The Indians are headed back to Wichita — and this time, they’ve got a year of experience in the state tournament under their belts.
With a 63-55 sub-state title game victory over SM South on Saturday, the Indians punched their ticket for a return trip to the state 6A tournament, which kicks off at the Charles Koch Arena in Wichita Thursday.
Like SM East two nights before, SM South trailed throughout the night, but hung around just close enough to keep it interesting, nipping at the Indians’ heels even into the fourth quarter. But while the Indians weren’t able to put the Raiders away, SM North’s work to limit the effectiveness of SM South’s bigs — namely Yor Anei and AJ Webster — helped them keep the game in hand.
“They slowed down the tempo, which is not the way we wanted it, and their height kind of got to us,” said coach Steve Stitzer. “But once we started getting their bigs in foul trouble, it kind of took care of itself.”
As has been the case through much of the year, the Indians were led by brothers Marcus and Michael Weathers. Marcus was the night’s top scorer with 21 points. Michael was second with 18. Marcus said the team had been careful not to overlook SM South, which had been playing well in recent weeks.
“We came into this game not looking forward to state, because we knew we had to get past this team,” he said.
Now, the Indians turn their attention to exceeding their performance in last year’s state tourney, where they fell in the semi-finals to Sunflower League rival Lawrence. Stitzer said he won’t make any predictions about how his team will fare in Wichita, but that “I think we’ve got a better chance of doing well.”
Michael Weathers said the team will be looking to keep its fast-paced offense in gear for the tournament.
“Our philosophy is to keep runnin’ and gunnin’,” he said. “Teams can’t keep up with us with our guard play, but we’ve also got to…keep calm and run the clock down.”
SM North comes into the eight-team state tournament bracket as the three seed, and will face defending state champion Wichita East, the six seed, in opening round play Thursday at 8:15 p.m. The winner of that game will face either Blue Valley Northwest or Wichita South on Friday. Lawrence, the only other Sunflower League team in the tournament, is the top seed at 20-2 on the year — with one of their losses coming at home to the Indians.