By ANDREW GILL
Centennial League powers Topeka High and Washburn Rural met for the third and final time of the year in Saturday’s Class 6A girls sub-state basketball championship game, with the Lady Trojans making it a season sweep with a decisive 72-52 win at High.
“We didn’t play our best the first two times we played Rural,'' Topeka High coach Hannah Alexander said. "We came out flat, so we really wanted to make an exclamation point with this game.''.
Topeka High was anything but flat in the third bout, with Alexander most impressed with her team’s defense.
“I felt like it was a team effort. They really bought in this week; we had some great practices. (Defense) was what we tried to excel on and doing that really helped them get the win tonight,” Alexander said.
With Saturday's win the 21-1 Trojans advance to the 6A state tournament for the third straight season and will host 16-6 Wichita Heights in a 6 p.m. quarterfinal game Tuesday. The Falcons routed Wichita East 60-27 in their sub-state final.
Topeka High receives its Class 6A sub-state championship trophy Saturday after its 72-52 win over Washburn Rural. [Photo from Doug Walker/Special to TSN]
The Trojans appeared to be in control early, ending the first quarter ahead 16-4, but the Lady Blues slowly chipped away at the lead before halftime.
With just over a minute to go in the half, Rural sophomore Brooklyn DeLeye was fouled on a made field goal attempt and knocked down the free throw to shrink the deficit to just 2 points.
On the ensuing in-bounds play, freshman Zoe Canfield got a steal and found junior teammate Ella Hurtig for a go-ahead 3-pointer.
The Blues’ first and only lead of the game lasted mere seconds, however, as Topeka High senior Lilly Smith answered with a 3-pointer of her own.
The Trojans quickly got the ball back and sophomore Kiki Smith (15 points) managed to beat the halftime buzzer, putting her team up 30-26 at the break.
“The drive from Kiki at the buzzer was huge.'' Alexander said. "We regrouped at halftime and answered back in that third quarter.''
The second half belonged to Trojan NiJaree Canady, who scored 19 of her team-high 21 points after halftime. The junior earned a double-double by grabbing 12 rebounds.
Topeka High junior NiJaree Canady had 21 points and 12 rebounds in Saturday's 72-52 sub-state win over Washburn Rural. [Photo by Doug Walker/Special to TSN]
Though pleased with her individual performance, Canady was more focused on the team’s victory.
“At the end of the day, as long as my team wins that’s the main thing,'' she said. "If we win and I only get 2 points, then we win, and I only get 2 points. Whatever it takes to get us to state,” Canady said.
Tae Thomas added 16 points for the Trojans, with a pair of 3-pointers.
Topeka High junior Tae Thomas scored 16 points for the Trojans' in Saturday's 72-52 sub-state win over Washburn Rural. [Photo by Doug Walker/Special to TSN]
DeLeye was the game’s high scorer with a 22-point contribution for the Lady Blues. DeLeye also added 6 rebounds.
Washburn Rural sophomore Brooklyn DeLeye scored a game-high 22 points in Saturday's sub-state final. [Photo by Doug Walker/Special to TSN]
The defeat marked the end of an impressive 16-3 season for Washburn Rural.
TOPEKA HIGH 72, WASHBURN RURAL 52
Washburn Rural 4 22 12 14 -- 52
Topeka High 16 14 21 21 -- 72
Washburn Rural (16-3) -- Bagshaw 1 2-2 4, Lutz 1 0-0 3, Krueger 2 3-6 7, Canfield 2 2-3 7, Hurtig 1 0-0 3, Ingram 2 2-3 6, DeLeye 7 8-13 22. Totals: 16 17-27 52
Topeka High (21-1) -- L. Smith 2 2-2 7, Thomas 4 6-8 16, Shields 0 1-2 1, K. Smith 6 0-0 15, Hendricks 3 0-1 6, Canady 9 2-4 21, Lyons 3 0-0 6. Totals: 27 11-17 72
3-point goals -- Washburn Rural 3 (Lutz, Canfield, Hurtig), Topeka High 7 (K. Smith 3, Thomas 2, L. Smith, Canady). Total fouls -- Washburn Rural 14, Topeka High 21. Fouled out -- none.