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‘Scrapping’ Highland Park boys run streak to seven with 60-49 win at Topeka High



TOPEKA, Kan. – Michael Williams isn’t one to make excuses.

In fact, it appears even the most valid ones often don’t cross the Highland Park boys basketball coach’s mind.

Speaking on his team’s uneven performance in Tuesday night’s 60-49 victory at Topeka High, Williams indicated fatigue — the Scots were playing their second game in 24 hours and their third since Friday night — wasn’t where his mind went as Highland Park struggled to put the finishing touches on its win over the last-place Trojans.

“You know, I’m glad you said that, because I forgot about that,” responded Williams with a laugh. “We did just play last night.”

Williams also isn’t one to apologize for a win, shaky or otherwise.

The Scots (10-5, 9-3 Centennial League) held a 32-16 halftime lead on the strength of a tenacious and swarming defense — the Trojans (2-12, 2-9) connected on just five field goals across the game’s opening two quarters. That advantage grew to 18 midway through the third quarter, but that’s when Highland Park’s defense faltered, allowing a barrage of layups that cut its lead to 47-41 with 2:46 left to play.

Williams’ crew closed it out from there, though — 6-foot-7 senior CJ Powell’s layup through contact and subsequent free-throw make gave the Scots a 50-41 advantage, and in the final minute, Powell and teammate Mukhajhae Daniels notched back-to-back layups in a game-clinching sequence that ballooned the visitors’ lead back to 12.

“(Fatigue) probably was (a factor) to a certain degree, but the reality of it is, we’re a mature group,” Williams said. “We have a good amount of seniors on our team. We have kids that have been in the fire. We’ve been in big Februarys. We went to state last year. So we’ve got to be able to battle fatigue mentally. Our bodies may be tired, but our mindset has got to grow and overtake that.”

Daniels finished with a team-high 15 points, while Powell, Juan’Tario Roberts and Jahi Peppers each pitched in 11 points for the Scots, who have now won seven straight games.

Highland Park earned a 57-50 victory Monday at Emporia, and Powell had 19 points in that tilt, continuing a post-holiday tear that has coincided with the Scots’ reemergence. He couldn’t replicate that success Tuesday — three early fouls planted him on the bench for the entire the third quarter — but the way the Trojans went right at the standout forward could serve as a valuable learning experience.

“I just think he’s got to figure that stuff out,” Williams said. “The reality is they’re going to attack him on the other end to try to get him in foul trouble. Defensively they’re going to be stepping in, sliding over to take charges with the idea, again, to get him in foul trouble.”

Powell made the necessary in-game adjustment when it mattered most, however, tiptoeing around a charge-minded Trojan defender in the paint for a smooth finish and the first layup of the crunch-time combo with Daniels.

“He’s a mature kid,” Williams said of Powell. “He’s played really, really well over this stretch.”

Jayden Leesman converted each of his final seven field goal attempts and scored a game-high 17 points for the Trojans, who shot 53% from the floor but went just 15 for 31 on their free-throw attempts.

That High converted 12 of 19 second-half shot attempts didn’t sit well with Williams.

“Putting a full game together, (we’re) still not doing that just yet. That’s the biggest thing,” Williams said. “Obviously basketball is a game of runs, but you don’t want runs to be the only thing you’re putting together within the game. You want to put four quarters together. You want to put 32 minutes together. We want to put both sides of the ball together, all phases.

“Even with that being said, though, our boys are grinding right now. They’re grinding, they’re scrapping, they’re staying together. We figured it out. I think we’ve battled through a lot of tests, we’ve showed resilience and we’re setting ourselves up down the stretch of the year to potentially play in some big games that could be pretty fun here coming up.”

A breather now awaits the Scots, who are off until a Feb. 16 home matchup with Manhattan.

“I think the biggest thing is we want to keep pace in the league,” Williams said. “Obviously we dropped games early on and it kind of set us back, but all we can do is control us. We want to try to find ways to win. Next week are two opportunities to do that, to keep pace, and then put some pressure on some people the last week of the season when we play Topeka West and Washburn Rural.”

Smith sensational as Trojan girls rout Scots

Topeka High standout sophomore Kiki Smith needed just a handful of minutes to score more points than Highland Park could muster across the course of the entirety of Tuesday’s contest, erupting for a 24-point first quarter in the top-ranked Trojans’ 88-20 victory over the winless Scots.

Smith, who finished with 28 points after collecting just a handful of second-quarter minutes and sitting for the entirety of the second half, finished her abbreviated appearance 12-for-14 shooting with a pair of made 3s. Fellow sophomore Faith Shields pitched in 19 points off the bench for the Trojans (14-0, 11-0), who won big despite playing without star junior NiJaree Canady.

Aisya Taylor’s 12 points led the way for Highland Park (0-12, 0-11), which committed 10 first-quarter turnovers, trailed 62-12 at halftime and converted just five field goal attempts for the contest.


Highland Park;15;17;9;19;—;60

Topeka High;9;7;14;19;—;49

Highland Park (10-5, 9-3 Centennial League) — Daniels 6-11 3-5 15, Peppers 3-6 5-6 11, Powell 4-11 3-7 11, Prosper 0-2 0-0 0, Kingcannon 2-3 0-2 6, Simms 1-1 0-0 3, Roberts 3-9 4-4 11, Adams 1-1 0-0 3, Flores 0-2 0-0 0. Total 20-46 15-24 60.

Topeka High (2-12, 2-9 Centennial League) — Smith 5-10 3-4 13, McMillon 2-4 0-2 4, Walker 2-4 2-2 6, Leesman 7-8 3-7 17, Canady 0-5 4-9 4, Cameron 1-1 0-2 2, Phillips 0-0 3-5 3. Totals 17-32 15-31 49.

3-point goals — Highland Park 5 (Kingcannon 2, Simms, Roberts, Adams). Total fouls — Highland Park 21, Topeka High 20. Fouled out — Canady. Technical fouls — none.


Highland Park;9;3;3;5;—;20

Topeka High;35;27;15;11;—;88

Highland Park (0-12, 0-11 Centennial League) — Labrador 0-1 2-2 2, Carter 1-8 0-3 2, Johnson 0-1 0-0 0, Taylor 4-18 2-5 12, Shutts 1-6 2-2 4, Austin 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 5-35 6-12 20.

Topeka High (14-0, 11-0 Centennial League) — L. Smith 3-4 0-0 8, Thomas 2-4 0-0 4, K. Smith 12-14 2-2 28, Hendricks 0-0 0-0 0, Lyons 1-4 2-4 4, Shields 8-12 1-1 19, Z. Caryl 4-4 0-0 9, A. Caryl 2-3 0-0 4, Wiley 2-5 0-0 4, Leesman 2-3 0-1 4, Fulton 1-4 0-0 2, Zimmerman 1-1 0-0 2, Ramsey 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 38-60 5-8 88.

3-point goals — Highland Park 2 (Taylor 2), Topeka High 7 (L. Smith 2, K. Smith 2, Shields 2, Z. Caryl). Total fouls — Highland Park 9, Topeka High 13. Fouled out — none. Technical fouls — none.