BY BROOKS SEELEY
As I looked over my schedule for today, I looked at the best four games of the day. I'm really not joking here. My games, there's not a single snoozer. I will breakdown the Class 5A semi finals today at the Kansas Expocentre here in Topeka and show exactly why I feel that way.
So here's my sked:
Girls: Bishop Carroll (21-2) vs. Andover Central (23-0), 3 p.m.; Bishop Miege (17-6) vs. St. Thomas Aquinas (22-2), 6:30 p.m.
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Boys: Gardner-Edgerton (19-4) vs. Bishop Miege (23-0), 4:45 p.m.; Topeka West (15-8) vs. McPherson (22-1), 8:15 p.m.
Let's talk girls first and I'll start with the game I'm most interested in. It's an all-local game and I like that.
Carroll v. Central. Wow. Where do I start? Two local teams in a great game. OK, what makes a great game?
Rivalry? Carroll beat Central last year to keep the Jaguars out of the 5A tournament. This game is a rematch and Central still has a bad taste in its mouth from last year.
Talent? Just the 2010 Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year in Tiffany Bias leading Central. She is so impressive on both ends of the court. Defensively, she can sit down on the perimeter and guard/chase you all over the court. Offensively, Bias is such a good driver and you can't play off her cause she'll shoot 3's if she feels any space. Kaitlin Tennyson, Cami Gee and Madeline Chapin can all chip in timely points too. Hannah Henry can't get in foul trouble like she did against Shawnee Heights.
For Carroll, Sarah Balderas showed up at the right time with 16 points off the bench against Newton in the quarterfinals. Nicole Walden is so good all over the floor, she is a difference-maker and Carroll missed her when she fouled out. Kathleen Duling can get hot from three and I imagine she'll have to make more than 1 of 8, like she did against Newton, today . Julie Sooter, Catherine Brugman and Emilie Rech are talented as well.
So no shortages there.
Great coaches? You bet I understand how great of a coach Don Racine is. It's no coincidence Carroll has made it to state for its ninth trip in 11 years. The man is a legend. But Central's Stana Jefferson is no slouch either. Jefferson led Central to a 26-0 record in 2008 and has 65 wins in three seasons with two more games to go this year.
It's probably going to be a match of wills offensively too. Central wouldn't mind speeding up the game with its press and let Bias run the floor. Carroll wouldn't mind slowing it down and banging inside.
The other game, although not an area game, features two great teams. Miege's record isn't as appealing as Aquinas' but I assure you it's not an upset that it is here again. Miege, the defending 5A champ, has the best inside duo in the tournament. Shandelyn Stewart and Adrianna Maurer are so good inside. They pass well and Stewart has a very soft shot, she also made a three against McPherson. Aquinas locked down defensively, like it had all year as it allowed 34 points a game, against Topeka Seaman. Seaman made just 13 of 36 (36 percent) shots. Dashawn Harden is really good, I look for another big game from her.
Now let's talk boys.
For me, the Gardner-Edgerton v. Bishop Miege game is the best game of the day. Miege, ranked No. 21 in the nation by Max Preps, is the best "team" play basketball I've seen. Defensively, the Stags forced 17 turnovers (13 steals) against Carroll. Offensively, the Stags are so balanced. Trevor Releford was so much fun to watch. It was the first time I saw him and after the game I felt like he showed me everything you would need to play anywhere. Offensively, he drove to score and to create....and did both excellent. He showed in the first half he could take control, scoring 11 points. Then in the second he dished out four assists and got everyone else involved. Then, you add in three others (Rodney Givens, Justin McCay and Curtis Okafor) who probably score 20 points a game leading anyone else. Gardner-Edgerton has been so fun to watch the four times I've seen the Blazers. I was so lucky to see them at the Dodge City TOC. And looking back at that tournament, look at the teams I saw: Dodge City (lost in 6Aquarters), Wichita Heights (in 6Asemis), Wichita East (caught the injury bug, but finished 2nd in the City), Gardner-Edgerton (in 5A semis), Hays (lost in sub-state final), Shawnee Mission South (lost in 5A quarters), Manhattan (lost in 6A quarters), Hutchinson (lost in sub-state final). Anyway, back to Gardner-Edgerton, I have to start with Bubba Starling. Just a junior, Starling is easily one of the best athletes on the court today. Starling can elevate so fast and so high it shocks everyone the first time you see it. He can bring everyone silent then go nuts because of a steal and a dunk. If you haven't seen him, I suggest you do. Conner Langrehr is special too. To have two special players on your team is really the key here. Look at the great teams and they all have the two top-of-the-top players: Heights (Ellis and Wessel), McPherson (Ulsaker and Fawl), Miege (Okafur and Releford), I mean I can go on and on here, but I think you got it. That's the game I will just sit back and enjoy the show.
Now the other game, McPherson v. Topeka West is equally as good. There is a great matchup between West's Alex North and McPherson's Christian Ulsaker. North got the better of his matchup with Andover Central's Marshall Miller and I would compare all three of their games to be similar. Big men who can post up, dribble drive or hit the three. Ulsaker went nuts breaking the 5A scoring record against KC Washington with 38 points. North scored 21 and grabbed 14 rebounds against Central. McPherson's Treg Fawl will again be key. If he can make 4 of 9 from three again, then West can't help on Ulsaker. West brought a great crowd to the Expocentre in its quarterfinal game, and I expect an even better crowd today.
Well, it's not even tip time yet and I've got over 1000 words. That should be enough for you to make your choices in who you like in each game. As for me, after going 6 for 8 in the quarters, I'll take my 75 percent and keep it that way. You guys/gals be the judge.