Within the framework of Kansas high-school athletics, Class 4A is usually considered the toughest classification.
The general argument is 4A’s gap in enrollment numbers are the most unfair of any class, with the biggest 4A school (Highland Park with 729) enrolling nearly three times the number of students as the smallest (Rock Creek 258).
It would be fitting then, if those two schools, both sent to the Topeka Hayden 4A regional for basketball, would play each other in the postseason.
Highland Park (16-0) is undefeated on the year and very well could have won a state title in 5A, where they came from. Rock Creek (14-2 has a solid record as well and is usually competing for a spot in the 3A state tournament year in and year out.
If the season ended today, Rock Creek would be the No. 2 seed at sub-state, but would start the postseason against seventh-seeded Hayden (8-7), whose team is saddled with losses because of its membership in the Centennial League but still sports a winning record. Among the eight teams in the regional, only Santa Fe Trail can be counted out.
The sad reality for Rock Creek is Hayden is only the first of several obstacles. Wamego (13-4) and Holton (13-4) have more losses than Rock Creek, but have played more 4A teams and will be looking for their shot to play the Scots.
Nothing is impossible, and Rock Creek is a good team, but the odds of getting to 4A state just aren’t in its favor.
Of course, many other teams have a challenging road to state.
The girls’ side of the Hayden regional is just as daunting, with Wamego (16-1) on track to earn a top seed.
But Holton (16-1) is right there, with its only loss coming to the Red Raiders early in the year. There’s also Hayden (14-2), currently undefeated in the Centennial League with one of its two losses coming to Holton early in the season. Throw in Santa Fe Trail (14-3), and the semifinals at Hayden should be entertaining. Wamego may be the favorite, with a pair of dynamic scorers in Kaylee and Lanie Page, but they will need to tread carefully. No doubt, the other three top schools will want to prove what they’ve accomplished this year isn’t a fluke.
Elsewhere, the Riley County girls (12-5) are having a solid season, but will host an evenly matched sub-state tournament. Five of the eight teams are above .500, with Osage City (8-10) and Mission Valley (8-10) sporting records near that mark. Only Rossville (3-13) figures to be a non-factor.
The Falcons would earn the three seed if the season ended today, behind Council Grove (13-4) and Marysville (12-6), but do get the advantage of playing their games at home.
In Class 1A Div. I, the Valley Heights girls (13-4) are the favorite to advance from the Centralia sub-state, but have already been upset by Linn (7-8) this year. Hanover (9-6) will likely earn the No. 2 seed, and gave the Mustangs all they could handle in a 57-56 overtime loss last week.
The Valley Heights boys (12-5) are also on track to earn the top seed at the Centralia sub-state, but will face tough competition, with Centralia (10-5) and Hanover (10-5) both looking to challenge. Valley Heights is 1-1 against Centralia this season and 2-0 against Hanover.
In Class 1A Div. II, Frankfort will travel to Baileyville for sub-state, and will have to beat the Falcons on their home court to advance to state. The B&B girls (15-3) have locked up the top seed, while the B&B boys’ team (13-5) has a two-game lead on the Frankfort boys (11-7), which would earn the No. 2 seed. The Frankfort girls’ (10-7) team will likely earn the second seed as well.
There are other area teams who will get a brand new start at sub-state. The Riley County boys (4-13) have struggled all year, and would earn the six or seven seed if the season ended today. That would pit the Falcons against Osage City (12-6) or Council Grove (10-7).
Both the Blue Valley boys’ (2-15) and girls’ (3-14) teams are on track to earn the six seed at the Centralia regional. While both Rams’ squads have struggled this year, anything can happen once the basketball postseason begins.
With most teams still with anywhere from two to four games left on their regular-season schedules, these seedings are just projections. Especially in 4A, a bad week for one team would drastically change the way a bracket is constructed for the other seven.
Once the sub-state tournaments start, undoubtedly, someone will surprise the field, provide an unexpected challenge or even win the thing and take their place as the Cinderella at the state tournament.
Exactly which team that will be is anyone’s guess. But then, that’s the beauty of basketball in March.