High School Sports

Wichita South girls eye their fourth straight 6A basketball title

South coach Antwain Scales watches as his team finishes up a December victory over Heights.
South coach Antwain Scales watches as his team finishes up a December victory over Heights. The Wichita Eagle

The talk about the Wichita South girls winning their fourth straight Class 6A basketball title began in earnest a year ago, after they became the first 6A girls team to win three straight. There’s likely some South fans and people outside of the program who have already chalked up that fourth title.

Not coach Antwain Scales, though. Oh, he wants that title, but he knows accomplishing the Titans’ goal comes down to the little things.

“We try to take it game by game,” said Scales, who is 93-4 in the past four seasons. “We’re trying to get prepared for Shawnee Mission West and let the chips fall where they may.

We have a target on our back more and more because we’re the team to beat. The fourth will be the hardest.… It does get a little bit draining. It does get hard the longer the time goes.

South senior Kendrian Elliott

“We always take that stoic, humble approach whenever we face competition. Never look beyond the task at hand. It’s something the girls have learned over the duration of the program.”

South (22-0) plays SM West (12-10) at 6:30 Wednesday night in the quarterfinals d of the 6A tournament at Koch Arena.

The Titans opened the season with a goal of their first undefeated record, but there’s been added motivation. Scales notes a lack of media coverage and lack of national rankings, which he said is tied to criticism of the Titans’ schedule.

Five girls teams have won four straight basketball titles: Spearville (1987-90)Bishop Miege (1989-92), Little River (1995-98), Moundridge (1996-99), Hoxie (2012-2015)

“I’ve learned that you let things go and let everything take care of itself, and you do everything you can control,” said Scales, whose team cruised through the City League for its fourth straight league title.

“… The success that we’ve had, we see a lot of other kids that get coverage — I turn it into motivation. Keeping the kids focused on the task at hand is more of a motivator aspect when they don’t feel they get the recognition.”

93South’s wins in last four seasons

4South’s losses in last four seasons

3South’s titles in last three seasons

Basketball is a grind of a season that spans mid-November to mid-March. It can be even tougher when a team has established itself as the state’s best. South spent the season atop the coaches association’s Class 6A rankings and is No. 23 in the Maxpreps national rankings.

The Titans have dominated opponents, outscoring teams 59-22.9 and giving up single-digit points three times, including a 60-1 sub-state semifinal win. They beat Derby, a 6A qualifier, at the Lawrence Free State tournament in January. Also in January, South dominated Andover Central, which had beaten the Titans in 2015.

“We have a target on our back more and more because we’re the team to beat,” said senior Kendrian Elliott, a three-time All-Metro selection who has signed with Tulsa. “The fourth will be the hardest.… It does get a little bit draining. It does get hard the longer the time goes.”

Hoxie girls coach Shelly Hoyt, who is trying to lead her team to its fifth straight Class 1A-I title, agreed.

“You win that first one and the second one, and as you go further, the demands are increasing more and more,” said Hoyt, who coached four straight unbeaten teams.

Hoxie’s record 107-game winning streak ended with a loss to Hill City in January.

Five boys teams have won four straight basketball titles: KC Wyandotte won five (1957-61), KC Wyandotte (1967-70), Wichita South (1978-81), Moundridge (1990-93), Wichita Heights (2009-12)

Heights boys coach Joe Auer led the Falcons to four straight 6A titles from 2009-12. Heights is the only 6A team to win four straight; the South boys won four straight in Kansas’ largest class (5A in 1978, 6A in 1979-81).

“I found the fourth year to be the most challenging year of my coaching career,” Auer said. “For me, the challenge was to keep them in the moment. The expectations from the outside, when you have a group that’s on a journey like that, they don’t take the opportunity to enjoy the moments of success.

“People always want to ask you about the final outcome. And on top of that, we had the 62-game winning streak going on during that pursuit of four. My job was to try to absorb all that pressure from the kids and let them focus on the next game.”

Focus on the details is the key.

“We really focus hard on winning the daily practice,” Hoyt said. “We do a lot of competitive-type stuff. I don’t care if it’s even quick feet, agility-type stuff, you are competing.”

A run of four straight is different from winning even back-to-back championships because the players change so much. To win four is a credit to the program and not merely strong classes of juniors and seniors.

While South has started Elliott and Ericka Mattingly, a 2015 All-State selection who signed with Texas-Arlington, since their freshmen seasons, many other players have come through or are currently in the program.

Junior Kyla Callins has played since her freshman season, while sophomore Trezure Jobe moved into the starting lineup this season. Kirea Rogers graduated last season, but was a contributor to the first three titles. Eledria Franklin and Madison Northcutt were major players in the first two titles.

“We can point the credit anywhere. Those kids have come in and they believe,” said Scales, who also noted the contributions of assistant Wayne Riddle, who is retiring after the season. “The kids who come in and buy in, the seniors demand that, and they’re great teachers.

“Ericka’s explaining things to the freshmen and sophomore guards. Ericka and Kendrian went through their growing pains in the system as well, and they learned to play the correct way.”

And now it’s down to them to lead South to three more wins and another piece of Kansas girls basketball history.

Joanna Chadwick: 316-268-6270, @joannachadwick