December—1, at Southeast; 6, Northwest; 9, at North; 10, East; 16, Carroll.
January—3, at Heights; 6, at West; 10, Kapaun; 12-14, vs. TBA at Koch Arena; 17, South (G); 24, Southeast (B); 25-28, at Kapaun tournament (B); 26-28, at Lawrence Free State tournament (G); 31, at Northwest.
February—3, North; 10, at Carroll; 14, at East; 17, Heights; 21, West; 23, at Kapaun.
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Coach: Chuck Gunter, fourth season, 39-28
Last season: 13-8
Jariah Taylor, 6-5, sr., G
David May, 6-3, sr., F
Rayquan Cunningham, 6-2, sr., F
Malcolm Tate, 6-2, sr., F
Matthew Papamie, 5-11, sr., G
Recent South teams seemed to have carte blanche around the perimeter. With so many shooters, any spot inside half court offered a three-point opportunity.
The Titans won’t abandon that completely, but their personnel has shifted from guard-heavy to having depth in the post. Even guards such as Taylor are taller than average.
“I kind of change some of my plays where we can use size a little bit to our advantage,” Gunter said. “Some of our strengths are still the same, I’ve still got some pretty good shooters. I’m still going to be preaching defense and having a smart shot selection.”
South’s newfound height includes 6-foot-8 senior Chance Scott, a transfer from Campus.
The offense will probably still go through Taylor, a perimeter player with an array of skills.
“He’s able to slash, he’s able to knock down shots,” Gunter said. “He’s able to create for other teammates. He’s able to stretch the floor when he gets a (post player) on him. He provides us with a multiple weapon.”
The challenge with so much height, including among guards, is defending the perimeter.
“They have no choice but to if they want the playing time,” Gunter said. “They’ll be having to guard the quicker guys in the City League. A lot of my taller guards have to be able to defense the smaller, quicker guards and keep those guys from driving the lane and creating for others.”
Coach: Antwain Scales, sixth season, 110-13
Last season: 25-0, Class 6A champion
Kyla Callins, 5-8, sr., F
Mauri Scales, 5-10, sr., G
Trezure Jobe, 5-7, jr., G
Brittanie Brickhouse, 5-9, so., G
Haley Beard, 5-10, so., F
Until South ends a season without a state championship, the external outlook will make the Titans a favorite.
It seems unlikely that South wins No. 5 in a row following the graduations of Kendrian Elliott, Kirea Rogers and Ericka Mattingly, but several returners played a part in some of the previous four.
“They know the tradition, they know the bar has been set,” Antwain Scales said. “I will say that last year in the tournament, our key contributors weren’t those two Division I kids (Elliott and Mattingly) that left our program. It was those younger kids stepping up in big-time games.”
Callins, Mauri Scales and Jobe give South a core that had fewer opportunities in previous years but have the skills to step in for the Titans’ departed stars. Callins was a strong scorer even with high-level players around her, while Jobe and Scales help the Titans carry out their defensive philosophy.
South, as usual, will play several freshmen. Antwain Scales feels comfortable mixing them in because the veterans balance out the roster and set an example for younger players.
“That is key, and those young ladies are doing a phenomenal job of being leaders, talking to them and telling them where (the freshmen) need to be and what’s going on,” he said.
Defense was the Titans’ specialty during a four-year run of Class 6A titles. It is, Antwain Scales believes, the easiest way to maintain the championship pedigree.
“We always say that the game was invented not to score,” he said. “If everybody gets caught up in the scoring aspect, we miss the true definition of what our team defense is. We hold ourselves to a high standard of playing great defense every possession.”