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Championship aspirations

Eight area teams qualify for state tourneys

By The Mercury

Area basketball fans needn’t wait for the NCAA tournaments to satisfy their postseason basketball fix. There are eight area teams — six high school girls teams and two boys teams — worth following.

Three of the girls teams — Manhattan, Wamego and Riley County — are league champions and No. 1 seeds. Wamego’s girls, the only undefeated area team, are the 4A defending state champions and North Central Kansas League champions. They enter the 4A Division I tournament in Salina 22-0 and will play Mulvane at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Manhattan High School’s girls, the Centennial League champions, will take a 22-1 record into their opening game at 3 p.m. Wednesday against Shawnee Mission West in Wichita. And Riley County High School’s girls, 22-1 and champions of the Mid-East League, will meet Lyons at 3 p.m. Thursday in the 3A state tournament in Hutchinson.

It’s been a banner year for Valley Heights High School. This year for the first time in school history, both the boys and girls teams will compete at state. The girls, champions of the Twin Valley League, earned the No. 2 seed in the Class 1A Division I tournament and will take a 22-1 record into their game against Victoria at 3 p.m. Thursday in Emporia. Valley Heights’ boys, 21-2 and the No. 3 seed, will play Macksville at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, also in Emporia.

The only other area boys team still playing, Rock Creek High School, earned the No. 5 seed in the Class 3A tournament in Hutchinson. The Mustangs, 20-3, will play No. 4 Riverton in the final game Wednesday evening. Council Grove’s girls, who despite a 19-4 record were able to earn just a No. 6 seed, are scheduled to play Cimarron at 8:15 Thursday in the 3A state tournament in Hutchinson.

Last but not least are the Clay Center girls. They’re the No. 8 seed in the Class 4A Division II tournament in Park City. Their 8-14 record can’t conceal the fact that they, too, are sub-state champions capable of upsetting higher seeds.

It’s an exciting time of year for the teams and their schools. Part of the spectacle of state tournaments are the crowds that follow their teams and show their colors in the bleachers — after arriving in caravans with “Win State!” splashed on their vehicles’ windows.

It’s perhaps too much to expect eight state champions in this area, but it isn’t too much to dream about and play for. We know all the players will represent their schools and this area well, and we wish them the best of luck.

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