Neither game ever truly seemed in doubt.
The U18 Wichita Padres and U16 Overland Park Crunch Berries won MAYB national championships Sunday at Eisenhower High. Kapaun graduate Mitchell Woodward said the dual titles are a sign of where Kansas high school hoops are on a national scale.
“I think Kansas is pretty overlooked as a basketball state,” he said. “Obviously we have great college programs, but just recruiting out of Kansas high schools, I feel like it’s kind of underrated. So we just like to show what Kansas is made of.”
Woodard’s Wichita Padres beat Florida’s Savage Storm 81-71, and Newton’s Ty Berry and his Crunch Berries topped Wichita’s Next Level Hoops Academy 78-75. Neither team trailed outside of the opening seconds.
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In the U18 championship, Woodward and Heights’ Devin Davis ran the show with a barrage of three-pointers and cuts to the hoop. That spaced the floor for Wichita-area standouts like Augusta’s Johnny Clausing, McPherson’s Mason Alexander and Eisenhower’s Tanner King.
Davis said sharing a national championship with guys he grew up playing with and against was special.
“Teams come in here thinking it’s gonna be easy, but we are always here, and we’re always tough,” he said. “We might not win it every year, but we’re always right there.”
On the U16 side, Berry led the way with game-changing attacks to the basket that have earned him several college scholarship offers this summer. When the defense collapsed, Eisenhower’s Jordan Vincent was a constant threat to shoot from three or drive it himself.
“Hanging out with our boys and kicking it in the hotel rooms and all the laughs we have, nothing can top those moments,” he said.
Playing on his home court, Vincent said he was comfortable even on a big stage.
“I definitely feel like I play best when I play here,” he said.
On the girls side, which was played in Edmond, Oklahoma, the U16 Next Level Eclipse blue team won the U16 national championship over the Texas Tar Heels. And Kansas United Soyez 2022 won the U14 title over Oklahoma’s THSS Elite.
Kansas put five teams in the championship games of the top two age divisions, including three from Wichita. The Wichita area brought home a pair of boys basketball state championships and three on the girls’ side in the 2017-18 season.