Once again, the Bishop Miege girls’ basketball team is among the top teams in Kansas Class 5A, but early in the season it was a given that the Stags would get there.
Coach Terry English had high hopes as the season dawned.
“We had a great summer, and I thought going into the season we would be fine,” English said. “I knew a lot of the teams we would be facing would have a lot more size, but we played against teams with more size all summer and did well.”
Scoring 78 points in a thorough thrashing of Blue Valley Northwest in the season opener seemed to confirm that Miege was on track perhaps to be in the thick of the East Kansas League race.
The Stags won three in a row to open the season but slipped to 5-4 after losing four of the next six games, including a 53-48 defeat by Blue Valley Southwest on Jan. 18.
“We struggled, at least at the beginning, defensively,” English said. “We were playing everybody close, but we couldn’t get over the top. Then, we started finding ways to lose.”
Miege was in unfamiliar territory. The team’s confidence was flagging, but everything changed with a gutsy win over Blue Valley North, which kept the Stags from sliding back to .500.
BV North had defeated Miege by 25 points earlier in the season, but starting with that turn of the tables, the Stags have rattled off eight victories in the last nine games entering the final week of the regular season.
The only loss came against St. Thomas Aquinas, which had clinched at least a share of the East Kansas League crown entering Tuesday night.
“We’re playing good, but because of our size we can’t really put anybody away,” English said. “We had Blue Valley Southwest and Blue Valley down double figures going into the fourth quarter, but at the end we’re fighting for our lives. We’ve struggled with height, but as far as talent we can be as good as anybody.”
Still, all of Miege’s goals from before the season suddenly seem to be coming into focus again.
Seniors Sydney Vaughan, who is a tough inside/outside matchup, and Iland Shurn, who is a blue-collar bruiser in the paint, have provided an interior presence along with junior Lexie Villegas.
“Our big kids aren’t real big, but they are fighters,” English said.
Blue Valley girls still chasing state
Blue Valley’s girls have played for the Kansas Class 5A basketball championship the last two seasons, but the Tigers find themselves in unfamiliar territory as they move back to 6A.
Coach Andy Unrein’s squad, which entered the final week of the regular season 10-8 overall, are hunters more than the hunted this season, not that Blue Valley has completely accepted that premise.
“Do we feel different? Yeah, because we’re not pulling down 15 or 16 wins in the regular season, but honestly, I don’t think we’ve really looked at it that way,” Unrein said.
Still, the fact remains the Tigers will have to play spoiler to reach the state tournament, knocking off either fellow East Kansas League power Blue Valley North or Shawnee Mission Northwest on the road if the seedings hold.
“We’ve had to make it less about records, the wins and losses this season, than about the position we want to be in at the end,” Unrein said. “But I still feel like we can compete with anybody. Nobody feels bad about the position we’re in.”
Led by senior Bailey Geiman, who has signed with Southeast Missouri State, Blue Valley’s starters – which also include seniors Jarin Braithwaite and Sara Hanna, junior Sydnie Hanson and freshman Maddie Newell – play roughly a combined 148 to 160 minutes each game.
BV Northwest boys claim third straight EKL title
With five games remaining on the East Kansas League schedule, the undefeated Blue Valley Northwest boys already had a third consecutive title wrapped up.
“It’s pretty neat.” Huskies coach Ed Fritz said last week. “We feel pretty lucky to be able to do this. It’s pretty special to be five games up with four games to play.”
Entering the final week of the regular season, BV Northwest was 18-0, including a 12-0 record in EKL play.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.