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‘Flawless’ start enough for Topeka West boys basketball in 77-62 win over Junction City



TOPEKA, Kan. – Friday night served as a reminder to the rest of Class 5A boys basketball that, yes, Topeka West is a team to be reckoned with as the season enters its home stretch.

Thing is, it also illustrated that these Chargers remain far from a finished product.

“The first half was flawless, but basketball is an imperfect game played by imperfect people, which we showed in the second half,” said West head coach Rick Bloomquist. “So it balanced out.”

The Chargers scorched the net early in its home contest versus Junction City en route to a 20-point halftime lead, watched as that advantage dwindled to just six points early in the fourth quarter, then clamped down defensively across the final seven minutes to earn a 77-62 victory over the Blue Jays. Elijah Brooks scored 28 points and Marque Wilkerson pitched in 21 for West, which won its seventh straight contest.

The outcome wasn’t as easy as the game’s first half teased it might be.

The Chargers (13-2, 10-1 Centennial League) hit 12 of their first 13 field goal attempts and led 28-11 after the first quarter. Wilkerson’s lob delivered to a dunking Brooks in the final seconds of the second period established a 52-32 lead and capped a remarkably efficient opening 16 minutes for the pair — Brooks was 10 of 11 from the floor with 22 points in the first half and Wilkerson 5 of 5 with 12 points for West, which collectively shot 22 of 30 before intermission.

But the Blue Jays (7-9, 5-8), who fell by just two points last week at home to the Chargers, didn’t roll over. The visitors outscored West 20-12 in the third quarter, with Brooks and Wilkerson held to just three combined shot attempts in the period. Back-to-back 3s by Seth Clark and Chris Dixon on Junction City’s first two possessions of the fourth quarter trimmed the Charger lead to 64-58.

“As perfect as we played the first half, we were as imperfect the second half,” Bloomquist said. “A lot of that goes to Junction City not giving up and still being persistent with us. We got a little sloppy. We got a little lax. Sometimes when you get a big lead like that the game looks easy and feels easy, and then we started playing easy. It’s a learning thing every night.”

Wilkerson and Brooks — who else? — responded with buckets on back-to-back possessions to re-establish a double-digit lead, and the Charger defense turned it up a notch, holding the Blue Jays without a make for nearly five minutes. While Sheldon Butler-Lawson’s put-back layup ended that drought and trimmed the visitors’ deficit to 69-60, West’s Xavier Alexander took a key charge on the next Junction City possession.

Wilkerson and Brooks then hit consecutive layups for an exhale-worthy 13-point lead.

“Junction City did a good job of hitting the corners and their shots started falling,” Bloomquist said. “Sometimes when you get loose, when you’re pretty loose, it’s pretty easy for shots to go in. Sometimes when you tense up like we did, our shots weren’t falling, as well. I was very disappointed in the third quarter, the way we approached it defensively. … We came back. That’s the key. We answered their run. Junction City is a very athletic team. They can make runs easy.

“It’s the best of both worlds: I loved part of the game and the other part of the game I hated.”

Brooks, who has battled an ankle injury for most of the season, finished the game 13-for-14 shooting. Bloomquist observed that the 6-foot-3 junior is “getting more confidence” on his ankle, which is “getting stronger” with every appearance.

“He played pretty strong inside today. I was really happy with the way he played,” Bloomquist said. “We probably should’ve got him more touches inside because they had a hard time stopping him. That’s something we have to talk about.”

Trevion Alexander added 15 points for the Chargers. Dixon’s 20 points and three made 3s led the way for the Blue Jays.

West now turns its focus to a high-stakes road matchup Monday at second-place Washburn Rural, the next step in a six-games-in-12-days stretch for the Chargers.

“We’re going to see how tough our kids are,” Bloomquist said. “… We’re on an NBA schedule. I may go rent a plane and fly around the block and come back and let them know what it feels like to be a superstar.”

Free throw disparity dooms West girls

Junction City’s Mellana Davis scored a game-high 19 points and went 9 for 12 from the free-throw line in Friday night’s 39-35 victory against the West girls, who themselves went a collective 2 for 3 from the stripe in the defeat.

The Chargers (2-12, 1-10) actually led 23-21 at halftime but converted just four second-half field goal attempts in what became a defensive struggle. The Blue Jays (6-11, 4-9) won despite shooting 23% from the floor.

Siani Sanchez and Whitley Benson each scored five points to pace West, which got at least one made field goal by 11 different players.


Junction City;11;21;20;10;—;62

Topeka West;28;24;12;13;—;77

Junction City (7-9, 5-8 Centennial League) — Dixon 8-17 1-2 20, Smith 1-2 0-0 2, Clark 5-8 0-0 11, Johnson 2-9 4-4 8, Rowell 1-2 0-0 2, Baer 0-2 0-0 0, Butler-Lawson 3-4 0-0 6, Felton 0-1 0-0 0, George 0-1 0-0 0, Tedder 5-9 0-0 13. Totals 25-55 5-6 62.

Topeka West (13-2, 10-1 Centennial League) — Wilkerson 8-11 5-5 21, Brooks 13-14 2-2 28, Austin 1-4 1-2 3, T. Alexander 5-9 5-7 15, Putthoff 2-5 0-0 5, Lira 1-2 0-0 3, X. Alexander 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 31-48 13-16 77.

3-point goals — Junction City 7 (Dixon 3, Tedder 3, Clark), Topeka West 2 (Putthoff, Lira). Total fouls — Junction City 15, Topeka West 7. Fouled out — none. Technical fouls — none.


Junction City;11;10;9;9;—;39

Topeka West;12;11;4;8;—;35

Junction City (6-11, 4-9 Centennial League) — Robinson 0-2 2-2 2, Harris 0-4 0-0 0, Davis 5-15 9-12 19, Deguzman 1-4 0-0 2, Rivera 5-22 4-4 16, Nebus 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 11-48 15-18 39.

Topeka West (2-12, 1-10 Centennial League) — S. Triplett 2-5 0-0 4, Sanchez 2-6 0-0 5, Benson 2-4 0-1 5, Clark 1-8 0-0 2, Ford 1-5 0-0 2, Henderson 1-4 0-0 3, Davis 1-3 0-0 2, Anthony 1-4 0-0 3, Jones 1-6 0-0 2, Duncan 1-2 0-0 3, N. Triplett 1-2 2-2 4. Totals 14-49 2-3 35.

3-point goals — Junction City 2 (Rivera 2). Total fouls — Junction City 12, Topeka West 12. Fouled out — none. Technical fouls — none.