Varsity Kansas

Class 5A boys tournament preview

Eisenhower’s Matthew Pile holds up the Tigers’ 5A sub-state trophy last Saturday.
Eisenhower’s Matthew Pile holds up the Tigers’ 5A sub-state trophy last Saturday. The Wichita Eagle

At Kansas Expocentre, Topeka

Wednesday’s Quarterfinals

3 p.m.: KC Washington vs. Eisenhower

No. 8 KC Washington (13-8) – A mid-season slump was overcome to send Washington back to the state tournament for the third straight season. The Wildcats average 63.7 points and like to push the tempo, but their defense has been vital to them this season. Washington is 12-1 when it holds its opponent under 60 points, 2-7 when it doesn’t. The majority of the team’s production comes from DeMarco Smith (16.0 points, 6.6 assists), JaMarkus Dawn (12.5 points, 6.5 rebounds), Josh Wilburn (10.7 points, 7.6 rebounds), and Randy Campbell (10.1 points).

No. 1 Eisenhower (21-1) – Still looking for its first tournament victory in its fifth year as a program, Eisenhower is back in Topeka for the fourth time and first as the top seed. The Tigers have won 18 straight. Eisenhower has won all 19 games it has scored over 60 points and brings the No. 1 offense in the tournament at 69.1 points. Eisenhower is led by the duo of 6-foot-8 junior Matt Pile (19.9 points, 15.3 rebounds, 4.1 blocks) and sophomore point guard Dylan Vincent (18.1 points, 6.5 assists).

4:45: Salina Central vs. Mill Valley

No. 5 Salina Central (16-6) – Behind the third-best defense in Class 5A at 47.0 points, Salina Central is back in Topeka for the second time in the past three seasons. The Mustangs held 13 opponents under 50 points, winning every time, and were 3-6 when opponents scored over that mark. Senior wing J.D. McHenry is averaging 15.1 points on 59-percent shooting, while the duo of Brayden Neuschafer (14.6 points) and Sam Shaffer (8.1) have combined for 97 three-pointers this season.

No. 4 Mill Valley (16-6) – After winning a football state championship in the fall, senior quarterback and point guard Logan Koch, an Eastern Illinois oral commitment, led the basketball team to the state tournament for the second straight season. After an uneven start following the football season, Mill Valley has won 13 of its last 16 games. Koch is the heart and soul of the team, while 6-foot-8 senior Clayton Holmberg is the inside presence with knockdown shooters like Kasey Conklin and Cooper Kaifes dotting the perimeter.

6:30: Kapaun vs. Bonner Springs

No. 7 Kapaun (14-8) – This is the fourth team coach John Cherne has sent to state in his five seasons and the one with the most losses. The Crusaders have excelled in recent weeks, including their upset of top-ranked Wichita Heights to reach Topeka, through a balanced attack paired with a renewed commitment to the defensive end. Kapaun has held 13 opponents under 60 points and is 11-2 in such games. Kapaun is led by Brock Monty (16 points), Chris Meitzner (12), Thomas Wells (9.4), and Mitchell Woodward (8.7). None are taller than 6-foot-3.

No. 2 Bonner Springs (20-2) – Coach Dan Streit has led the program to its most successful season since 1997, the last time Bonner Springs played in a state tournament. Bonner Springs has the top defense (45.6) in the tournament and has held 18 of its 22 opponents under 60 points (all wins). The Braves have been led by a pair of 6-foot-5 senior twins, Devante and Aaron McGee. Devante averages 16.6 points and 6.4 points with Aaron (11.2 points, 3.8 assists) not far behind.

8:15: Highland Park vs. Liberal

No. 6 Highland Park (16-6) – Since its midseason tournament, Highland Park has won 11 of its 13 games with both losses coming by one point. The Scots are 13-2 when holding opponents under 60 points. A trio of seniors lead the way in guard Malik Keith (17.1 points, 3.5 assists), Harold Emmanuel (12 points, 5.2 rebounds), and Daishoun Fox (9.9 points, 4.8 rebounds).

No. 3 Liberal (17-5) – The Redskins made it to state (first time since 2012), won 17 games (first time since 2009), and the Western Athletic Conference title (first time since 2008). Liberal hasn’t lost yet (9-0) when it has scored at least 60 points and is 16-2 when it holds opponents under 60 points. Liberal’s advantage has been 6-foot-6 junior post Deladris Green, who has averaged 14.8 points and 10.2 rebounds, while juniors Cade Hinkle (10.5 points) and Kylan Thomas (9.9) also lead the offense.

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