HESSTON — Before the season, no girls basketball coach probably was happier to see a change in classifications than Hesston’s Matt Richardson.
The last two years his team had enjoyed incredible seasons, only to see them end up a game short of the Class 4A State Tournament because of the McPherson juggernaut. The Bullpups won a pair of hard-fought sub-state championship games in 2012 and 2013, even though the Swathers were probably better than most of the teams that played in Salina.
When Class 4A broke into two classifications, the Swathers figured to be away from McPherson in Division II. Just imagine how Richardson felt when the break put Hesston in Class 3A.
The Swathers take a 22-1 record into Thursday’s Class 3A State Tournament at the famed Hutchinson Sports Arena, where they play Douglass (18-5) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. A win and the Swathers would take on either Cimarron (21-2) or Council Grove (19-4) at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Hesston is a two-point loss from a perfect season. It lost to undefeated and No. 1 ranked (Class 4A) Wamego by two points, 47-45, in the semifinals of the Hillsboro Classic in a clash of the titans.
Richardson is taking nothing for granted in the first round, as Douglass would appear to be more than capable.
“We have to come to play on Thursday against Douglass,” said Richardson, whose team is 59-10 over the last three years. “Coach (Jason) Wilson will bring a ton of pressure and a variety of defenses.”
The Swathers have a lot of familiar names. They are led by sisters 6-0 junior Caylee and 5-10 sophomore Cami Richardson, daughters of the coach. Their skills are strikingly similar, as Caylee averages 12.8 points a game and Cami 11.2.
Kelsey Unruh, a 6-1 junior, is the third prong of the three-pronged attack as she furnishes 11.5 points. The other starters are speedy 5-6 senior Ali Jost and 5-7 senior Hannah Schmitt.
On the other side of the bracket, Riley County (22-1) is a heavy favorite to advance, though it could get a push in the first round from unheralded 15-8 Lyons, which plays a tough schedule. Caney (20-3) and Nemaha Valley (19-4) are matched in the other opener.