Welcome to the first Hoops Rewind of 2019! The first game back from the holiday break is always full of surprises and Friday night’s crop of games was no exceptions. Let’s get into a recap…

-Anybody still wondering if Topeka High Lady Trojans basketball was an early season fluke is sleeping heavy on a legit Centennial League title contender. The Lady Trojans already proved they could hang with the league’s, and 6A’s, titans when they took Washburn Rural to the wire before the holiday break. Friday night, they showed that they can do more than hang – they can win. A stirring second-half comeback saw High topple Manhattan 50-48 at the Dungeon. After looking frazzled early while the Lady Indians built a 9-0 lead to start and a 16-point first-half advantage, a switch flipped for the Lady Trojans in the second half. They got back in control of the tempo, took better care of the ball while forcing numerous Manhattan turnovers, and showed tremendous poise down the stretch, making nine of twelve free throws in the final quarter to pull ahead and win. NiJaree Canady turned in a gritty 16-point performance and Talayah Thomas added 15 points as the two freshmen carried the offense. Laryn Murray helped to ice the game with her free-throw shooting. The Lady Trojans are 6-1 and very much a factor in the league race with rematches against Rural and Manhattan looming in February.

The Topeka High boys didn’t just lead for the entire game against Manhattan – they led before the game ever started. DaVonshai Harden made two technical free throws to start the game and then added eight more points in the first 1:24 of action, and the Trojans never looked back in a 53-31 triumph that lifted them to 6-1. Harden was done scoring after his early flurry, but Ky Thomas picked up the slack from there and had a game-high 18 to lead High’s efforts. The Trojan defensive effort stood out – they have great athleticism on the perimeter and maybe the city’s best on-ball defender in Kee’Andre Smith to make life difficult, and should teams get inside, the city’s leading shot-blocker, King Sutton, is waiting to erase shots at the rim. When the Trojans really click on offense, they could be scary good.

-Only one city-vs-city clash took place Friday as Washburn Rural hosted Highland Park. In the girls game, unbeaten Rural easily handled the still-shorthanded Lady Scots 67-52 in a game that wasn’t as close as that final score indicated. With Highland Park still without Jae’Mya Lyons and Dariauna Carter, they just didn’t have the offensive firepower needed to challenge Rural’s stifling defense, or enough size to keep the tenacious Lady Junior Blues off the glass. That defense and rebounding led to several transition opportunities that the Lady Junior Blues are generally ruthless in finishing. Carly Bachelor posted her typical double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds – you can virtually pencil her in for 20 and 10 every night – but the game’s high scorer for Rural was freshman Emma Krueger, who scored 22 points, 18 in the first half. Rural head coach Kevin Bordewick was enthusiastic about Krueger’s potential and each game that goes by it’s easier to see what all the fuss was about. She’s developing into a confident offensive player that takes pressure off of Bachelor and Kasey Hamilton, who are good enough to get their offense no matter what.

In the boys game, the still-perfect Junior Blues ran away and hid in a 69-38 rout. Joe Berry is emerging as a sophomore as Rural’s top offensive threat most nights, and his 18 points led a balanced attack. Any team still under the impression that limiting Jordan White is the key to beating Washburn Rural is in for a rude awakening, as Berry, Savian Edwards and Armahn Downing are also double-figure threats and White is happy to play the role of distributor and fourth-quarter closer. Highland Park continues to go through the growing pains expected with such a young team, but CJ Powell continues to impress. The sophomore scored 18 points to lead the Scots in the contest.

-Other notes from around the city: Topeka West got on the board with wins at Junction City – Elijah Brooks led a frantic fourth-quarter comeback for the Chargers in a 67-60 win that should give Rick Bloomquist’s crew a great deal of confidence moving forward, and the Lady Chargers were dominant in a 48-28 win with Gabby Rivera, Miyah Larson and Brendeja Holloman all scoring in double figures… Trey Duffey continues to look unstoppable as his 27 points carried Seaman to a 56-54 win over Emporia… the Seaman Lady Vikes are starting to click, as they beat Emporia 51-39 for their fourth straight win behind a stat-sheet-stuffing performance from Chloe Carter (12 points, five assists, three steals, three blocks)… a big second half helped Shawnee Heights move to 5-1 and 3-0 in the United Kansas Conference with a 62-47 win over De Soto, with Harvey Davis Jr. bullying his way to a game-high 17 points for Ken Darting’s squad… the Lady T-Birds fell to 0-3 in their new league after a 57-34 loss to a very good De Soto team, but Alie Fulks‘ 16-point effort served notice that she may be ready to emerge as a top scoring threat that her team sorely needs… Hayden had Friday off but on Saturday the Wildcat boys made it rain from three (12 made triples) in a 67-56 win over Ottawa.