HESSTON — Hesston High girls basketball coach Matt Richardson knows that three of the best teams in Class 3A won’t be competing in the state tournament this week at the venerable Hutchinson Sports Arena.
The Swathers saw to that.
The defending 3A champions survived a tortuous sub-state that included the team they beat for the title last year (Lyons) as well as Sterling and Southeast of Saline, teams that were state worthy, but are now probably griping about the inequities of the much-discussed sub-state system.
Hesston, three wins away from a perfect 26-0 season after going 25-1 a year ago, carry the role of favorite into the tournament and play 14-9 Galena at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
“We are very fortunate to be at the state tourney with the sub-state that we had,” Richardson said. “There were some very tough teams in our sub-state.”
Galena’s record hardly looks imposing, but Richardson believes it could be deceiving.
“Our first game is going to be tough as Galena is on a roll and playing very well late into the season as they returned a very talented player from injury,” he said.
Hesston has plenty of state experience returning, including the Big 3 of Caylee Richardson, Kelsey Unruh and Cami Richardson.
Caylee Richardson is averaging 13.3 points and 8.7 rebounds, while Unruh checks in at 11.0 and 4.5, respectively. Cami Richardson is at 9.3 and 4.5, respectively.
Jessanna Nebel, who had a great sub-state tournament, averages 6.7 points and Abigail Decker (1.2) rounds out the lineup.
This is the final go-around for Caylee Richardson, Unruh and Nebel and they like to finish their careers with back-to-back championships.
Katelyn Hageman gives the Swathers firepower off the bench as she averages 5.3 points a game. Other subs who see time are Audrey Winslow, Kailey Jo Ince and Kylie Brenneman. Winslow is the only senior.
What makes Hesston so difficult is its length. Unruh is 6-1, Caylee Richardson is 6-0, Ince is 5-11, and Nebel and Cami Richardson are 5-10. The Richardsons have terrific versatility.
While the Swathers’ offense can come and go, they hang their hat on defense as they are difficult to score on.
Should Hesston win, it would play the winner of Beloit and Sabetha, both 20-3, at 6:30 p.m. Friday. Cimarron, 23-0, is the favorite on the other side of the bracket.