Kansas.com

All Varsity Kansas Stories

Class 3A boys tournament preview

Published March 11 at 5:24 p.m. | Last updated March 12 at 10:29 a.m.

At Hutchinson Sports Arena

Wednesday’s Quarterfinals

3 p.m.: Wellsville vs. Beloit

No. 7 Wellsville (20-3) — The last time Wellsville entered the state playoffs with a 20-3 record, it went on to win the title in 1994. The team also won a state championship in 1987 with Thatcher Decker, now the coach. Decker and his five senior leaders have taken the team to a 13-game winning streak entering the state playoffs and its first league title in 15 years. Carter Mann (15 points, 4 rebounds) leads the team.

No. 2 Beloit (22-1) — Back for the third consecutive year, the Trojans are hoping to get past the first round this time. They’ve got the momentum with an 11-game winning streak, led by 6-foot-2 senior guard Payton Vetter (19.7 points, 3.7 rebounds) and sophomore Bailey Vetter (13.2 points). Coach Ryan Eilert topped 100 wins for his career in just his sixth season, but for the state playoffs he’s set a new milestone “to make a weekend out of it and not just a night.”

4:45: Holcomb vs. Nemaha Valley

No. 6 Holcomb (20-3) — Back in the tournament for the first time in five years, the Longhorns have an 11-game winning streak dating back to a six-point loss against top-ranked Hesston in January. Trey Sleep (17.3 points, 5.8 rebounds) and Heath Tucker (15.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists) lead the team offensively. With head coach Chad Novack in charge, Holcomb will try for their first state championship since 1992, when Chad’s father, Dave Novack, was coach.

No. 3 Nemaha Valley (21-2) — This is becoming an annual trip – the seventh in a row – but the state championship has remained elusive during the streak. The Raiders reached the state finals in 2008 and 2012 and won it all in 1984 and 1988. Point guard Justice McKernan (12.7 points, 5.1 assists) runs the offense with help from forward Caleb Meyer (11.9 points, 5.7 rebounds). The team has built some momentum with its man-to-man defense, getting here by holding Sabetha to 22-percent shooting and almost 30 points below its season average.

6:30: Wichita Collegiate vs. Hesston

No. 8 Wichita Collegiate (16-7) — After upsetting Douglass in the sub-state final, the Spartans hope to pull off a similar upset in the first round with three sophomore starters and four more on the roster. They reached this point two years ago at the 4A level and lost, but this team has proven capable of pulling off upsets. Landon Root is the lone senior starter, but the team spreads its offense over far more than the five starters. No player averages more than nine points on a team that averages almost 60 combined.

No. 1 Hesston (23-0) — Undefeated since moving down from 4A, the Swathers reached the 3A tournament after losing their 4A sub-state title game a year ago. Four Swathers average more than 10 points, led by junior guard Grant Raleigh (14 points, 3.7 assists), son of coach Greg Raleigh. At 6-foot-6, senior post player Wyatt McKinney (12.8 points, 7.2 rebounds) knows his place on defense, where the Swathers allow fewer than 40 points.

8:15: Rock Creek vs. Riverton

No. 5 Rock Creek (20-3) — Back into the state playoffs for the second time in 21 years, the team has come a long way after losing four starters from a year ago. They’ll bring a 12-game winning streak into the tournament with a dangerous offense, led by senior guard Ryan Schneider (18.5 points, 4 rebounds) and 6-foot-5 sophomore post Carson Becker (13 points, 7 rebounds). Rock Creek went undefeated in league play with four players averaging double-figure points.

No. 4 Riverton (20-2) – Junior guard Landon North (16.9 points, 3 assists) and sophomore forward Grant North (16.3 points, 7.9 rebounds) are cousins and lead a team that likes to create offense out of its defense. The last time they reached the state playoffs, Ron Baker and Scott City took them down in 2011. The team reached the state championship game in 1996 but lost to Collegiate.

Friday’s semifinals

Wellsville-Beloit winner vs. Holcomb-Nemaha Valley winner, 4:45 p.m.

Wichita Collegiate-Hesston winner vs. Rock Creek-Riverton winner, 8:15

Saturday’s finals

Third-place game, 2 p.m.

Championship, 6:15

Joanna Chadwick’s picks

Hesston over Nemaha Valley