The Shawnee Heights Thunderbirds are clicking at just the right time.
After starting the season 4-4, the T-Birds have won 10 of their last 11 including seven in a row heading into their final regular season game of the season Friday at Junction City.
“We’ve been playing really well,” said senior guard Jovan Barksdale, who leads the team in scoring averaging 16.8 a game.
After narrowly losing to Highland Park, 55-51 on Jan. 14, Shawnee Heights went on a roll.
“That’s when we really turned it around,” Barksdale said.
Shawnee Heights (14-5) had high expectations coming into the season, but struggled out of the gate with losses to Lansing, Lawrence Free State, Highland Park (twice), but the team remained positive.
“We knew we had a hard beginning of the season so we just tried to stick together no matter what,” Barksdale said. “We said we were going to play hard every game.”
Only a loss to Shawnee Mission South at the Ralph Miller Classic has slowed down the Thunderbirds with Barksdale leading the way.
Barksdale, an all-city first-team selection as a junior, has had three 20-point games during the winning streak.
“I think I’ve been more consistent, I’m averaging a good amount, and playing good defense,” he said.
He scored a season-high 32 points on 11-of-15 shooting including 7-of-10 from behind the 3-point line in a win at Seaman on Feb. 7. During a 20-point barrage in the third quarter, he made four 3-pointers on consecutive possessions.
“I knew when I hit my first shot that it was pretty much going to be a good night for me,” Barksdale said. “And I always play good in a packed house at Seaman versus our rival.”
In addition to Barkdale playing well, a number of other players have stepped up including senior Tevin Downing and junior Malik Stanley.
“Tevin is playing really good, Malik is playing really good,” Barksdale said. “I already know what we’re going to get from our guards, but I think our bigs have been the turning point for us.”
All four of Shawnee Heights’ primary guards including senior Braeson Sester, junior Tony Barksdale, and junior Tez Scroggins are averaging over 8.5 points a game with junior Kobe Goudeau also providing solid production.
“We have certain players for certain situations and we have game plans so we really don’t worry about the rotation,” Barksdale said. “We just go out there and play hard.”
Scroggins has had a solid season handling the ball and controlling the tempo at the point, but has picked up his scoring lately averaging 14.3 points in the last three games.
“I don’t think it’s a surprise that Tez is playing like that,” Barksdale said. “I think he’s scoring more and people see that he’s scoring, but outside of scoring he’s a great teammate.”
Barksdale missed the Feb. 21 game against Topeka West with a foot injury, but returned on Tuesday.
“It’s fine, I’m 100 (percent),” he said.
Shawnee Heights will look to make it eight straight on Friday at Junction City (6-13) before beginning sub-state action next week.
A potential third meeting with Highland Park (19-1) looms as both teams are expected to be in the same sub-state bracket.
“We feel that it’s our opportunity to move along to state and to beat Highland Park on their home court,” Barksdale said. “We’re waiting for it.”