Going the extra Pyle
The Pyle siblings could field a full basketball team, but the only girl among them believes she would be the MVP.
“If there was a pickup game, I definitely think I got it,” Grace Pyle said.
She sure looked like an MVP on Wednesday in Emporia. The McPherson sophomore finished with a career-high and game-high 21 points in a 57-41 win over Topeka Seaman in the Kansas Class 5A state quarterfinals. She added six rebounds and five assists in 29 minutes.
The Bullpups are on to the semifinals.
“It was a 1-8 (seeding) matchup, but you throw seeds out the window,” coach Chris Strathman said. “They had won eight in a row. ... That’s a very tough atmosphere for a 3 o’clock game on a Wednesday afternoon.”
Pyle is the sister of two former Mr. Kansas Basketball winners. Ben, so honored in 2018, graduated after last year’s Class 4A-Division I runner-up finish. He was named to the Eagle’s All-State team and now plays at Western Illinois.
Drew, who won two years before, was also an All-State selection and continued his basketball career at Washburn.
Growing up with such well-known figures in Kansas high school basketball could be a big shadow to live under, but Grace has learned to look up to her brothers and let them motivate her.
“They were the sole focus of the household, and I just picked off of them,” she said. “I realized that if they can do it, I can do it. I want to be just like my brothers.”
Strathman said he knew Grace was going to be special; she is a Pyle, after all.
“That was one of her best games of the year for sure,” he said. “But I fully expected Grace to have a great game today.”
Pyle started the 2018-19 season on the bench. She slowly earned her spot in the starting lineup and quickly became one of the Bullpups’ biggest contributors on one of the most balanced teams in the state.
Strathman said he wouldn’t go into details about why he felt Pyle had earned her spot in the starting five but said her presence has been a welcome sight.
“We knew what we had,” he said. “She’s a great player, and she’s just a gamer. The atmosphere doesn’t get to her.”
Pyle started hot Wednesday. She went 3-for-3 from outside the three-point arc in the first half. She was tied for the team-high with nine points, and as the game started to settle in through the third quarter, she was key to expanding on the Pups’ four-point halftime lead.
In the second half alone, Pyle hit a pair of buckets and got to the free throw line four times. She didn’t miss once.
But Pyle wasn’t alone in the McPherson quarterfinal win.
Junior post Cassie Cooks, whose sister was instrumental to last year’s title-winning team, finished with 12 points on 5-of-5 shooting, including a pair of and-one buckets, in just 10 minutes on the floor.
Senior post Maggie Leaf was key to establishing a low post presence along with Cooks. She finished with nine points and eight rebounds.
With the win, McPherson reaches the state semifinals for the third straight year.
Pyle said Wednesday was special, but the Pups aren’t done.
“My teammates have helped me and taken me under their wing,” she said. “It’s just incredible: 5A is one of the toughest classes. We had the goal at the beginning of the year to win it all, and that’s what we want to do.”
By Lionel Tipton, Eagle Correspondent
Southeast proved once again Wednesday night that even on a team without a lot of height, speed and pressure can make up for a lot.
The Golden Buffaloes used a 16-0 run in the first part of the third quarter to take a 48-33 lead over Lawrence, then sweated out multiple Lions comeback attempts and pulled out a 70-67 victory in the Class 6A boys high school basketball quarterfinals at Koch Arena.
Lawrence had one shot to tie, but a three-point attempt bounded off the rim as the final buzzer sounded.
“We just didn’t want to let them score,” sophomore guard Jackie Johnson said. “I think this is a big confidence-booster for everybody.”
Next up for Southeast is top-seeded Washburn Rural, which went to overtime to subdue Lawrence Free State, 54-45.
The Buffaloes — who only have two players taller than 6-2 — struggled in the first half against the bigger Lions but finished the half with a 32-30 lead. The run began at 7:22 on a three-pointer by sophomore Rone Smith and ended with fellow sophomore Johnson’s free throws at 3:27.
In all, five different Buffaloes scored the 16 points. The run put Lawrence on its heels, but the Lions showed resilience in the second part of the quarter and trailed just 50-48 entering the fourth period.
Southeast (20-3) used free throws to maintain its lead, hitting 10 of 12 in the final quarter. Johnson hit eight of 10 and 13 of 15 for the game, gaining the opportunities by fearlessly driving into the lane.
First-year varsity head coach Joe Mitchell has found a way to make quickness and speed a weapon, senior guard Johnny Murdock said.
“We just come out and play hard every game,” Murdock said. “Our coach just wants us to play 100 percent, 100 percent of the time.”
Having someone as quick as Johnson, a transfer from North, doesn’t hurt at all, Murdock said.
“We’re glad he came over,” he said. “Offense, we’re in ‘go’ mode all the time; defense, we’re go all the time, too. We’re just going to play hard.”He calms everything down. Jackie, he’s ‘pedal to the metal.’ He’s always in aggressive-type mode; that’s what I like.
“I don’t think anybody in the state of Kansas can stay in front of him.”
Murdock said it was important to have that third-quarter run.
“We knew they were going to have a run, so we had to have a run,” he said. “We just have to keep outstretching it.”
Johnson said, “I felt our defense just took it over the top (Wednesday) night. They started hitting big-time shots, and just have to lock down and buckle in.
“We’re always looking to attack. A lot of our key players are looking do what we need to do.”
Speed is key to neutralizing a height deficit, Johnson said.
“Speed kills,” he said. “We definitely used that to our advantage.”
In the next round, Southeast gets No. 1 seed Washburn Rural, but the Buffaloes won’t have to deal with the tall frontcourt that Lawrence presented.
But that doesn’t faze Johnson.
“We have a lot of weapons, definitely,” he said.
In other 6A quarterfinals:
No. 2 Blue Valley Northwest 75, No. Olathe North 70: BV Northwest looked like anything but the defending 6A champion in the first half Wednesday, going down by as many as 12 points against Olathe North. But BVNW regrouped behind senior 6-foot-7 point guard and KU Jayhawks signee Christian Braun, who finished with a game-high 33 points — 22 after halftime.
No. 6 seed Shawnee Mission South 57, No. 3 Harmon 46: Held to just three first-half points, senior Evan Hickman finished with 23 points for the Raiders (19-4). Lonell Lane had 22 for Harmon (19-4).
No. 1 Washburn Rural 54, No. 8 Lawrence Free State 45 (OT): Free State (15-7) forced the extra period by outscoring the Junior Blues (22-1) 15-12 in the fourth quarter, and the game was a grind throughout. Rural senior Jordan White paced the victory by hitting overtime free throws and finished with a game-high 20 points.
Orange, you glad?
Augusta is into the state semifinals after knocking off the No. 2 seed in Class 4A.
The Orioles beat Andale 57-43 in the state quarterfinals in Salina on Wednesday. Three Augusta players finished in double figures, and only one Andale player did.
Augusta’s dynamic duo of junior Jaren Jackson and senior Zac Burton each scored 15 in the win, and sophomore Ryan Andrews added a dozen. The Orioles shot 44 percent from three-point range. Andale was at 13 percent.
Augusta coach Jake Sims said his group’s layered, dynamic defense was the key to breaking down one of the more notoriously organized teams in Kansas.
“I was talking with one of our assistants, and I asked, ‘How would you explain our defense,’ “ Sims said. “We had a hard time doing it.”
Andale’s only two losses this season ahead of Wednesday’s state-opener were to Class 5A teams: Maize South and McPherson. The Indians hadn’t lost to Augusta since 2010.
With the win, Augusta will play No. 3 Chapman (19-4) at 8:15 p.m. Friday at Tony’s Pizza Events Center in Salina.
A state record
Cheney sophomore Kylee Scheer scored 38 points Wednesday.
The No. 1 Cardinals beat Columbus 65-45 in the first round of the Class 3A girls state tournament. Scheer’s performance was a 3A record. She scored almost 60 percent of Cheney’s points.
Cheney will play No. 4 Nemaha Central, who beat Clay Center 52-42 in the first round, at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the Hutchinson Sports Arena.
Knights on a roll
Trinity Academy is the other Wichita area team left in the Class 4A boys tournament.
The Knights clinched their spot in the semifinals with a 61-52 win over No. 8 Chanute on Wednesday in Salina. Chanute beat three-time defending state champion Bishop Miege in its sub-state title game, but Trinity powered through.
With the win, Trinity will play No. 4 KC Piper at 4:45 p.m. Friday.
Unbeaten no more
Undefeated Maize South hit four buckets in the second half.
St. Thomas Aquinas led from start to finish in an impressive 47-29 win over Maize South on Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the Kansas Class 5A girls state basketball tournament. The Saints’ size was unlike anything the Mavericks had seen.
Beatrice Culliton, a 6-foot-3 freshman, scored a game-high 18 points. She said the mindset to dominate started Tuesday night when coach Rich Hetzel addressed the team.
“He got us ready,” Culliton said. “We were all excited to come out and play our hardest no matter what the coutcome was. The message was simple: Just play hard. Work your butts off.”
Maize South shot 12.5 percent from three-point range in the loss and 26.3 percent from the floor. The Mavericks did not play like an undefeated team.
Maize South entered the state tournament as the No. 5 seed despite no losses after the Kansas State High School Activities Association ruled senior Zayda Perez ineligible ahead of the sub-state tournament before reversing the decision and deeming her a “partial transfer.”
Perez moved from Valley Center, where she lived with her mother, to Maize, where she lived with her father. But because her dad did not change his address, the transfer was not bona fide. Although Perez was ruled eligible for the state tournament, the Mavericks were given a five-loss penalty.
“I guess we’re the eighth seed,” Aquinas coach Rick Hetzel said. “It was kind of goofy, everything that happened with them. But we don’t worry about them. We worry about ourselves.”
Neither Hetzel nor Culliton said they anticipated Wednesday’s lop-sided result. But Culliton said playing against an unbeaten team only added to their motivation.
Aquinas had three of the game’s top four scorers. Sophomore Madison Skelton, who scored 17, and senior Blythe Pearson, adding 7, rounded out the Saints’ top three.
With the win, Aquinas has reached its fifth straight state semifinal and keeps its run alive for a fourth straight championship. Hetzel said this year’s group makes up for a loss in athleticism with an outstanding basketball IQ.
The Saints play the defending Class 4A-Division I champion McPherson in the semifinal round at 3 p.m. Friday.
“I’m really happy to be a part of a community that just wants to win,” Culliton said. “We’re ready. We’re ready to win it.”
At the Height of defeat
With 1.4 seconds left, the clock became KC Schlagle’s best defender.
Wichita Heights inbounded to sophomore Laniah Randle in the left corner, who drove the lane and tossed up a prayer that fell through the hoop, but the referees ruled it too late as the Stallions pulled out a 69-67 win to reach the Class 5A semifinals.
With 8.2 seconds left, Schlagle junior Camille Evans hit her second of two free throws. Heights junior Marcazian Zeigler ran the floor but lost the ball about the three-point line. Schlagle sophomore Tylieea Wallace fielded the groundball, but Heights senior RaJone Callahan wisely clamped down on the ball.
Schlagle celebrated down the court as the Stallions believed the clock ran out, but the referees called a jump ball, possession Heights to set up the final play.
Wallace finished with 27 points on 12-of-15 shooting. She was key throughout the final three quarters to Schlagle’s comeback, trailing by as many as seven in the third quarter.
“I can’t say enough about Tylieea Wallace,” Schlagle coach Mark Western said. “We don’t get anywhere in this game if she doesn’t shoot like she did tonight. She’s usually a walking double-double.”
Schlagle junior Ishante Suttington went out with an injury, and Western said Evans and Wallace became pivotal to carry the team down the stretch.
Evans finished with 18 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter, 12 rebounds and seven assists, many of which went to Wallace in the low post. Wallace said everyone came together late Wednesday night, but even through a remarkable effort, it came down to a split-second decision at the buzzer.
“I’m not gonna lie; I was nervous a little bit,” she said. “I had faith my team was gonna pull it off, but it was just a good fight at the end.”
With the win, Schlagle advances to the state semifinal against Blue Valley Southwest in a No. 6 and 7-seed matchup. Western said his program has been building toward getting over the hump in the state tournament for the past four years.
He said he was especially proud of the Stallions’ effort against the No. 3 seed in 5A.
“Friday should be a hell of a game,” Western said. “Credit to the players tonight. They stepped up and made the plays, and at the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to.”
Timber! Goddard falls down
With about 20 seconds to go, Arielle Sargent took over.
The Blue Valley Southwest senior post got a block in the lane on Goddard’s Brooke Sullivan. Then, seconds before the buzzer, Sargent got another on the Lions’ Kade Hackerott. Both preserved the Timberwolves’ 36-34 state quarterfinal victory.
Sargent was Southwest’s leading scorer with 11 on 4-of-5 shooting, but her biggest contribution came defensively in the fourth quarter. Blue Valley Southwest entered the final frame facing a 32-26 deficit.
The T-Wolves allowed two free throws in the fourth quarter, no buckets.
Goddard entered tied with the second best defense in Kansas’ top three classes, allowing 31 points per game through the regular season. The game favored the Lions’ style of play, but Blue Valley Southwest stepped up defensively.
Junior Madeline Garretson finished second on the team with seven points, including a pair of vital three-pointers. And senior point guard Ashley Loeffelbein added six points and four assists.
With the win, Blue Valley Southwest will play the winner of Wichita Heights and Kansas City Schlagle in the state quarterfinals, the T-Wolves’ first appearance in the final four since 2015.