By JIM MISUNAS
Defending Central Kansas League basketball champion champion Hesston (5-1) will be challenged by surprising Sterling (6-0) and Larned (5-1) among others.
No. 10 Class 3A state-ranked Sterling features high-scoring Kyler Comley (17 ppg) and Kenan Comley (14 ppg) and Blake Richter has performed at a high level. The Black Bears won the Kingman Tournament.
Jamal Rogers (16 ppg) and shooter Luke Wells have been an effective scoring tandem for No. 10 state-ranked Class 4A-Division 2 Haven (5-1).
Larned (5-1) relies on offensive balance with Evan Skelton, Jordan Zimmerman, Trevor Meyer, Tanner Galliart and Isiah Perez scoring in double figures.
Zach Esau, Scott Duerksen and Garrett Roth have led Hesston’s boys, ranked sixth in Class 3A.
Hillsboro (4-1) features a one-two punch of shooter Elias Werth (14 ppg) and 6-7 Austin Cross (13 ppg).
Pratt (2-3) has relied on shooter Jacob Kurz, Hayden Schrag and Travis Theis. The Greenbacks made a dozen 3-pointers against Hoisington. Leading scorer Samson Kohman is sidelined with an injury.
Nickerson (2-4) lacks height and an inside presence, but the Panthers trio of Braden Stewart (14 ppg), Cody Casey and Tanner Schrag have provided quality play. The Panthers play a fast pace with pressure defense.
Halstead (2-4) is built behind Trevor Thomas (16 ppg) and Eli McKee.
Lyons (2-4) is led by Jesse Hursey (14 ppg).
Hoisington (1-4) features a one-two scoring punch from all-league Steffan Dolechek (19 ppg) and Christopher Wright (15 ppg), but the Cardinals lack a defensive identity.
Smoky Valley (1-3) is led by Nick Reinert, who won the Halstead game with clutch free throw shooting.
The Central Kansas League girls division is stacked with high-quality teams. Defending champion Hesston (4-2) will join four other one-loss teams after the holiday break. Hesston had a 43-game winning streak snapped by Garden Plain and also lost to Kingman 42-39. Cami Richardson is averging 15 ppg and Kailey Jo Ince has played well.
Kylah Comley is averaging 18 ppg and Emma Lamberrt is averaging 14 ppg for No. 3 ranked Class 3A Sterling (5-1), which finished as the Kingman Tournament runner-up.
No. 6 Class 4A-Division 2 state-ranked Haven (5-1) is led by Emmiley Hendrixson, Katelynn Stucky and Jacy Ummel.
No. 9 ranked Class 2A Hillsboro (4-1) is paced by Alex Raztlaff (23 ppg) and Tas Sanchez.
Rylie Koester (18 ppg), Karisa Schremmer and Marisa Jonas have led the defensive-minded Hoisington Cardinals (4-1).
Lyons (4-2) is led by Ruth Pineda, Ashlee Tingle and Bailey Hollinger.
Halstead (4-2) is paced by McKenzie Anderson (13 ppg) and Daphne Williams.
Leading Pratt scorer Breann Becker is sidelined with a foot injury. Allison McGowan and Hannah Coates will lead Pratt (3-2).
No. 4 state-ranked Class 4A-Division 2 Kingman (3-3) relies on Bailey Bangert (17 ppg), Sydney Bangert and Cheyenne Jackson.
Nickerson (2-4) broke a 51-game losing streak with a 52-34 victory over Plainville. Sophie Mader (11 ppg) and Brooke Engelland have paced the Panthers.
Katie Bellah has paced the Smoky Valley (1-3) girls.
Haley Skelton (12 ppg) and Erin Smith have led the Larned Indians (1-5).