Varsity Basketball

Basketball recap: Many teams open the season with drama

New Titan?

Bishop Carroll took a five-year step Tuesday.

Carroll girls beat Wichita South for the first time since 2012 on Tuesday with a 52-39 road win. The Titans have won six straight City League championships.

“Coming into this game, it was one of those where you want to win every game, but you really want to win those where you haven’t quite gotten them yet,” Carroll coach Taylor Dugan said. “I think the girls tonight really played fearless, and when you play that way, you can do a lot of things.”

The Golden Eagles had a one-point lead at halftime and trailed for parts of the third quarter, but they hit stride in the final frame, outscoring South 13-3.

Senior Britney Ho scored 24 in the win and afterward said with years of evidence to prove it, there has been a mental barrier when playing South. The Eagles broke it down Tuesday.

“We want to rise to the occasion, rise above the standard and show everybody we can come back just as good as last year,” Ho said. “That’s what champions and winners do.”

Ark’d over

More than 60 school separate Derby and Arkansas City in enrollment, but the Bulldogs have bite.

Fresh off a Class 4A-Division I semifinal appearance last season, Ark City beat Derby 66-57 after the Dogs went on a 25-3 run to close out the win.

Senior point guard Cevin Clark finished with 30 points, and senior shooting guard AJ Wilson added 19, including 12 in the fourth quarter.

There is a storied rivalry between Derby and Ark City, and Jennings knows it. Jennings said Tuesday’s win was meaningful.

“Our guys stepping up and playing hard and embracing that environment and getting one there is bigger than anything we could have imagined early,” he said.

Derby lost a lot of key pieces from last year’s roster, including All-Metro selection Bryant Mocaby and Tyler Brown, who is now at Hutchinson Community College. But the Panthers are also coming off a top four finish at state last season.

Young, skinny, promising

In what seemed like a few bats of the eye, Danair Dempsey blocked a shot, ran the floor and iced the game.

Dempsey is a 6-foot-6 center for Wichita Heights. He is a sophomore, and he was key in the Falcons’ 40-26 defensive showcase on Kapaun.

The quarter-by-quarter score looked more like a low-scoring football game Tuesday as both defenses shined in the first half with 22 combined points, but Heights started hitting shots and pressed off those makes, which led to a lot of transition buckets.

And when the Falcons were pushed into a half-court set, they let their height take over. Only four players on the Falcons’ roster are listed shorter than 6-foot.

“We’re going to be a real good club this year, but we’ve just got to be patient,” coach Joe Auer said. “We’ve got all the pieces. We started two 15-year-olds tonight. They’re skinny, but they’re getting stronger with better footwork.”

Point guard Izaiah Hale is one of the few seniors for Heights. He was key to the Falcons’ second half turnaround as he started to hit open looks and feed his talented youngsters.

“We just have to trust each other,” Hale said. “They’re going to make mistakes, but we know we trust each other. We got their backs no matter what.”

No teepee for a Trojan

Andale is coming off one of the best joint basketball seasons in Kansas.

The boys took third at state last year, and the girls came runners-up in Class 4A-Division II. The Indians took their first steps of the season with a sweep of two solid Andover teams.

The girls were pushed to overtime in a matchup of defending league champions, but Andale poked out a 64-61 win. Senior Jillian Webber hit a go-ahead three-pointer with about a minute to go, and a pair of free throws sealed the win.

Senior Macie Eck sent the game to overtime after getting a steal and scoring on the other end.

“I know my job is the type of person that always goes and tries to steal the ball from people,” Eck said. “My mentality was ‘I have to go get that ball, try to get us back in this game.’”

The boys beat the Trojans 66-50 thanks to a 38-point night from junior Easton Hunter. That was 25 more than he averaged last year.

“It was good for the team to recognize he had the hot hand and give him the ball and to do things to give him opportunities to get good shots,” coach Jeff Buchanan said. “They’re not selfish; they don’t care, they just want to get the win.”


The McPherson boys and girls varsity basketball teams entered the season riding a 26-game unbeaten streak at home.

Neither team had lost in the Roundhouse since January 2017, but that trend was upended Tuesday as the Andover Central boys beat the Pups 62-51 behind Xavier Bell’s 31-point night.

The Jaguars got it done in an unorthodox way. Normally reliant on the three-point shot, Central went 3-of-16 from range. But after McPherson leader Jake Alexander went out with an ankle injury after a couple of minutes, the Jaguars attacked the paint and were excellent in transition., outscoring McPherson 14-0.

Central is considered one of the top teams in a loaded Class 5A. The Jaguars are No. 4, according to the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association’s weekly rankings, and after impressive wins at Maize South at at McPherson, they are sure to continue to rise.

“What they have in McPherson is just tremendous,” coach Jesse Herrmann said. “Every program wants to have what they have, so we feel real fortunate to come away with two wins.”

Homecomings and beginnings

At one of Wichita’s most storied basketball schools, who of its best shared the floor in different roles Tuesday.

Joe Mitchell, a 2009 graduate from Southeast, won his first game as coach of the Golden Buffaloes with a 63-59 win over East. Jackie Johnson III, His point guard and one of the best scorers in the Wichita area, dropped 23 in his first game since transferring from North.

“Me being an alumni at Southeast, I wanted to come in and put my stamp on how hard we played when I was in school,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell averaged 22.5 as a senior at Southeast before going on to Hutchinson Community College, Friends and Wichita State. But he didn’t become coach of the Buffaloes under ideal circumstances.

Former coach Melvin Herring resigned Nov. 8, just days before tryouts and weeks before Tuesday’s opener. After former assistant Eric Hammond was named coach at North, Southeast turned to one of its own.

“The first win is the most difficult win,” Mitchell said. “I’m glad it happened in my first game. It was big time for Southeast basketball club.”


Since Jan. 4, 2011, Halstead has only had one better night of defense, statically.

The defending Class 3A champion Dragons beat Ell-Saline 62-24. It was the second fewest points allowed in more than 170 games.

And coach Lonnie Lollar said they can do better.

Lollar-coached teams have always been known for their defense. In last year’s title-winning season, Halstead allowed 40 points per game, and the Dragons never allowed more than 53.

Lollar said this isn’t that championship team yet. In Halstead’s season-opener Friday, the Dragons needed a 44-point effort from Andrew O’Brien to help earn a 66-52 win over Remington, a team that won 19 fewer games than Halstead last year.

“I went in there at halftime and said, ‘This is the worst defensive performance I’ve seen since I’ve been at Halstead,’ “ Lollar said. “We gave up 11 layups and just didn’t guard anybody, but it was better tonight.”

Still, with defense like the Dragons played Tuesday, Halstead might only need 40 to win every night.

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Wichita Eagle preps reporter Hayden Barber brings the area updates on all high school sports while adding those hard-to-find human-interest stories on Wichita’s student-athletes.