to the very end in that first-round matchup.

The Salthawks have been arguably the state’s best story this season. They suffered their first loss of the season Tuesday against a good Derby team, but rebounded with a comfortable win over Newton.

The Salthawks are the second seed in Class 5A West, losing out the top seed to Kapaun Mount Carmel – coached by a fella named Steve Eck – on point difference. Still, the Salthawks will be expected to end their season in Emporia. First, they’ll play 5-15 Salina Central on Wednesday. If they win, it’ll be the winner of 10-10 Arkansas City or 13-7 Topeka West, which at one time this season was 12-3. 


How will the Salthawk girls do without their point guard?

Nobody suffered a tougher break this week than the Hutchinson High girls. Senior point guard Josie McLean, in the midst of a great season, suffered a season-ending knee injury against Derby. 

The Salthawks have plenty more than McLean, obviously, but taking away a team’s point guard this close to postseason isn’t ideal for any team. 

The fifth-seeded Salthawks are having a wonderful season at 15-5. They’ll open at home Tuesday against 7-13 Great Bend. Then, it could be a trip to 15-5 and fourth-seeded Andover Central for the substate championship. Tough road with McLean, tougher without her. 


Don’t ignore the Buhler boys

Buhler entered the season in transition. The Crusaders graduated a great senior class from a team that was the top seed at the 4A state tournament last season, and they endured a coaching change.

Buhler enters postseason play 8-12 and the No. 11 seed. The Crusaders will travel Tuesday to No. 6 Wellington, which has some quality wins this season, against Wichita Collegiate, Cheney and Andale. 

But Buhler is playing its best basketball right now. The Crusaders have won three in a row and five of their last seven. Their regular-season finale was a win against Circle, which happens to be the team that will likely wait for the Wellington-Buhler winner.


McPherson boys are a state contender, but what else is new?

Last year, McPherson was the eight seed at state. The Bullpups still beat top-seed Buhler, battled Andale in the semifinals in a seven-point loss, and beat Topeka Hayden for third place.

McPherson won’t be the eighth seed this year. The Bullpups are 17-3 and have that look we’ve seen all too many times – they can win it all.

A tricky substate final looms against 12-8 Andale, however. Get through that one, and Salina will again be infiltrated by Bullpup fans all weekend.

What can the Buhler girls accomplish?

Buhler’s girls, much like the boys, are really coming on when it matters. Buhler has won five of its last eight and will turn around Wednesday and play a Circle team the Crusaders lost to twice by a total of five points. This is a winnable game.

A tough matchup will wait for the winner, with a long trip to Hugoton likely to play a Hugoton team that nearly won the 3A title last season.

But the Crusaders should be optimistic that they can at least get that trip to far southwest Kansas.