Almena Northern Valley Huskies (13-10)
Coach - Chuck Fessenden (10th year)
Previous state experience -- Sixth appearance in school history, first since 1992. Northern Valley won state championships in 1986, 90 and 91.
Key Players -- Jordan Baird, 5-11, Sr.; Hunter Chandler, 6-2, Sr.; Matt Stutsman, 5-11, Jr.; Brant Cox, 5-8, Jr.; Clint Cole, 5-11, Jr.
Notes -- This is a well-rounded squad where the top six players average between 6.2 and 12.3 points and the top-six rebounders have between three and 6.2 a contest. Three players are between 2.4 and 3.6 assists. A different player leads the team in points (Baird, 12.3), rebounds (Chandler, 6.2) and assists (Cox, 3.6). This season marks a three-win improvement from last season and easily the school's best year in the last nine seasons.
Baird, Stutsman and Chandler went 1-2-3 in scoring last year, while Baird also the team in scoring as a sophomore. Baird has averaged 11, 10.5 and 12.3 points in the last three seasons. Fessenden is also the head football and track coach and just completed his 37th season on the gridiron this fall.
Attica Bulldogs (17-6)
Coach -- Danton Hilton (2nd year)
Previous state experience -- This will be Attica's first trip to state since 1962.
Key players -- Devon Newberry, 6-2, So.; Daymon Howell, 6-0, Jr.; Austin Newberry, 5-10, Sr.; Alec McDaniel, 5-8, So.; Jack Deviney, 5-11, Sr.
Notes -- Attica advanced to its first state tournament since 1962 when it defeated its biggest rival in the sub-state championship game, a previously undefeated Kiowa-South Barber team, 58-52 in overtime.
"It's tough to put into words. ... They've handed us some pretty bad losses in the past 10 years," Hilton said. "It never really felt like we had it secured until that buzzer sounded, and even now it's kind of surreal."
On the team is junior guard Doss Grigsby, the grandson of Gary Grigsby, a member of Attica's 1962 state qualifying team.
And the family connections run much deeper. Coach Danton Hilton, who is 22, is the half-brother of player Daymon Howell, a 6-foot junior. Senior Jack Deviney is the brother of sophomore Tyler Deviney, and sophomore Devon Newberry is cousin to senior Austin Newberry.
"It's a special thing to be able to coach (Howell), but it's a pain in the rear at the same time," Hilton said. "But in the heat of the moment we really thrive just because we are so close."
Howell is an important piece of the puzzle for Attica, averaging 11.8 points per game, second best on the team, to go with a team-best seven rebounds. Devon Newberry leads the team in scoring with 20.4 ppg, while his cousin Austin Newberry brings in 11.7 ppg.
Baileyville-B&B Falcons (17-7)
Coach -- Jason Hajek (2nd year)
Previous state experience -- This winter marks B&B's 17th state appearance at various levels in years including: 1978, '81, '82, '83, '84, '88, '90, '91, '92, '93, '94, '95, 2001, '02, '06, '10. The Falcons won state titles in 1984 and '93, and have three runner-up finishes, two third and two fourths. The most recent came in 2010 when B&B finished third.
Key players -- Dustin Rottinghaus, 6-2, sr.; Trent Schulte, 6-3, jr.; Brandon Bergman, 5-9, sr.; Dylan Schmitz, 6-3, sr.; Cameron Haug, 6-3, sr.
Notes -- With its girls' team also qualifying, the Falcon boys are hoping to double dip with state titles in the school's final year of existence. B&B will close after this spring and students will attend Seneca-Nemaha Valley.
Hajek, in his second year at B&B, is 34-13 as the Falcons' head coach. The Falcons also won this year's Eight-Man Division II state championship in blowout fashion against Sharon Springs-Wallace County, much to do with the play of Rottinghaus, also the basketball team's top scorer.
Rottinghaus averages 12.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per night, the only Falcon in double figures. Schmitz chips in 9.2 points and grabs 5.2 rebounds per game, while sophomore Luke Holthaus comes off the bench to lead the team in rebounds at 6.5 and is third in points at 8.5.
B&B was 4-0 to start the year, had some trouble midseason, but finished the final 11 games with a 9-2 record. Six of the seven losses are to state-ranked opponents -- all but one within single digits, Hajek said.
"Our team is based on athleticism and teamwork," he said. "We have seven different guys that can step up and score on any night."
The team's goal coming to the state tourney is to "stay and play," aside from its first goal, which was to make it to Hays in the school's final year. The Falcons are matched up with No. 3 seed Fowler (20-3) in today's late game.
Beloit-St. John's/Tipton Blujays (22-1)
Coach -- Lance Bergmann (5th year)
Previous state experience -- This is the first time in the four year history of the school that it has made it to state. Neither school had ever made it to state separately in the same year, and the last time St. Johns made state was in 1982.
Key players -- Trey Dubbert, 6-0, Jr.; Luke Eilert, 6-4, Sr.; Connor Eilert, 6-0, Sr.; Caleb Brummer, 6-1, Sr.
Notes -- This deep senior class has come full circle from its 4-17 record as freshmen in the school's inaugural year. They went 11-11 as sophomores and 18-3 as juniors, losing a heartbreaker to White City -- a team that finished third at state in Class 1A Division II -- in sub-state. They have improved once again, going 21-1 this year, the Blujays' only loss coming to Class 2A state participant Plainville High School, 59-56.
"When we lost in that sub-state game last year, they kind of set a goal that they wanted to make sure that didn't happen to them again," Bergmann said. "The last time these boys were out there, a couple of their dads were on the team that made it in '82. So it's pretty neat for them."
Three players average in double figures for the Blujays, led by Dubbert's 12.6 points per game. He is followed closely by Luke Eilert's 11.7 ppg and Connor Eilert's 10.3 ppg. The Blujays are the top seed at state, and will face eighth-seed Almena-Northern Valley (13-10) in the first round.
"They've been really dedicated to get out there and are really wanting to keep it going," Bergmann said. "They are not satisfied with just making it, so hopefully we can come out Wednesday and play really well."
Chetopa Hornets (19-14)
Coach -- Dennis Orns (10th year)
Previous state experience -- The Hornet boys have just one previous state appearance in school history coming in 1960 in Class B.
Key players -- Austen Sanders, 5-10, sr.; Brice Riddle, 6-5, sr.
Notes -- Chetopa, which easily has the longest drive of any team in Hays this week, features a nine-player roster -- four seniors, three juniors, a freshman and a sophomore.
Sanders leads the team with 18.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and a steal per night. Riddle chips in 14.2 points, 8 rebounds and 2.5 rebounds a night. The team averages 60.6 points, but hangs its hat on defense, only giving up 38.9 points per game.
Orns, who previously was an assistant at Keys (Park Hill) in Oklahoma is sitting at .500 with 107 wins for the Hornets.
Chetopa enters state on a 12-game win streak after defeating Colony-Crest, 59-34 in the sub-state in Chetopa last week. Chetopa was the only winning team in the sub-state and two teams entered were seeded with 0-18 records.
Chetopa matches up with No. 5 Attica (17-6) in the first round today.
Fowler Goldbugs (20-3)
Coach -- Scott Brown (6th year)
Previous state experience -- Fowler is enjoying a strong run with its fourth straight trip to state. The Goldbugs, along with owning arguably owning the state's most unique mascot, finished second last season, and third in 2012. In the first year in the current run, Fowler fell in the first round -- the first year of the split of Class 1A. Prior to 2011, Fowler hadn't qualified for state since 1975, but has six qualifications.
Key players -- Taylin Bird, 5-10, sr.; Ty Clark, 6-4, sr.; Luke Huelskamp, 5-10, sr.; Tate Shumard, 5-9, jr.; Dylan Duesing, 6-2, sr.
Notes -- Fowler had some questions marks to open the season with losing players to graduation and transfers, but Brown said "Our guys have responded extremely well."
"Some guys who didn't see much time last year are really playing well for us this year," Brown said. "We have a very talented senior class who have done a great job of leading the way for us."
Brown is 104-35 in his coaching stint with the Goldbugs.
Bird, who has played on the last two teams, leads the team with 16 points per game, while Clark averages 14 points and leads the team with nine rebounds a night.
Fowler entered state as the No. 1 seed last year before falling to No. 7 seed and upset-minded Axtell in the title game 65-56. Two years ago, Fowler lost to eventual champion Frankfort before it defeated Hope for third place. In 2011, Fowler fell to Otis-Bison in the first round.
Fowler takes on B&B in the late game today.
Hutchinson-Central Christian Cougars (16-7)
Coach - Adam Clark (13th year)
Previous state experience - Hutchinson Central Christian lost in the first round to eventual state champion Axtell last season in the first state game in school annals.
Key Players - Ben Krehbiel, 5-7, Jr.; Zac Krehbiel, 5-8, Sr.; Cody Moore, 6-3, Sr.; Marc Vilahur, 5-7, Sr.; Matthew Rich, 6-0, Sr.; Trey Heneha, 6-2, Sr.
Notes - Ben Krehbiel leads the team with 15 points a contest. The Cougars enter as the No. 7 seed and will play second-seeded Wallace County and its high-flying, high-octane offense in the first round. Central Christian has won 10 of its last 11 games and allowed more than 53 points just once, in a loss to South Barber, the No. 1 seed in the final poll. South Barber was upset in the sub-state championship game last Saturday with a 58-52 overtime loss to Attica.
Sharon Springs-Wallace County Wildcats (21-2)
Coach - Larry O'Connor (8th year)
Previous state experience -- Finished fourth in 1A Division II last season. This trip is the seventh for the Wildcats in school history. One appearance came as Sharon Springs in 1925, then Wallace County made it in 1986, 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2013.
Key players -- Cayden Daily, 5-9, sr.; Luke Schemm, 6-2, soph.; Clay Schemm, 6-2, sr., Nate Klinge, 6-0, jr.
Notes -- Prior to last year's fourth-place finish in 1A Division II, the Wildcats had never won a game in its previous five tries at the state tournament. The high-octane Wildcats came in with the ability to put many points on the scoreboard, but eventually fell to recent perennial contender Fowler, 75-63, in the semifinals.
Coach O'Connor, who previously coached at Brewster High School, believes this year's team is better, and deeper than last year's.
Daily, both Schemms, and Klinge each average double figures, and any one of them has gone off on any given night.
The Wildcats pride themselves on good shooting, and get-after-it, numerous-possession play. Daily averages 19.1 points, 3.2 assists, and 6.1 rebounds as the team's 2 guard, while Klinge averages 14.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per night and is what O'Connor called the team's best defender.
Clay Schemm and Luke Schemm, brothers, average 11.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 10.3 potions, 11.4 rebounds, respectively.
At one point in the season, the Wildcats were ranked No. 1 in Class 1A Division II. Two losses eventually came to 1A Division I qualifier Hoxie and Class 2A Syracuse. Hoxie, whom Wallace County beat to begin the season, hasn't lost since.
Wallace County put up only 38 points in its nine-point loss to Syracuse on the heels of playing six games in a multiple back-to-back games due to weather make-ups.
Argonia Raiders (19-4)
Coach -- Dixie Brewster (8th year)
Previous state experience -- This will be the fifth trip to state for Argonia, first since 2011 when it won the Class 1A Division I state title. The Red Raiders beat Hutchinson Central Christian 69-41 that year to finish 26-0. Argonia also took second in 2010 and lost in the first round in 2009.
Key players -- Haylea Hessman, 5-9, Sr.; Faith Gaddie, 5-7, Jr.; Rebekah Fitch, 5-4, Jr.; Shelby McCoy, 5-5, Sr.
Notes -- While Argonia has four losses this season, three of those losses came before the winter break. The only loss since was to Caldwell, 39-36 on Jan. 23, a team it beat 67-47 on Feb. 18.
"I would love to play those four games that we lost over again, because the team we are now isn't the team we were when we lost those games," Brewster said. "We are turning the ball over less, we are rebounding better, and our passing has improved immensely. We've gone from averaging about five assists a game to 13."
The current seniors were freshmen when Argonia won its state title in 2011, although none played a major role on that team. However, the girls have experience at the state level in volleyball, including a third-place finish in the fall at the state tournament in Hays.
The Red Raiders are led by Hessman, who averages 17 points per game.
"However, we have three others (Gaddie, Fitch, McCoy) that have scored in double figures a number of times, and all at different times," Brewster said. "We have four players that can easily score in double figures. It's not been consistently any one. So you have to defend all of our players."
Attica Bulldogs (15-8)
Coach -- Bret Ricke (6th year)
Previous state experience -- This is Attica's first ever trip to the state tournament.
Key players -- Sedna Casper, 5-7, Sr.; Brooke Ricke, 5-5, So.; Valentina Ramirez, 5-10, So.
Notes -- While the Attica boys upset league-rival Kiowa-South Barber in the sub-state championship to make its first state tournament since 1962, the Attica girls managed to top even that. A four seed in their sub-state, the Attica girls stunned top seed Kiowa-South Barber 36-35 in the semifinals before a 38-33 win over Cunningham High School to punch their ticket to the state tournament -- the first state tournament in program history.
The win over South Barber was even more impressive considering it had beaten Attica 45-19 less than a month prior.
"We knew what we were up against," coach Bret Ricke said. "To pull that one off was quite an accomplishment to our team."
Attica has come a long way in a short time. The Bulldogs won just six games last season and three the year before that. They are led by senior Sedna Casper's 12 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Sophomore Valentina Ramirez brings in 11 points and 9 rebounds a game, while sophomore Brooke Ricke scores 10 points a game to go with 6.2 rebounds and 4 assists.
"We finally got some kids in that want to come in and work hard and turn this thing around," Bret Ricke said. "It's nothing I did. I give the kids a big majority of the credit. I think that's where it needs to go anyway."
Baileyville-B&B Falcons (21-3)
Coach -- Roger Schmelzle (1st year, 6th with B&B overall).
Previous state experience -- This is the Falcons 16th state appearance on the girls' side, including last season's first-round exit. B&B has five trips to a state tittle game in 1990, '91, '98 through 2000. Last season when B&B qualified it was the first time since 2006.
Key players -- Katie Huerter, 5-6, sr.; Ashley Kramer, 5-7, sr.; Laura Sudbeck, 5-9, sr.
Notes -- B&B started the season with a loss to Class 2A No. 3 seed Washington County, but then reeled off eight straight victories. Then lost to 1A Division I qualifier Valley Heights. After that, the Falcons went on another eight-game winning streak before falling to Valley Heights in overtime. Since, B&B hasn't lost, including a win against Valley Heights. B&B won last week's sub-state title against Axtell, 40-38, on a shot at the buzzer.
This is B&B's final year of existence as the school is closing. Students will attend Seneca-Nemaha Valley next fall.
Huerter, a guard, averages 12 points and four assists per game to lead the way for the Falcons, while Sudbeck, a 5-9 post player, averages 11 points and eight rebounds. Kramer, also a guard, averages 10 points and five assists per night. B&B generally goes nine deep on the bench for Schmelzle, who coached the B&B boys from 2003 to 2008, including the fourth-place showing in 2005-06.
The top-seeded Falcons play No. 8 seed Attica (15-8) in the 6:30 p.m. first-round game Thursday.
Beloit-St. John's/Tipton Blujays (17-7)
Coach -- Keith Kresin (7th year)
Previous state experience -- In the four years of the school's existence, St. John's/Tipton has made it to the state tournament once, coming in 2011. That year the Blujays lost to Ingalls 40-35 in the quarterfinals.
Key players -- Brenna Eilert, 5-9, Fr.; Kellan Niewald, 5-9, Sr.; Hannah Smith, 5-5, Sr.; Hannah Eilert, 5-9, Sr.; Samantha Hollerich, 5-7, So.
Notes -- The Blujays have had an up and down year while relying heavily on a very young group of girls. With many more underclassmen than veterans, Kresin has seen as many as 10 different players take the court on any given night. The three seniors on the roster were freshmen the last time St. John's/Tipton made the state tournament in 2011.
"We have had some inconsistencies, but that comes with being young," Kresin wrote. "We have steadily gotten better in all aspects of the game and a lot of growing pains. We still have yet to put a whole (four) quarters together. So we are hopeful to compete and have our best game of (the) year against a very talented Bucklin team."
The Blujays are led by freshman forward Brenna Eilert, who averages 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Senior guard Kellan Niewald also averages in double figures at 11.1 points per game, and leads the team with eight rebounds a contest. Niewald also averages 4.1 steals per game.
Bucklin Red Aces (20-3)
Coach -- Craig Bowman (3rd year)
Previous state experience -- The Red Aces took third place in Class 1A Division I in 2013. Prior to that Bucklin last made state in 2004.
Key players -- Morgan Hood, 5-8, Sr.; Janae Price, 5-3, Jr.; Allyson Rudd, 5-5, Jr.
Notes -- Despite beginning the season with only three experienced varsity players on a nine-player roster, the Red Aces have advanced to the state tournament for a second-consecutive season behind the leadership of Hood and Price. Hood, who leads the team with 18.2 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, is signed to play basketball at Fort Hays State University next season.
"With not only her athleticism, but her skill sets, she really leads us on both ends of the floor," Bowman said of Hood. "We rely first and foremost on Morgan's athleticism. She has covered a lot of post players this year just because of our lack of size and lack of athleticism underneath. She has played out of position most of the year."
A three year starter, Price is second on the team with 14.4 points per game.
Bucklin defeated league-rival Ingalls 36-31 in its sub-state championship game. Ingalls was the defending Class IA Division II state champion, having gone 26-0 last season. Ingalls went 18-5 this season.
"It's always exciting to beat such a good team as Ingalls," Bowman said. "Whenever you beat a team like Ingalls, it gives your team a lot of energy and a lot of confidence going anywhere."
Dighton Hornets (17-5)
Coach--Amy Felker (12th season)
Previous state experience -- Appeared three times in Class 2A (1984, '85, '86). Lost in title games to Canton-Galva in 1984 and 1986. Appeared in Class 1A tournament in 1989, 2002 and '09 (lost to Centralia in third place game). Appeared in Class 1A Division II tournament in 2013 (lost to Norwich, 56-35 in first round).
Key Players -- Leslie Speer, 5-10, sr.; Shambrey Budd, 5-6, sr.; Liz Heath, 5-10, sr.; Kiara Budd, 5-4, soph.; Diamond Brown, 5-7, sr.; Jordan Speer, 5-10, fresh.; Sara Cramer, 5-4, fresh.
Notes -- The Lady Hornets will bring experience and depth to their second straight 1A Division II state tourney appearance.
Dighton was the No. 2 seed in the sub-state and defeated top-seed Wallace County, 49-31, to advance to the state tournament.
All five starters return from last year, and the addition of the younger Speer and fellow freshman Sara Cramer (4.8 points per game) has only provided coach Felker with a deeper bench to utilize.
Of the five losses this season, three have come to Class 1A Division I top-ranked Hoxie, one to Class 1A Division II 2013 state champion Ingalls and one to Class 2A Ness City, which played in its sub-state title game.
The Hornets average 52 points and give up 32.6 points. They average 31.8 rebounds, 13.6 assists and 9.6 steals. They shoot 41 percent from the field.
Just as in 2013, defense has been a trademark for the Hornets.
Leslie Speer is the leading scorer at 11.2 points and 6.8 rebounds. Shambrey Budd averages 8.1 points and 6.6 rebounds. Liz Heath averages 7.1 points and 6.0 rebounds. Kiara Budd averages 8.0 points. Jordan Speer averages 6.5 points and 4.0 rebounds.
Rexford-Golden Plains Bulldogs (20-3)
Coach - Parker Christensen (20th season)
Previous state experience -- Golden Plains finished third last season in Class 1A, Division II for the fourth Final Four appearance in school annals. Before last year, the Bulldogs previously reached state in 2007. This is the seventh all-time appearance. The Bulldogs have never won a state title, but did finish second in 1974.
Key Players - Jordan Christensen, 5-11, Sr.; Hailee Spresser, , 5-9, Sr.; Kami Miller, 5-6, Soph.; Mikayla Labato, 5-9, Sr; Madison Walz, 5-10, soph.
Notes - The Bulldogs have lost just once in the season-opening Quinter Castle Rock Classic, against Triplains-Brewster in the league tournament championship. Golden Plains went 3-1 against Triplains-Brewster this season, including a win in the sub-state championship game last week. Coach Christensen's daughter is Jordan, a four-year starter and recruited by multiple colleges, including Colby. Jordan is a returning all-state player. Hailee Spresser is also a four-year starter, while Miller mainly plays point guard and is a strong defender. Last year, Golden Plains started 2-2 before an 18-game winning streak helped the Bulldogs finish 22-3 and in third place.
"We are not very pretty very often, but if get to the fourth quarter and we have got a lead, we are pretty effective," coach Christensen said.
Wilson Dragons (17-6)
Coach -- Rod Seehafer (37th year)
Previous state experience -- This is Wilson's seventh state qualification after finishing fourth last season. Prior to that, the Dragons qualified in 1976, '84, '89 and 2010, '11. Wilson was third in 2011, the second Final Four appearance in school history. The Dragons finished second in 1984.
Key players -- Adrianna Florke, 6-0, jr.; Jenna Shelton, 5-5, soph.; Shania Steinike, 5-10, sr.; Janell Ptacek, 5-9, sr.
Notes -- Despite losing standout Karlie Steinle, who is know playing for Kansas Wesleyan University, the Dragons find themselves back at state after a 58-49 win against Otis-Bison in the Otis-Bison sub-state.
This is Wilson's fourth trip to the state tournament in five seasons. Last season's high hopes team came away with a fourth-place finish. Wilson, the No. 6 seed, will play the team that defeated the Dragons in the final game last year -- Golden Plains.
Florke leads the team with an inside presence. She averages 15.1 points and 11.1 rebounds, while Steinike chips in 12 points and 4.5 rebounds. Ptacek adds 7.2 points and 6.4 rebounds.