Varsity Basketball

Previewing the top Friday hoops matchups + the Varsity Kansas Game of the Week

No. 1 Derby at No. 3 McPherson (Girls)

The Derby Panthers’ girls basketball senior class will likely go down as the most accomplished in school history, but McPherson is the only team to have consistently given them fits.

Derby’s class of 2019 has never beaten McPherson at the varsity level. Friday will be its best shot yet.

The Panthers return almost their entire roster from last year’s Class 6A championship season. The Bullpups lost arguably the best player in Kansas, Taylor Robertson.

Although McPherson has a historic basketball pedigree, the Pups still have to find their 2018 identity with key players in Riley Hett, Kassidy Beam and Maggie Leaf, who scored a career-high 17 against Andover Central on Tuesday.

The biggest asset for McPherson might not even be on the floor, but rather around it. The Roundhouse atmosphere is likely the best in Kansas. Last year’s championship Pups never lost at home, including a 54-49 win over Derby.

But Derby coach Jodie Karsak said she has confidence in the group she will walk in with.

“It’s just a basketball town,” Karsak said. “Kind of like derby is just a football town. Kids here cant wait to get on that court as high school players. It’s the same way with basketball in McPherson.”

Prediction: Derby 54, McPherson 53

Previous Meeting: McPherson 54, Derby 49 (2017)

Andover at No. 4 Andover Central (Boys)

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On paper, Andover Central should roll, but the Trojans have a knack for bucking trends in 2018.

Andover started the season with an overtime home win over McPherson, a team that hadn’t lost in the regular season since Dec. 8 of last season at Bishop Miege. Four days later, Andover Central went to the Roundhosue and beat the Pups by 11.

The Jaguars are headlined by a trio of shooters and shot-creators in Xavier Bell, Braden Belt and Easton Leedom. They rely on the three-point shot, but Tuesday, when they shot 3-of-16 from range, they still found ways to score.

Andover will come after Central with a high-pressure defensive system designed to force turnovers and score in transition. Jack Johnson leads the way for the Trojans, a sophomore who can shoot the three and get the hoop quickly.

Central coach Jesse Herrmann said if Johnson and the rest of the Trojans get hot early, the Jaguars could be in trouble.

“We’ve played two really good teams, and we play another Friday,” Herrmann said. “It’s always good to find out where you’re at. We’re excited. They’re going to play fast. Defensively, they’re going to try to create havoc. ... We’ve got to play together and attack their pressure.”

Prediction: Andover Central 67, Andover 62

Previous Meeting: Andover Central 59, Andover 37 (2018)

No. 7 Andale at No. 7 Maize South (Girls)

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They appear so even, they have the same ranking.

Andale (Class 4A) and Maize South (Class 5A) come in at No. 7 in the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association’s most recent state rankings, and both are riding momentum into Friday’s clash.

Andale is coming off a 64-61 overtime victory against Andover on Tuesday. The Indians’ Jillian Webber drilled a three with about a minute left in overtime to give Andale the lead against the defending AVCTL II champion Trojans.

Maize South is 1-0 as well after a 57-31 home win over Andover Central. The Mavericks are revamped in 2018 with new players in Alexis Snodgrass from Northwest and Zayda Perez from Valley Center. But they also bring back a lot of talent from last year’s roster in Katie Wagner and Lauren Johnson.

Both teams can attack the basket off the dribble and hit shots from outside. Whichever can score more efficiently will walk out with a 2-0 record.

“As far as meshing the new pieces with some of the girls who have been here, it hasn’t been too difficult because they bought in as soon as they got here over the summer,” Maize South coach Ben Hamilton said. “It hasn’t been as much of a speed bump as you might think.”

Prediction: Maize South 51, Andale 49

Previous Meeting: Maize South 42, Andale 38 (2016)

Wichita Southeast at No. 1 Bishop Carroll (Boys)

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Southeast still has a lot of moving parts heading into Friday’s date with the defending state champions.

Sophomore Jackie Johnson III scored 23, including an emphatic dunk, in his debut with the Golden Buffaloes, a 63-59 win over Wichita East. And coach Joe Mitchell will coach just his second high school game Friday.

But the Buffaloes belong.

Bishop Carroll is off to a 2-0 start in which the Golden Eagles have outscored opponents 143-69. Coach Mike Dominick said his team is playing at a high level, but there are still a few little things it needs to improve on.

“We just need to go play,” Dominick said. “It’s still basketball. We need to do what we do well. I had East at the top of our league, and if they can beat East, they’re going to be one of those teams to be reckoned with.”

Prediction: Bishop Carroll 55, Wichita Southeast 50

Previous Meeting: Bishop Carroll 59, Wichita Southeast 52 (2018)

No. 10 Andale at No. 10 Maize South (Boys)

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Andale is shooting for a pair of 5A victories to start the 2018-19 season.

The Indians came out with a convincing 66-50 win over Andover. Junior Easton Hunter scored 38 — most in the state Tuesday night.

Andale coach Jeff Buchanan said Hunter is a multi-faceted player who has no problem passing off a good shot for a great one. He just took what was available against the Trojans. Hunter averaged a touch over 13 points last season.

There might be fewer scoring opportunities Friday. Maize South comes in as the No. 10 team in Class 5A but is coming off a 72-62 opening-night loss to Andover Central.

Buchanan said the Mavericks present a lot of size inside and speed on the perimeter.

“It’s going to be a battle for us,” he said. “Nothing is going to come easy on either end of the court.”

Prediction: Andale 63, Maize South 59

Previous Meeting: Andale 60, Maize South 53 (2016)

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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.