At White Auditorium, Emporia
No. 8 Blue Valley (15-7)
A state-title run could be tough for the Tigers, who have won more than three straight games once this season — a four-game streak in January. Blue Valley looks to take teams out of their comfort zones with defense, as it has won 10 games this season while scoring 50 or fewer points, Aerial Smith, a 5-foot-8 junior guard, is the only double-figure scorer, averaging 11.9 points; she also leads in rebounding (5.0) and steals (2.4). Blue Valley's only game against a 6A tourney team was a 42-40 loss to first-round opponent Olathe South on Dec. 10.
No. 1 Olathe South (21-1)
The Falcons are best when limiting mistakes, and that happens often — they've committed fewer turnovers than their opponent in every game this season. Depth isn't South's specialty, but the starting five is versatile with four players headed for college ball. Natalie Knight, who orally committed to Kansas, can score in a variety of ways and is averaging 16.6 points. Kelsey Balcom, Brooke Rinehart and Ebonee Bell have all signed with NCAA Division II schools. South has never won a title, but it finished second in 2007 and 2009 and third in 2008.
No. 5 SM East (19-3)
Two of SM East's losses were by 18 and 12 to out-of-state teams, the third to top-seeded Olathe South, but coach Rick Rhoades believes that helped his team win close games. Senior Janna Graf, who has signed with Yale and has a 4.8 GPA, averages 21.5 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.8 steals, 2.3 assists. Alison Stephens adds 13.6 points, 6.8 rebounds. Anna Sielund, who comes off the bench for 8 points, is a foreign-exchange student from Denmark.
No. 4 Dodge City (19-3)
The Red Demons advanced to the 6A tournament for the eighth time and third in the past four seasons and are looking for their first semifinal appearance. Valerie Ortiz is a steady senior point guard who averages 14.8 points, 2.2 steals and is an 81-percent free-throw shooter. Dodge City set a school record with 19 wins and finished undefeated in the Western Athletic Conference for the second time and first since 1991-92.
No. 7 Lawrence Free State (15-7)
The Firebirds are 0-2 against the 6A field with losses to SM East and Olathe South. But they're dangerous with two Division I players, Chantay Caron and Ashil Hill. Caron, a Kansas State signee, averages 15 points and six rebounds. Hill, who has orally committed to UMKC, averages 10 points and 10 rebounds. Keys for Free State will be complementing the post scoring of Caron and Hill with perimeter shooting and steadiness from young guards.
No. 2 Wichita Heights (21-1)
Heights, the fourth-place finisher the last two seasons, enters with essentially the same group as the 2009 team that lost to Olathe South in the semifinals. Jhasmin Bowen, a junior center getting attention from Division I schools, averages 16.3 points and 11.4 rebounds. Senior Kamisha Richard and junior Tahlia Pope also average better than 11 points and a strong Heights bench is led by Mary Sims and Ashlee Ivy. The Falcons wear opponents down with their depth and full-court pressure.
No. 6 Maize (16-6)
The Eagles rely on balance, as coach Jerrod Handy's five-for-five substitution pattern doesn't allow for impressive individual statistics. The philosophy did help the Eagles make a 10-win regular-season turnaround, though. Seniors Alicia Nicholson and Kirsten Chamberlin average 9.2 points. Maize won 15 of 18 games after starting 1-3 and avenged a loss to Northwest in the sub-state championship. The Eagles lost 56-39 to Washburn Rural on Jan. 30.
No. 3 Washburn Rural (19-3)
The Junior Blues feature a senior class of Alexa Bordewick, Kelsey Lewis and Maggie Holmberg, which has never missed a state tournament. Bordewick, a 5-foot-6 guard, averages 18.9 points and 3.3 steals. Holmberg averages 14.5 points and 6.8 rebounds. Since losing to St. Thomas Aquinas on Feb. 3, Washburn Rural has won nine in a row.
Blue Valley-O. South winner vs. SM East-Dodge winner, 3 p.m.
Free State-W. Heights winner vs. Maize-Rural winner, 6:30
Third-place game, 10 a.m.
Championship, 4 p.m.
The Eagle's picks
Joanna Chadwick: Olathe South over Wichita Heights
Jeffrey Lutz: Wichita Heights over Olathe South