Flying to the top
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Wichita Heights played out of its shoes Friday night.
Early in the fourth quarter, Falcon sophomore Danair Dempsey drove to the basket, was fouled and laid it in anyway despite a wealth of contact - so much his left shoe came off. The bucket helped Dempsey to a team-high 19 points and pushed Heights to stomp out rival Southeast for a 78-56 victory in the Varsity Kansas Game of the Week.
The Falcons never trailed. They jumped on the Buffaloes early, getting out to a 9-2 lead midway through the first quarter that forced Southeast coach Joe Mitchell to call his second timeout in about three minutes.
Although sophomore guard Jackie Johnson III had a game-high 22 points, Southeast never found its rhythm offensively and had to work much harder to find baskets in the paint. The Buffs had to contend with one of the longest, deepest teams in Kansas.
With the win, Heights slides past the previously undefeated Buffaloes to claim sole possession of first place in the City League.
The Heights gym was packed at halftime of the girls game in anticipation of one of the top games of the City League season. Falcons coach Joe Auer said to coach in that type of rivalry is always special.
“This game is so important to all of us,” he said. “It’s a privilege and an honor to be able to coach in this game. There will be another one in February, and we look forward to it.”
Holy buzzer beater
Falling to the floor, Carsen Pracht threw up a prayer.
After Alex Littlejohn’s three-pointer flew past the hoop in the final seconds, Pracht grabbed the offensive rebound and on his way down, beat the buzzer for a 52-50 win over rival Kapaun. The Golden Eagles now hold a three-game win streak in the Holy War series.
As Pracht’s shot went through, many Carroll students rushed the Kapaun floor and mobbed the players. Pracht said it what the Holy War is about.
“I felt the energy all night, but after the game-winning shot with everyone storming the court, it was amazing,” Pracht said. “We have a great fan group, especially during the Holy War.”
With the win, Carroll stays afloat in the City League race and improves to 5-2.
With five seconds left, Andover needed to go the length of the floor.
The Trojans didn’t just get a shot off, they got to the basket and scored as junior Harper Jonas made a backdoor cut and sophomore Jack Johnson delivered a perfect pass to give Andover a 66-65 overtime win over Derby.
It was the Trojans’ second overtime home win of the early 2018-19 season.
Andover coach Marvin Shetlar said his guys executed on the final play just as he drew it up.
“This is great,” he said. “Derby is a great basketball school. They have great athletes. For us to beat them is really good for us and our program. Our young kids have to believe that we can play with anybody now. That’s why we want to play teams like that.”
Escaping the Valley
Two buzzer-beaters wasn’t enough Friday.
Maize South dropped Valley Center 79-77 as junior Trey Reid came around a screen from senior Kael Kordonowy and delivered on a jumper to send the Mavericks to 3-3.
Maize South has hit its struggles so far this season, entering as a favorite in Class 5A. The Mavericks lost two starters - Nolan Veenis and Ben Crowell - early and got them both back against the Hornets, but they turned the ball over 27 times.
Maize South coach Kip Schultz gave credit to Valley Center for making his group uncomfortable, coming back from a double-digit deficit at halftime, but Schultz said he knows they can play much better.
“I’ll be fair,” he said. “We’re a way better team than what showed up tonight. I didn’t feel like we executed like we could. It felt like a loss at some level because we were up 12 in the third quarter and let it get away from us. It’s jubilation for sure, but in my opinion, it shouldn’t come down to that.”
‘Prove everyone wrong’
For the first time in seven tries, the Kapaun girls are on top of the Holy War.
Bishop Carroll dropped its second straight game with a 33-31 loss to the Crusaders. Sophomore forward Ella Anciaux finished with 25 points. The Golden Eagles could not contain her.
Coming into Friday, Kapaun didn’t have a signature win despite five victories in its record and a third place spot in the City League. They got it against its biggest rival and last year’s Class 5A runner-up.
“There’s no words to describe it,” senior Mary Short said. “We were here to show them who’s boss. We were ready to prove everyone wrong.”
Kapaun coach Billy Graf said this is just a step along the way.
“Our goal coming into this year wasn’t to beat Bishop Carroll; it was to compete for a City League title,” Graf said.
Only one horse for the stable
There will be a new No. 2 team in Class 5A.
Campus earned a landmark win with a 55-45 victory over Salina Central. The Colts closed on a 21-7 run in the final six minutes, and coach Chris Davis said he couldn’t be more proud of his team.
“They played great and made plays,” he said. “It was a heavyweight fight. Just two really, really good teams going at it tooth and nail. ... We expect good things to happen. In the past, maybe we would have hoped a little bit.”
Campus hadn’t beaten Salina Central in more than a decade and over 20 tries, and it came down to a well-rounded stat sheet, Davis said.
Senior Tyler Kahmann led the way with 17 points. Junior Thomas King and senior center Cade Howard added 9 each. Sophomore guard Sterling Chapman had 8, and his brother, Steele, added an edge and directed the flow of the game, Davis said.
With the win, Campus improves to 5-1 and keeps pace in a competitive AVCTL I race.
The story was too good.
In McPherson coach Chris Strathman’s first game back since defeating a cancerous colon tumor in late November, his Bullpups earned a 37-30 win over league foe Circle in the Roundhouse.
But Strathman said with so much potential emotion built into the game, he felt no nerves.
“Once things got rolling, it was back to business as usual,” he said. “It was great to be back on the court, especially in the Roundhouse. That’s just where I want to be.”
The win helps McPherson take another step toward the AVCTL III title as the Pups hand Circle its first loss of the 2018-19 season, and it came from all angles. Senior Hannah Hageman had a team-high 12 points. Junior Lakyn Schieferecke had 9, and sophomore Grace Pyle had 7.