As the regular season winds down, it’s time to clinch.
There are still a few game days left for some of the area’s most competitive leagues to be won, but some of the first dominos fell Tuesday. Here are five takeaways:
South makes it six straight
Minutes after the South girls won their sixth straight City League title, coach Antwain Scales stood next to the first Titan Hall of Fame inductee, Steve Eck.
Scales may not match Eck’s 902 career wins, but he’s headed in a hall of fame direction after South’s 61-35 league-clinching victory over East.
“I played for him, and to get a chance to hand him the Hall of Fame award, hopefully they pencil me in for it someday,” Scales said. “I was always taught to be humble and that God gives you the opportunity to make the most of it.”
South has won four Class 6A championships in seven years, sent 31 players into college basketball and now won six straight City League titles.
South’s only loss this season was to Derby, 60-41 during the City League-AVCTL Challenge. Scales said his team fought through the doubters.
“Having to go every year in and year out of trying to win this league, it puts a lot of pressure on you,” Scales said. “New faces, new group, but to try to come together and make it work, it’s all part of the magic to make it happen.”
Heights boys don’t play, still move up
The City League is Heights’ to lose.
Southeast and the Falcons have three league games left, including one against each other Tuesday. But after the Buffaloes’ 59-52 loss to Carroll, Heights has a one-game advantage despite being idle Tuesday night.
Southeast has life though. If the Buffaloes beat Heights on the road, they will hold the tiebreaker after their 69-64 victory against the Falcons Jan. 5.
Heights also plays South and East, and Southeast gets North and Northwest. Although the hot Catholic schools are behind them, the City League has proven to be unpredicatable this season.
Carroll can still mathematically win the City League with help. The Eagles are 1.5 games back of Heights; if the Falcons lose at least two of their last games, Carroll can clinch a share of the title if it beats Kapaun and West in its last two games.
Derby pounces on AV-CTL I
One year after losing the league by two games, Derby’s girls have clinched it with three games to go.
The Panthers beat Salina South 49-21 on Tuesday to remain undefeated in league play, and after beating Maize three times this regular season, Derby is back on top.
The title is the Panthers’ first since the 2015-16 season.
Derby has gotten consistent production from its entire roster. Everyone averaging at least four points per game, and Kennedy Brown and Tor’e Alford are scoring more than 10 each night.
Augusta boys edge Buhler
McPherson hasn’t quite clinched AV-CTL III because Augusta is still kicking.
Augusta and Buhler were tied for second at 4-2 in league play, but the Orioles have placed a wedge between them and the field after beating the Crusaders 45-42 on the road. The odds are low, but they can still catch the Bullpups.
Buhler put itself in a hole, down 10-4 in the first quarter. After Augusta’s defense allowed only five points in the third quarter and the Orioles hit five-of-six free throws late in the fourth, the Crusaders’ comeback fell short.
Coach Jake Sims graduated from Augusta, and he said the rivalry between them and Buhler is real. The Orioles hadn’t won at Buhler since the 2009-10 season.
“We’ve got some toughness to us,” Sims said. “To go into Buhler, especially on a Tuesday night when they’re probably looking for revenge from the first time and control the game says a lot about our growth.”
Augusta will need McPherson to lose a couple of games between Friday and when they meet Feb. 22 in the season finale, but Sims said a win at Buhler could go a long way.
“It might come down to an ‘all or nothing’ game,” Sims said. “This gives us a little spring in our step to go compete with the best night in and night out.”
Trojans sweep city series
The Andover girls can’t win their league, but they have won the city.
The Trojans beat Andover Central 67-64 for their second win of the season over the crosstown rival. Andover hasn’t beaten Central twice in the same season since 2010-11.
“It’s a huge win, especially for our season goals,” Trojan coach Clint Cornelsen said. “First, we want to win the league and then host a sub-state game. So this puts us in a pretty good seat.”
Junior guard Shanti Henry directed the floor. She scored 31 points and guarded Central’s top scorer, Ryann Stearns. Cornelsen said Henry got open early and hit several momentum-building shots that carried her throughout the night.
The Trojans put together a team effort though. Hayley Jones scored 15; Isabelle Reynolds had 11, and Kylee Gaddis scored eight.
The victory inches Andover a game closer to an AV-CTL II title, which seemed improbable after finishing last only two seasons ago. A league championship would be the Trojans’ first since the 2013-14 season.