Class 5A girls preview capsules
At Kansas Expocentre, Topeka
No. 8 Newton (14-8) — The Railroaders have gone through the gauntlet, having played seven games against state qualifiers. When Newton holds opponents under 40 points, it is 8-2. The Railers have two scorers averaging double digits in guard Maddie Pendry (10.4 points) and 6-foot-2 Abby Lehman (11.4) in the post. Newton has won eight of its last 11 games since losing three straight in January.
No. 1 Blue Valley (19-3) — Four players with experience from last season’s second-place team are back, as Taylor Leathers (12.1 points), Mackenzie Johnson (10.7) and Bailey Geiman (10.0) lead a balanced attack. The Tigers have held opponents to 32.2 points on average and have won 14 games by double-digits. Blue Valley has won its last 10 games and is 8-3 against teams with winning records. In games decided by five points or less, the Tigers are 5-2.
No. 5 Topeka Seaman (16-6) — Behind a stingy defense that hasn’t allowed over 45 points, the Vikings are back at state for the third time in the last five years. Seaman is 12-0 when it scores at least 40 points, thanks to a defense that allows 31.8 points on average. The Vikings are led by senior Kelsey Akin (11.3 points, 4.8 rebounds). Despite playing a low-tempo game, Seaman has won 11 games by double digits.
No. 4 Andover (16-6) — Six players from last season’s state-qualifying team are back, but only two starters. Senior Audrey Meisch is the leading scorer at 12.9 points. The Trojans have won on average by 19.6 points and haven’t lost a game when they’ve scored at least 50 points. Andover is also 15-0 when it holds opponents to under 40 points.
No. 7 St. Thomas Aquinas (14-8) — The Saints are the defending state champions, but only two players return from that team. Aquinas has defeated seven teams with winning records and has a 17.1 average margin of victory. The Saints rely on a balanced scoring attack, led by its only returning starter Tia Weledji (8.8 points). Aquinas has lost once when it has scored at least 40 points.
No. 2 Salina Central (19-3) — After finishing last season 11-10, the Mustangs flourished behind Division I prospects Emily Wood (12.7 points) and Shaelyn Martin (11.7 points, 9.3 rebounds). Central will be playing in its first state tournament since 1985. The Mustangs have lost once in the 18 games they scored more than 40 points. Central is 8-3 against teams with winning records, including four wins against state qualifiers.
No. 6 Highland Park (15-7) — After qualifying last season, Highland Park returns this season with a two-win improvement. Only one of the Scots’ 15 victories has come against a team with a winning record. Highland Park has played its best in close games, owning a 7-1 record in games decided by single digits. After starting the season 8-0, Highland Park lost 6 of 7 before winning its last four games.
No. 3 Kapaun Mount Carmel (18-4) — Kapaun enters having won its last nine games to end a five-year state tournament drought in coach Marvin Estes’ first year back. The Crusaders have a three-pronged attack in Sydney Kuhn (11.8 points), Katie Andersen (10.2) and Sam Bachrodt (9.3). In the 18 games Kapaun has scored at least 45 points, it has only lost once. During their winning streak, the Crusaders have held opponents to 36.7 points.
Newton-Blue Valley winner vs. Topeka Seaman-Andover winner, 3 p.m.
St. Thomas Aquinas-Salina Central winner vs. Highland Park-Kapaun winner, 6:30
Third-place game, noon
Championship, 4 p.m.