Varsity Kansas

Class 6A boys tournament preview

At Koch Arena

Thursday’s Quarterfinals

3 p.m.: Wichita North vs. Blue Valley Northwest

No. 8 Wichita North (12-10) — In North’s last two 6A tournament appearances, it was led by Conner Frankamp, who scored a City League-record 2,295 points in his career and is now playing at Kansas. Senior starters Zach Beard, Tarius Williams and Sean Bernard also played in those state games, but this is their team this season. Guards Beard and Williams lead North with 16.1 and 14.8 points, while Bernard, a forward, scores 10.1. North is on a five-game winning streak and has the ability to get hot offensively with Beard, Williams and Tristyn Villa and used that in its signature wins over Southeast (66-59) and McPherson (73-63).

No. 1 Blue Valley Northwest (20-2) — The Huskies have played in four straight Class 6A title games, winning in 2013. Senior guard Clay Custer (16.5 points, 3.5 assists, .95 turnovers), a two-time All-State selection by The Eagle who has signed with Iowa State, is 89-6 at BV Northwest. Custer is also an outstanding shortstop. BV Northwest is dangerous in transition and from three, shooting 40 percent as a team, including Custer at 43 percent. Ben Richardson adds 11.2 points, Vince Fritz 8.8, Kyle Harrison 7.6, David Salach 7.3.

4:45: Olathe East vs. Maize

No. 5 Olathe East (18-4) — The Hawks, back at state after a one-year absence, have eight seniors. After losing two straight midway through the season to SM Northwest, a team it had beaten already, and on a buzzer-beater to Free State, Olathe East rallied. Senior Ezra Talbert (6-7, 15.2 points, 6.2 rebounds) is versatile, with the ability to post up or step out and shoot the three, where he shoots 38 percent. Senior Caelan Neal is an athletic small forward, who adds 15.2 points, and senior guard Justin Matthews averages eight points.

No. 4 Maize (19-3) — Maize returns to state for the first time since 2010 — the Eagles’ first trip was in 1999 — and has the second most wins in school history. Maize had a combined 14 wins the past two seasons. Aaron Shaw is a consistent force inside, leading Maize with 14 points and six rebounds. Jacob Horsch adds 11, while Ky-Sean Johnson averages 8.1 and Connor Lungwitz 7.7. Maize plays a man defense that stifles opponents and averages 8.5 steals while only turning it over an average of nine times. Second-year coach Chris Davis also coached South in the Class 6A tournament in 2000.

6:30: Wichita Southeast vs. Wichita East

No. 7 Wichita Southeast (17-5) — Coach Melvin Herring is in his second year after taking over for Carl Taylor, who won 315 games and three Class 6A titles at Southeast. The Buffaloes return to the 6A tournament after a four-year absence in which they won a combined 41 games and had one winning season. Southeast seniors EJ Garnes (12.1 points), is a quick guard who can get to the rim, while Jordan Murdock (14.6 points) can hit the deep three or score inside. Sophomore Jerrick Harding (16.6 points) and D’Andre Franklin (6.3 points) are a threat from the perimeter. Southeast beat East in the regular-season finale.

No. 2 Wichita East (20-2) — East, in its second straight year at state, has a core of versatile players who are tough to stop in senior Tyas Martin (11.9 points) and juniors Samajae Jones (12.9), Zach Jackson (12.1 points, 8 rebounds, 4.5 assists) and Xavier Kelly (11.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.1 blocks). East loves to push the tempo, but can effectively run half-court sets by pounding the ball inside to Kelly, Jackson or Traevon McGairty. East’s two losses are to Wichita Southeast and Hays (22-0). East split with first-round opponent, Southeast — a 66-50 win on Jan. 17 and a 67-59 regular season-ending loss on Feb. 27 that ended a 21-game City League win streak.

8:15: Blue Valley North vs. Shawnee Mission Northwest

No. 6 BV North (18-4) — The Mustangs, who split with defending champion BV Northwest, opened by winning 7 of their first 10 games but have won 11 of their last 12. BV North also beat Olathe East, the No. 5 seed. The Mustangs are led by senior point guard Jordan Helmker (9.8 points, 6.7 sassists), senior forward Jawan Emery (16.8 points, 6.3 rebounds) and junior center Cooper Cook (13.8 poitns, 5.2 rebounds), and two other, Joe Morrow and Grant Schraeder, average at least 7.4 points. BV North gets the ball inside first, but can hit from outside, shooting 39 percent from three-point range.

No. 3 SM Northwest (19-3) — The Cougars, who have eight seniors, used a 10-game winning streak to return to the 6A tourney for the first time since 2009. They have one loss in the past two months. SM Northwest is led by Brady Skeens (19.8 points, 8.2 rebounds), who has signed to play at Washburn, Keaton Cross (11.5 points), Warren Specht (9.8 points) and Jake Horner (6.0 points). Defense is the focus for the Cougars, which held their two sub-state opponents to 48 and 44 points, and transition baskets are the key to the offense.

Friday’s semifinals

Olathe East-Maize winner vs. Wichita North-BV Northwest winner, 4:45 p.m.

BV North-SM Northwest winner vs. Wichita Southeast-Wichita East winner, 8:15

Saturday’s finals

Third-place game, 2 p.m.

Championship, 6:15

Joanna Chadwick’s picks

Blue Valley Northwest over Wichita East

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