Varsity Kansas has introduced a new series, Moment of the Year. The series will highlight the top moment or performance from the 2017-18 high school sports season for each of the Wichita-area schools. And now, the Derby Panthers.
Looking at the 6-foot-6 girl and using her as the reason would be too easy and, frankly, wrong.
Derby junior center Kennedy Brown is one of the most well-known and easily identifiable players in Wichita. She is a five-star prospect, according to some outlets, and has tried out for the USA Women's U18 and U16 National Teams.
But she is not the sole reason Derby beat Olathe East 50-35 to win its first girls basketball state championship. This seemed to be building with Tor'e Alford, Brown's childhood friend and another All-State Top 15 selection, and a rising coach in Jodie Karsak.
The Panthers jumped on the scene at the GWAL/AVCTL Challenge, beating South (the long-time undisputed beat team in the Wichita area) by 19. It could have been worse.
Derby went on to win the AVCTL I title. The Panthers cruised through their sub-state tournament, outscoring Campus and Dodge City 128-37.
When they got into the Class 6A tournament, they kept it rolling with a 60-44 win against Blue Valley North, the same school that beat Derby's football team in the state title game.
But the Panthers hit trouble in the semifinals.
Facing South again, Titans coach Antwain Scales had his team well-prepared after the embarrassing loss less than two months earlier. The game went to the final possession.
South had the last shot but gave it away. Brown picked it up in the paint and tossed an outlet pass to junior guard Aliyah Myers, who laid it up and in with a second to go. Derby won 42-40 to reach the state title game.
Brown holds offers from more than two handfuls of Division I universities. She has cut her options to her top seven.
But she wasn't the only weapon.
Tor'e Alford, Myers, Sydney Nilles and others had moments of greatness. And the best news: Almost everyone returns for the 2018-19 season.
Other Key Moments
- Derby reaches the Class 6A football title game against Blue Valley North. The Panthers lost 49-42 and finished the season 11-2. Their only losses were to state champions.
- The Panther baseball team finishes third in 6A with a 17-7 record. Derby beat Topeka, Wichita West and Olathe Northwest before falling to Blue Valley Northwest in the semifinals.
- Derby senior swimmer Megan Keil becomes the fastest girl in Kansas high school history, setting the state record in the 50-yard freestyle at 22.70 seconds. She also won the 100-yard freestyle at 51.38 seconds.
- The Derby boys basketball team comes in fourth in 6A. The Panthers beat Junction City, Garden City and Olathe North before falling to eventual champion Blue Valley Northwest in the state semifinals.
- The Panthers finish fourth at the 6A wrestling tournament. Six Derby wrestlers earn top-five finishes, including Triston Wills, who won the 160-pound bracket.
- The Derby girls soccer team reaches the sub-state match as freshman striker Brianna Moore breaks the school's single-season goals record with 25. The Panthers finished the season 14-4-1 with a loss to Manhattan.
- The Panthers softball team reaches the 6A quarterfinals after winning its regional tournament. Derby entered as the No. 2 seed but lost to Olathe Northwest in the first round.
- Derby boys bowling comes fifth at the 6A meet. Senior Matthew Hedden finishes fourth in the individual standings.
- Panthers cross country runner Jonathan Jones finishes fifth at the 6A meet.