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Wilkerson leads Topeka West past Washburn Rural in key CL showdown



TOPEKA, Kan. – Tuesday night’s boys showdown between Centennial League leaders Topeka West and Washburn Rural simply boiled down to which team was going to be able to enforce its will on the other.

And the Chargers’ will — make the Wil, as in Marque Wilkerson — was greater than Rural’s will.

West’s senior point guard simply took over the first half, setting the tone for the Chargers’ big 63-46 victory that gave West sole possession of the league lead. Wilkerson carved up Rural’s defense, zone and man, and dictated the tempo in the Chargers’ favor.

“That’s how you break a zone and every team should have a player like Marque to experience how fun it is to watch him,” West coach Rick Bloomquist said. “Now, he does some bone-headed things — I think he wants me to coach him sometimes — and we had a love-hate relationship last year. Right now I love him a lot.”

What’s not to love? Wilkerson has been on a big-time roll as of late — scoring at least 19 points in five of his last six games — and showed no signs of slowing down Tuesday.

He knocked down a 3-pointer for West’s first points of the game — a basket that gave the Chargers the lead for good less than three minutes in — and then routinely got to the basket or the middle of Rural’s zone and kicked to an open teammate, getting West’s high-scoring offense in gear.

Wilkerson hit 3 of 4 shots in the first quarter and then made four straight shots in the second quarter, all four coming in an 11-4 run that helped West open up a 31-18 halftime lead. He finished the half with 16 points and for the game made 11 of 14 shots for a game-high 25 points.

“It was just keeping it simple and trying to open things up for my teammates,” Wilkerson said. “Once that happened, it started opening up for me.”

Rural hit 3-pointers on three straight possessions in the third quarter — two from Jack Bachelor sandwiching one from Jack Hutchinson — that cut West’s lead to nine. But West slammed the door on Rural’s run with Sincere Austin hitting a three and Wilkerson getting a steal and layup to start a 10-5 run to close the quarter.

Wilkerson then scored to start the fourth and Austin got a quick steal and layup and the Chargers delivered a 12-1 run to open up a 25-point lead.

“When they get out and run, they’re really good in transition,” Rural coach Kevin Muff said. “We have no answer for them in man-to-man and when you get down like that, you hope that your guys will respond a little better, but (Wilkerson) got wherever he wanted to get to and just took us out.”

Elijah Brooks added 11 points for West (11-2, 8-1), getting eight in the third quarter including two three-point plays that helped stem some of Rural’s momentum.

Hutchinson did his best to keep Rural (8-4, 7-2) in the game in the first half, hitting three 3-pointers and scoring 11 of Rural’s 18 points in the half. He finished with 17 points, but was the lone Junior Blue in double figures with leading scorer Joe Berry struggling to a 2-of-12 night.

Despite the impressive victory, Bloomquist knows the league race is far from over.

“We have to understand now that every game we play is a big game,” Bloomquist said. “This is the first one, and obviously we started with one of the better teams in the league and it was worrisome because they’re so well-coached and disciplined. You have to be on top of your game to beat them. That’s good for our kids and our program.”


Washburn Rural;8;10;19;9;—;46

Topeka West;15;16;20;12;—;63

Washburn Rural (8-4, 7-2) — Bachelor 3-6 0-0 8, Williams 1-5 2-4 5, Berry 2-12 1-1 5, Hutchinson 6-16 0-0 17, Patterson 2-2 4, Kidd 0-3 2-2 2, D. Brady 1-3 1-2 3, Howard 0-1 0-0 0, Bunck 0-0 0-0 0, Morrow 0-0 0-0 0, Bowen 0-0 0-0 0, Hanks 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 16-49 6-9 46.

Topeka West (11-2, 8-1) —Wilkerson 11-14 1-3 25, Brooks 4-6 3-4 11, Austin 3-5 0-0 8, T. Alexander 4-8 0-0 9, Putthoff 1-2 0-0 3, X. Alexander 1-3 0-0 2, Mehrens 1-1 0-0 2, Lira 1-1 0-0 3, Foy 0-0 0-0 0, Berg 0-0 0-0 0, Peterson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-40 4-7 63.

3-point goals — Rural 8-24 (Hutchinson 4-11, Bachelor 2-3, Williams 1-5, Berry 0-3, Kidd 0-2); West 7-16 (Wilkerson 2-3, Austin 2-4, T. Alexander 1-4, Putthoff 1-2, Lira 1-1, Brooks 0-1, X. Alexander 0-1). Total fouls — Rural 10, West 8. Fouled out — none.