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Class 4A-Division II girls tournament preview

Published March 11 at 3:42 p.m. | Last updated March 12 at 10:29 a.m.

At Hartman Arena, Park City

Wednesday’s Quarterfinals

3 p.m.: Clay Center vs. Burlington

No. 8 Clay Center (8-14) – The Tigers are making their first state tournament trip since 1999. Though it enters with the field’s worst record, Clay Center has gone 5-6 since a 3-8 start, including a pair of road wins to start 2014. The Tigers are at their best when keeping games defense oriented, as they’re not reached 40 points in any of their wins.

No. 1 Burlington (21-1) – The 2013 Class 3A champion, Burlington moves above that classification for the first time in its seventh tournament berth since 2000. The Wildcats dropped their first game, an 86-84 shootout against Louisburg, before winning 21 straight, the last seven by 25 points or better. A mostly balanced offense includes six players averaging at least 5.8 points, led by senior Breanna Bluma, who fills up the box score with averages of 15 points, four rebounds, four assists and five steals.

4:45: Pratt vs. Santa Fe Trail

No. 5 Pratt (16-6) – After no trips to state in the 21st century, Pratt has made it three in a row. The Greenbacks are dynamic offensively while often recognized most for their defense, winning games with scores such as 55-19, 70-29 and 50-27. Senior Jenson Maydew has been an integral part of each of Pratt’s recent state tourney teams, and she helped it back to state by scoring 21 in the sub-state championship win over Russell.

No. 4 Santa Fe Trail (19-3) – Another team without a tourney berth since 1999, Santa Fe Trail reached Park City on the strength of its defense, averaging 10 steals and more than five blocks while allowing 42 points per game. Shelby Dahl, a 5-foot-11 senior, leads the Chargers in scoring and blocks and has been held below 12 points twice. Against Jefferson West on Dec. 20, Dahl had a triple-double with 26 points, 10 rebounds and 11 blocks, along with four assists and four steals.

6:30: Trinity Academy vs. Frontenac

No. 7 Trinity Academy (14-8) – Trinity started 2-4 before launching a three-game winning streak, one of three streaks of at least three wins. The average score during the first winning streak was 57-24, and the Knights have been a solid defensive team ever since. They’re balanced offensively, featuring no true go-to player but several players who can serve as prominent scoring options at any given time.

No. 2 Frontenac (20-2) – A year after falling in its first Class 4A sub-state championship, Frontenac is in the 4A tournament for the first time, last reaching the 3A tourney in 2010. The Raiders’ seniors own a four-year record of 77-15, capping their careers with their first state berth. Frontenac has won 14 straight, and its two losses are by a combined 10 points. Haley Wilson leads three double-figure scorers with a 12.7 average.

8:15: Holton vs. Hugoton

No. 6 Holton (15-7) – Holton won Class 4A in 2011 before the classification split. After a 4-6 start, the Wildcats have gone 11-1, never allowing more than 46 points in their victories. Their last defeat was a 53-32 loss to fellow 4A-II tourney participant Santa Fe Trail on Feb. 18, preceding a four-game winning streak. Kyrstie Miller owns more than 1,000 career points and is averaging 14.5 points and 10.5 rebounds. She is one of three Holton players 5-foot-10 or taller.

No. 3 Hugoton (19-3) – Hugoton last reached the tournament in 1993. Its top three scorers are all freshmen – Katy Heger (15.3), Amy Scott (13.3) and Melissa Fabela, the team’s first player off the bench (8). Defensively, the playmaking comes from juniors Steff Armendariz and Riley Sosa, also one of the top perimeter shooters. The Eagles include no seniors and play a swarming, full-court defense that often induces transition baskets.

Friday’s semifinals

Clay Center-Burlington winner vs. Pratt-Santa Fe Trail winner, 3 p.m.

Trinity Academy-Frontenac winner vs. Holton-Hugoton winner, 6:30

Saturday’s finals

Third-place game, noon

Championship, 4 p.m.

Joanna Chadwick’s picks

Burlington over Holton