Varsity Kansas

2014-15 boys and girls basketball preview: Heights

Chris Lowe, Heights basketball
Chris Lowe, Heights basketball The Wichita Eagle

Schedule

December – 5, Kapaun; 9, at West; 12, Northwest; 13, at North.

January – 2, South; 6, Southeast; 8, 9 or 10, vs. TBA at Koch Arena; 13, at East; 16, Carroll; 20, at Kapaun (G); 22-24 at McPherson tournament (B); 27, at Kapaun (B); 29-31, at Free State tournament (G).

February – 3, West; 6, at Northwest; 10, North; 17, at South; 20, at Southeast; 24, East; 26, at Carroll.

Boys

Coach: Joe Auer, 19th season, 288-142

Last season: 20-5, third in 5A

Top players

Semaj Hervey, 5-11, sr., G

Chris Lowe, 5-9, sr., G

Arie Johnson, 6-4, sr., F

Devon Gill, 6-5, jr., F

Cameron Ellis, 6-6, sr., C

After 19 seasons and four state championships, Auer isn’t prone to hyperbole.

So when he says this year could be a lot of fun for the Falcons, you tend to believe him.

“When you get guys back with this kind of experience, it is a lot of fun,” Auer said. “Especially with guys like Ellis and Lowe and Hervey, who are in their third year of playing varsity in the City League … that is fun. You feel you’ve paid your dues in the program.”

With four returning starters, Heights is one of the contenders in Class 5A after finishing third last year and losing to Lansing by one point in the semifinals.

“We were one point away from playing for a state title last year, and those guys really felt like it was important for them to be part of the Heights legacy, to get some hardware,” Auer said. “And this year has a lot to do with unfinished business, and of course their goal is to finish what they started last year. And I certainly encourage them and support them in that approach, because that’s always going to be the goal here.”

Hervey leads the pack after an All-City League and second-team All-Class 5A season. His scoring average jumped from 12 to 20 points in the state tournament. Gill averaged 10 points and was second team All-City.

“On the court, he is the leader without a doubt,” Auer said. “At state, you could see he took his game to another level, took his leadership to another level. And he goes into this year with that under his belt.”

Girls

Coach: Kip Pulliam, 11th year, 215-31

Last season: 11-10

Top players

Analyss Benally, 5-8, jr., G

Athena Alvarado, 6-0, jr., F

Tenia Lowe, 5-4, so., G

Daliyah Watson, 5-9, so., F

Pulliam and the Falcons saw their streak of 11 straight years of making it tothe state semifinals come to an end last season.

It was hardly difficult. After four state championships, Pulliam understands the cyclical nature of the game as well as anyone.

“I wouldn’t change last year for anything,” Pulliam said. “It was different for me, sure, but they just kept getting better and better and it really became about teaching and learning. It was an unbelievable run, but this class is going to have their shot, too. We’re ready for everybody to take that next step.”

Pulliam’s optimism is buoyed by the return of four starters — all underclassmen — led by Benally, who averaged 13 points. The Falcons will also get a boost in January, when sophomore guard and Maize South transfer Jaelynn McLaurian becomes eligible.

Alvarado started the first four games last year and averaged 12 points before a broken leg ended her season.

“(Alvarado) had a great summer,” Pulliam said. “I was really impressed with how she got over her injury and got back into the swing of things. She’s ready to go. I think they’ve got a chance to be really good, they just need to keep maturing, keep building that camaraderie as a team.”

Tony Adame

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL PREVIEWS ON VARSITYKANSAS.COM

Nov. 17: Derby, Southeast

Nov. 18: Heights, Trinity Academy

Nov. 19: Andale, East

Nov. 20: Andover Central, North

Nov. 21: Carroll, Maize

Nov. 22: Andover, West

Nov. 23: Collegiate, Northwest

Nov. 24: Circle, Kapaun

Nov. 25: Independent, Wichita South

Nov. 26: Goddard, Maize South

Nov. 27: Clearwater, Garden Plain

Nov. 28: El Dorado, Mulvane

Nov. 29: Newton, Valley Center, other teams in the AV-CTL, CPL, CKL and area smaller schools

Nov. 30: Eisenhower, Rose Hill

Dec. 1: Augusta, Campus

Dec. 2: Cheney, Conway Springs

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