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Volume 5 • 2016-17

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HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL PREVIEW

Inside: • Salina Central’s Brayden Neuschafer and Casey Knoth are expected to lead their teams. • Hoxie starts a new era with a new coach. • Hill City girls and fans have created a family-like atmosphere.

• Concordia’s Cooper and Grant Holmes continue their careers almost 200 miles apart. • Many more features. • And previews from more than 100 Kansas high schools.


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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

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On the Cover The Hoxie High School girls’ basketball program enters a new era as Todd Cossman follows Shelly Hoyt as head coach. Cossman and his 2016-17 team are photographed at the John Fenton Pratt Ranch, also known as the Cottonwood Ranch State Historic Site. The Pratt family established a working sheep ranch on the High Plains of northwest Kansas in the late 19th Century. They left a legacy that includes unique stone structures and a large photograph collection. Photo by Mark McCoy.

Mark McCoy/Kansas Hardwood

Garden City’s Gabby Calvillo, right, blocks Lady Panther Kate Warren’s shot Jan. 8, 2016 in Great Bend.


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

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he grainy black and white photo from the Marion Chronicle of more than a halfcentury ago doesn’t begin to tell the story of that year’s Liberty Center Lions. Compared to today’s super-charged teams, the Lions — most of them closer in height to Danny DeVito than Arnold Schwarzenegger — probably wouldn’t qualify to be on a basketball court. Yet there they were — winners of their county sectional for the first time in 20 years, defeating Bluffton, the hot shot on the block. Next came regionals. Liberty Center was the smallest school of the 64 still in competition for a State championship. The Lions’ first game was against Swayzee, another small school that, like Liberty Center, would be lost to consolidation within three years. But not before both teams carved their names into the Indiana history books with a record that stands today — nine overtimes in a game most expected to be little more than a few regulation minutes in the state’s proud basketball history. “We’re not Milan,” said Jack Saylors, a sophomore starter on the 1964 Swayzee team, referring to the unlikely 1954 State champions that inspired the 1986 movie “Hoosiers,” “but it’s our little slice of Indiana high school basketball history.” The Lions pushed ahead of Swayzee, known as the Speedkings, during regular play. Then, Liberty Center’s star center, Dick Harris, was whistled for his fifth foul and sent to the bench with a game high 26 points. Taking advantage of their opponents’ weakened lineup, the Speedkings shot from the left side of the court with 33 seconds left. The game was tied 52-52 when the buzzer sounded. Overtime. “On the court, it was a cat-and-mouse game,” wrote Martin Lake in the Swayzee Press. “Without Harris, Liberty Center was content to play for one shot. So was first-year Swayzee coach Dave Huffman.” For the first five overtimes — all scoreless — the teams missed 11 shots between them. The tension mounted. “People could not take the tension,” Lake told the Indianapolis Star in 2014. “They would go out and listen on their transistor radios.” Finally, in the eighth overtime, Liberty Center’s Randy Raber hit one of two free throws to give the Lions a 59-57 lead with 42 seconds left. But Swayzee center Lennie Boswell answered, hitting a 15-footer with 21 seconds left. Then, in the ninth overtime, Swayzee finally clicked. A shot by the Lions pulled Liberty Center to within two at 63-61, but Swayzee’s Rex Woodmansee hit two free throws with 17 seconds left to put the game away, 65-61. The game had lasted 59 minutes, nearly twice as long as a 32-minute regulation game. The nine overtimes broke the previous Indiana record of seven, set in 1938 when Camden defeated Delphi, 22-19. At Liberty Center, where the three-story brick high school and gymnasium have been replaced by a park, people still occasionally talk about “the game that wouldn’t end.” ••• I was a freshman who had left Liberty Center two years earlier to attend school at Bluffton, for years the county’s basketball powerhouse. My father and I attended the Liberty Center-Swayzee game and to this day — next to the Kansas State UniversityOregon State game in 1981 — it remains one of the most exciting games I’ve ever watched. Many of the individual plays have been lost to time, but the excitement of being there, of listening to the crowd cheer for two underdogs and watching the exhausted players keep going ... that’s what basketball is all about. And what we remember. I’ve wanted to tell this story since we started Kansas Hardwood and I thought the magazine’s fifth anniversary was a good time to do it. The nine-overtime game didn’t happen in Kansas, but it could have, especially when you consider that the size of a school doesn’t always matter as much as the talent, determination and grit of its players and coaches. Central Plains. Sacred Heart. The two St. John’s. The list goes on of small schools with good programs and the histories to prove it. On this year’s pages of Hardwood, you will find stories on many of the state’s outstanding players and teams, in particular several from western Kansas. As always, we hope you enjoy reading about these outstanding athletes as much as we enjoy featuring them every year in a magazine that celebrates the spirit of Kansas through basketball. Linda Mowery-Denning Kansas Hardwood

K ANS A S

HA

RDWOO

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And then there were 9

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John Baetz Publisher Co-owner of Sixteen 60 Publishing Co., publisher of Kansas Pregame Football Magazine and The Lincoln SentinelRepublican and The Chapman News-Times weekly newspapers.

Linda Mowery-Denning Publisher

Publisher and Co-owner with Morris Multimedia, Savannah, Ga., of the Ellsworth County Independent-Reporter and the Marquette Tribune.

Layout and Design: Linda Mowery-Denning, Bill Beckmeyer and Kayla Kvacik Sales: John Baetz and Tyler Gier. Contributing Writers: Brent Maycock, Mark McCoy, Matthew Denning, Randy Gonzales, Linda Mowery-Denning, Kyle McCaskey, Mike Courson. Photographers: Mark McCoy and Everett Royer. Editors John Baetz and Linda Mowery-Denning Mail questions and comments to: kshardwoodmag@gmail.com or: Kansas Hardwood P.O. Box 186 Lincoln, KS 67455 (785) 472-5085


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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

What’s Inside

Page 6 — A successful dunk gave Eisenhower’s Matt Pile confidence. Page 7-8 — Salina Central’s top players prepare for season. Page 9 — Pratt’s Samson Kohman is a study in determination. Page 10-15 — Big school overviews. Page 23 — Beloit’s Hunter Budke leads by example. Pages 24 — Sterling’s Comley cousins challenge each other. Pages 25 — Practice makes perfect for Hugoton’s Zack Leininger. Pages 26 — Hard work fuels Ellsworth’s Kaden Davis. Pages 27 — Improvement is goal of TMP’s Lady Monarchs. Page 28 — More firepower joins girls in 3A. Pages 29 — New powers on the rise in boys 3A. Page 35-36 — It’s a new era for Hoxie girls. Page 37 — Hill City girls — More than a basketball team. Page 38 — St. John-Hudson is led by Cole Kinnamon. Pages 39 — Trey Kuhlman is a triple threat for Buffs. Page 48-49 — St. John’s Beloit/Tipton showcase talent. Pages 50 — Basketball’s an education for Dighton’s Tyler Lingg. Pages 51 — Titans, Thunderhawks look to future. Page1A63-66 Catching up Pages 55-59 — More team— snapshots.


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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

Courtesy Photo of Matt Pile

5A — Goddard-Eisenhower

Tigers have unfinished business By RANDY GONZALES For Kansas Hardwood

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he Goddard-Eisenhower boys’ basketball team was the No. 1 seed going into last season’s Class 5A State tournament. However, the Tigers were upset in the first round, finishing at 21-2. The team remembers that going into this season. “We have two of our better players back in Matt Pile and Dylan Vincent,” said Tiger coach Steve Blue. “We have a lot of good role players returning for us. We have pretty high expectations going into this year, hopefully take it a little bit farther than we did last year.” Pile, the team’s 6’8”, 240-pound center, said the way the season ended last year is on the players’ minds. “It really kind of drives us,” Pile said. “Our thing is unfinished business. We don’t expect to lose any games this year.” With Pile and Vincent leading the way, the Tigers should be a handful for any opponent. Pile, who recorded a double-double in 21 of 23 games last year, averaged 20.1 points, 15.3 rebounds, 4.0 blocks and 2.3 assists, while shooting 71 percent from the floor. Vincent, the Tigers’ 6’2” junior point guard, averaged 17.7 points, 6.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds and shot 39 percent from 3-point land. Dylan’s a great shooter for us,” Blue said. “He also has a great handle on the ball. He’s

"I didn’t have much confidence when I was younger. One of the seniors passed me the ball and I went up and had the best dunk I’ve ever had, still to this day. Just really gave me a lot of confidence." Matt Pile

Goddard-Eisenhower senior

able to control our offense very well.” Pile — who was able to dunk in the eighth grade — realized he could play with the big boys when he had a monster dunk against rival Maize South his freshman year. “Matt catches the ball in the middle of the paint and drop steps as a freshman and dunks on about three players,” Blue said. That dunk was a game-changer for Pile. “I didn’t have much confidence when I was younger,” he said. “One of the seniors passed me the ball and I went up and had the best dunk I’ve ever had, still to this day. Just really gave me a lot of confidence. “ Pile is confident the Tigers can reach their lofty expectations if they play the right way. “By far the biggest key, this year we need to focus on sharing the ball and put others before ourselves.” Blue said Pile’s unselfishness is one of his strengths along with his physical strength and relentless rebounding. Blue said his star

center’s offensive game is coming along. “He’s still working on his shooting, developing his outside shot, which has improved greatly since he was a freshman,” Blue said. Pile said he is used to opponents focusing on stopping him. “Every team that played (man-to-man defense) on us would double-team me every time I would catch it,” he said. “I worked on finding the open man.” Pile also can just focus on the season, and not worry about his college choice. About a dozen NCAA Division I schools offered him a scholarship, and Pile narrowed it down to Nebraska-Omaha and MissouriKansas City before making his final choice on Sept 28. Pile chose to play at NebraskaOmaha. “It’s a relief,” Pile said. “It’s been a long, stressful process. I’m glad to have it over with, focus on this year.” And focus on winning a State title. Eisenhower High School at Goddard has been open six years now. In its previous five years the Tigers have been to State three times — and lost in the first round each time. Pile has been on two of those teams. “I can see it in their eyes,” Blue said. “They’re all striving to get back to the State tournament and prove we can make it past that first round.” Randy Gonzales is a former newspaper sports writer who now works for Fort Hays State University.


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Brayden Neuschafer • Salina Central - Senior • Position — Shooting guard • Points per game — 14.5 for the 2015-16 season, including his best scoring game of 28 points.

5A — Salina Central

Neuschafer ‘gets’ basketball By LINDA MOWERY-DENNING Kansas Hardwood

University, and playing basketball in the family driveway are among his earliest memories. He patterned his game after J.J. Redick, the best shooter ever to graduate from Duke. Redick, a shooting guard, now plays for the Los Angeles Clippers. By the first grade, Neuschafer was playing second graders, a practice that continued until he reached the sixth grade and started competing against players his own age. It wasn’t as if Neuschafer didn’t have other options. As an eighth grader, he went undefeated in tennis. At Central, he has qualified three times for the State golf tournament. But basketball remained his game of choice. “Honestly, I have no clue,” Neuschafer said of his preference. “Basketball just topped all of them.” Because of his size, Neuschafer originally focused on his outside game. But for

the past three years, as he played against such powerhouses as Wichita Heights and St. Thomas Aquinas and other 5A schools, he has become more skilled at rayden Neuschafer was a second taking the ball to the rim. Neuschafer also grader when coach Doug Finch first takes pride in guarding the best player on saw him play basketball. the team Central happens to be playing at Finch could hardly believe it — somethe time. one this young and “he has the intelliFinch calls his player and his competigence, the instincts. He just gets it.” The tive spirit “the complete package.” coach was so impressed with Neuschafer’s To underscore his point, the coach performance on the court, he called to shares a story from Neuschafer’s freshman share his thoughts with the youngster’s year, when he came off the bench to play parents. in the annual Salina Invitational Now, a decade later, Neuschafer is about Tournament at the Bicentennial Center. to start his senior year of basketball at Neuschafer was named to the all-tournaSalina Central High School. ment team, despite not being a starter. His goal is to end his career by helping “I’ll remember that the rest of my life,” to bring home a State championship, Finch said. “You don’t have to be a starter something that so far has eluded his team. to be a good player.” “That’s what I’ve wanted since Day Neuschafer’s plans for the future may One,” Neuschafer said during an interview include playing basketball for Kansas State in coach Finch’s office at Central. University. Finch, who has been at Central for 13 “I’m just waiting for the call,” years as head coach, thinks his he jokes. team is up to the challenge, Meanwhile, Neuschafer is on especially with Neuschafer and CALL FOR A NO-OBLIGATION FREE track to become Central’s allother talented seniors in the QUOTE. time leading scorer under Finch, lineup. who can’t find any records prior “He can put the team on his Daran Neuschafer Agency, Inc. to his tenure. From his position shoulders. He has the ability 1528 E Iron Ave as a shooting guard, Neuschafer to do that,” Finch said. Salina, KS CALL 67401 FOR A NO-OBLIGATION FREE averages 16 points per game, CALL FOR A NO-OBLIGATION FREE (785) 827-5150 Not a bad compliment for a QUOTE. which includes his best scoring dneuscha@amfam.com player who typically is the QUOTE. CALL FOR A NO-OBLIGATION FREE game of 28 points during the smallest on the court. Daran Neuschafer Agency, Inc. QUOTE. 2015-16 season. Daran Neuschafer Agency, Inc. The 5’10”, 135-pound 1528 E Iron Ave 1528 E Iron Ave Neuschafer has been drawn to Salina, KS 67401 Daran Neuschafer Agency, Inc. Salina, KS 67401 Linda Mowery-Denning is pub(785) 827-5150 1528 E Iron Ave basketball for almost as long as (785) 827-5150 American Family Mutual Insurance Company, lisher of the Ellsworth County dneuscha@amfam.com American Family Insurance Company, Salina, KS 67401 he can remember. Watching 6000 American Parkway,dneuscha@amfam.com Madison WI 53783 Independent-Reporter. 006441—Rev. 11/15 © 2015 (785) 827-5150 his favorite team, Duke

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

5A — Salina Central

Knoth leads experienced Mustangs By MIKE COURSON For Kansas Hardwood

last year in spite of playing through a stress fracture. Now healthy, Knoth has improved her game playing AAU basketball over the summer with the Ohlde Elite lot of teams might be content with organization founded by former Kansas a fourth-place run through the State University standout and WNBA Class 5A state basketball tournaplayer Nicole Ohlde. ment. For the Salina Central girls, last “I feel like my ball handling has year’s 19-6 season was likely just a bit of improved to see better throughout the foreshadowing. Just one player graduated court and to distribute the ball a little bit from that team, and senior Casey Knoth better,” Knoth said. returns as one of the state’s top players. The end goal for the Lady Mustangs is “I know, just in talking to obvious: advance deep into the all the girls, that we’re super State tournament and possibly excited to come back since contend for a State championno one really left our team,” ship. A smaller, but important Knoth said. “Our expectagoal for the team is to win the tions are really high and Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail, we’re hoping to place a little Division I title. higher than we did last year.” “We haven’t won our league Salina Central will have a in a long time,” said Knoth. new coach in Chris Fear, “We’ve tied, but we haven’t won who has spent 21 years it outright. That’s a big goal for coaching at the collegiate us is to be able to sweep our level, including the last five league and finally win it.” years at struggling Kansas With a big junior season Wesleyan. He’s ready to try under her belt, Knoth is gethis hand at the high school ting attention from colleges level, especially with the but will wait to make a deciprogram he is taking over. sion where she wants to play. “That was one of the reaWherever that journey takes sons I was interested in the her, she plans to study prejob when it came open,” he nursing. said. “They’ve certainly been “I think the medical field is successful the last handful really interesting,” she said. “I of years. They were a young like the interaction between group last year and have a different people and who you lot of talented kids coming work with. That kind of back. It’s exciting to be a sparks me.” part of that. I’m definitely When not on the court, looking forward to it and Knoth enjoys spending time seeing where we can take with friends and family to the program.” MARK McCOY/Kansas Hardwood relieve stress. She’s also an Central will be looking to art fan and does a little paintreturn to its 2014 level that Salina Central’s Casey Knoth dribbles around a defender during a game with Buhler during the 2015-16 season. ing. Knoth also was a 4-year saw the Lady Mustangs go varsity starter for the Salina 23-2 and finish second in Central soccer team in the spring. She As a freshman, Knoth contributed 19 Class 5A. Central did not qualify for State earned an all-league honorable mention in points a night for the junior varsity squad, in 2015, but returned as a powerhouse last shooting 56 percent from the floor and 57 each of her first two seasons but played in season. Five of its six losses came against just a handful of games this past year percent from behind the arc. Her sophoteams that played in the Class 5A and 6A because of the stress fracture. more season she jumped up to varsity, State tournaments. scoring 13.3 points and grabbing 7.7 Knoth scored 18 points a game last year, Mike Courson is a veteran sports writer boards a game. earning her various First-Team All-State who works at Lyons. Knoth managed her 18 points a night honors and making her one of the top

A

scorers in the classification. Listed at 5’10”, Knoth brings a little of everything to the floor. “I’m not sure there’s a particular area that she’s unbelievable with her skill level, but she does everything well,” said Fear, who coached Knoth over the summer. “She’s an all-around player. She can handle it, she can shoot it from the perimeter, she can get to the rim and post up. That’s what makes her special is her ability to do multiple things.”


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4A-Division II — Pratt

Kohman is a study in determination

By JENNIFER McDANIEL For Kansas Hardwood

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amson Kohman’s day starts early. Every morning at 6, the Pratt High School senior is in the gym, strength training — conditioning his muscles and his mind. Kohman knows he’ll only reach his maximum potential through sweat and dedication. Because without the weights, he’ll only see slight improvements in his power and agility, and could run the risk of injury by further stressing already overworked muscles. This year is his final season as a Greenback, and Kohman wants to leave his mark. As a junior, he missed the entire season after tearing his meniscus — the thin, fibrous cartilage that cushions the knee joint. So this season, Kohman is working tirelessly so he can push his team to make a run for State. After school, his training regimen resumes, with daily basketball workouts and vertical training three times a week. Kohman also scrimmages several times each week and trains weekly with a former Division-I player. “The gym is like a second home,” he said. Kohman, a 6’4”, 175-pound shooting guard, has been playing basketball since he was 7. “When I started playing, it was just for fun, and to play with my friends, then I started to love playing it and took it more seriously. “I really enjoy playing the game of basketball. I love the challenge, the atmosphere and winning.” Kohman, who also plays small forward and point guard, averages 16 points per game and boasts a 75.6 percent free throw percentage. Since his freshman year, Kohman has been a standout, with accolades such as second team All-League, second team All-State and first team All-League, second team All-State his sophomore year. He also holds the school record for sinking the most free throws in a season. But despite his successes, he admits the game has given him so much more. “I have learned to step up and be a leader, the importance of (encouraging others), and how to deal with adversity,” Kohman said. “And not give up when we get down a few points, or quit on myself because I missed the last shot.” Kohman acknowledges that his height gives

him an advantage over other players in the of colleges,” he said. “Being out last year made Central Kansas League. But more than that, the recruiting process tough, but I have he noted, there are few players his size who received letters from Nebraska Wesleyan, can handle the ball, jump, post up and shoot Butler (Community College) and a couple of the three when necessary. other schools, and some invites to showcas“…I have a good understanding of offense es.” and defense, and I see the floor well,” he said. “I have great versatility, and I am able to not Jennifer McDaniel is a freelance writer who only drive to the rim, but I also have an outworks from her home in eastern Kansas. side shot that creates difficulties for the defense. I also create plays for my teammates.” Skills aside, Kohman said that this year especially, he will continue stepping up to lead and motivate his teammates. “The leadership role isn’t really a new role,” he said. “I’ve taken (it on) since my sophomore year. This year, I will really encourage our guys, and make sure to get everyone involved and just keep (them) from getting down on themselves. I would say our senior class is pretty motivated — since seventh grade, we have talked about winning a State title, and I feel like that motivates the guys a lot. Last year … I was out all year with a torn meniscus injury, so I really tried to encourage the younger guys by helping them out with our plays and correcting mistakes. I try to get all the younger guys to our open gyms, so they can get some good playing (time in) against us older guys and just get better.” As he looks forward to basketball season, Kohman admits he has high expectations. “As I said before, I was out last season, and that was probably the toughest challenge I’ve had to deal with so far in my life,” he said. “So, I have really high expectations for myself and my team. I look forward to us having a great year and making a run at the State title.” After high school, Kohman wants to play basketball at the college level, and is committed to continue developing his skills as a player so he can have a shot at playing professionally. Although he hasn’t settled on his major, Kohman said he has already heard interest from a few colleges and Bill Rea/For Kansas Hardwood universities. “I have received letters from a couple Samson Kohman out jumps an opponent.


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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

6A, 5A and 4A Boys

Going the Distance

Wamego has Bishop Meige in its sights By BRENT MAYCOCK For Kansas Hardwood

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t’s undeniable. Going into the 2016-17 season, Bishop Miege will be an overwhelming favorite to repeat as Class 4ADivision I boys State champions. The Stags, 20-3 a year ago, return two nationally ranked recruits in Bol Bol and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and all but one player off last year’s title team. But when it comes to the list of schools which could challenge the mighty Stags for the crown this year, Wamego coach Troy Hemphill has just one question. “Why not us?” Indeed, why not Wamego? After all, other than Miege arguably no team in 4A Division I returns more firepower than the Red Raiders. Though only two starters return from Wamego’s 19-4 squad, Hemphill couldn’t have asked for a better duo to build around than seniors Dillon Blain and Sean Nordberg. The tandem accounted for nearly 60 percent of the Red Raiders’ scoring a year ago, leading the program to its first state-tournament appearance since 2008. How the pieces will fit around them remains to be seen, but those question marks have hardly tempered Hemphill’s enthusiasm for the upcoming season. “I’m really excited about our team,” Hemphill said. “We lost some guards who helped us do some great things defensively. We were so quick on the perimeter we could pressure teams out a long ways from the goal without fear of getting beat. I don’t know that we’ll be as quick there, but I do think we have the ability to score. And when you can score, that certainly helps. “I definitely think we’ve got the pieces to come up with a pretty good team.” Wamego has had its share of good teams in between its Statequalifying squads in 2008 and

2016. But the Red Raiders have seen those seasons come up short of reaching the state tourney, many times victimized by substates that were simply loaded. Last year’s path to Salina wasn’t exactly an easy one either with the Red Raiders having to beat North Central Kansas League rival Abilene in the sub-State championship game after splitting the regular-season series with the Cowboys. But a 68-52 victory got the job done and Wamego back to state. “These kids hadn’t really witnessed any teams that went,” Hemphill said. “They didn’t have anybody to emulate. In 2010 and 2013 we had really strong teams but we ran into great teams, including the best team I’ve ever seen at Highland Park. The team last year kind of broke the ice and were able to get over the hump, so this year’s guys know

what it’s like and that’s a bonus.” Blain averaged 21.5 points per game, while Nordberg added 17.9 points a contest to lead the breakthrough. No other returner averaged more than 4 points per game and the Red Raiders lost its only true post presence in Bryce Patrick. But Jayson Ebert, Justin Ebert and Matt Keller were key reserves as sophomores last year and are part of a big junior class which had an outstanding junior varsity season and welcomes transfers Wyatt Patterson (Garden City) and Chase Dillon (Manhattan). Hemphill hopes the momentum built with last year’s run — the only other losses the Red Raiders suffered were to 4A Division I state qualifier Eudora and 4A Division II third-place finisher Rock Creek — carries over and puts Wamego in the hunt this year. “Any time you get to a State tournament and get a taste of that, it always helps your confidence,” Hemphill said. “If you look at the picture of the kids celebrating and realizing several of them are going to be back, you have to think they’re going to go into the year thinking they’re going to win and do great things. That’s huge with young kids, if they think they can and have the confidence to do it, that’s a big thing.” “The class is much more wide open than it was last year. McPherson was just so strong and the Andover Central team we had to play was very talented and strong. There are some teams that definitely are capable, but you start looking around and thinking, ‘Why not us?’” Of course, the road to the title goes through Miege, which delivered the program’s third State title a year ago. After a hard-fought 55-49 win over Eudora in the quarterfinals, the See TEAMS, Page 11


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Teams

Continued from Page 10 Stags edged Paola 62-56 in the semifinals before beating McPherson 69-59 in the title game. Bol and Robinson-Earl already have a multitude of Division I scholarship offers, but the Stags have plenty to go with them. Senior Semaj Ray was a first-team All-4A selection and is one of six seniors back. Eudora arguably has the top player in the state in senior Mitch Ballock, who returned from an injury late last season to lead the Cardinals run back to the State tournament. Running mate Austin Downing and all but one other player off last year’s state roster graduated, but Ballock — a Creighton signee — is more than capable of putting Eudora on his back and carrying them deep. Runner-up a year ago, McPherson must replace All-State guard Drew Pyle and a handful of other key seniors, but return some strong underclassmen. Junior Ben Pyle had a big sophomore year averaging 14.9 points per game, but was severely burned in a summer accident and will try to come back. State-qualifiers Paola, Andover Central, Coffeyville and Rose Hill were senior-dominant squads who could be in for rebuilding seasons. Abilene will be motivated after its loss to Wamego in the sub-State finals and returns standout guard Ryan Wilson, but lost four starters to graduation. Ottawa also was in the same sub-State with Wamego and Abilene and could be poised to make a deep run. Senior Isaac McCullough is a four-year starter and one of the state’s top shooters and the Cyclones also return second-leading scorer Perry

Carroll and the bulk of their roster from a year ago. The other Division In 4A Division II, Wichita Collegiate moved up from 3A to capture the title a year ago and once again will be on the short list of favorites with Mitch Fiegel guiding the Spartans to their sixth State title. Collegiate may have graduated seven seniors off last year’s squad, but Fiegel’s deep rotation every year lends itself to the program being able to absorb such losses and stay at a championship-caliber level. Runner-up Hugoton also graduated significant pieces off last year’s squad, but has double-double machine Zack Leininger back to build around. The Eagles only lost twice in a 23-2 season after battling Great Western Activities Conference rival Holcomb, the 2015 Division II champion, just to get to the state tourney. The two could battle under similar circumstances again this year with Holcomb also returning plenty of experience, led by senior Conner VanCleave. All eyes in the class, however, could be on Hayden, which was denied a trip to State a year ago by a senior-heavy Rock Creek team, which ended up third. The Wildcats battled injuries to young transfer stars Zach Harvey and DeShawn Hanika throughout the season, but both are back along with junior point guard Jett Canfield, giving Hayden arguably the best collection of talent of any team in 4A outside of Miege. Rock Creek must replace standouts Carson Becker and Bailey Vetter, but junior Martin Vogts began to emerge late in the season and could carry the team along with returning starter Cooper Schlochtermeier.

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Girard was the only unbeaten in the State-tourney field a year ago, but took a big hit with the graduation of 1-2 punch Laike Damman and Drew Davied, who led the Trojans to a fourth-place finish. Pratt only graduated three off its State-qualifying team and could make some more noise this year. Eisenhower hungry for title Last year’s Class 5A State tournament was considered to be a wide-open affair before the first tip and wound up playing out that way as the top-three seeds — Eisenhower, Bonner Springs and Liberal — were all knocked out in the quarterfinals. That should leave all three hungry for this season and Eisenhower has arguably the top player in 5A in senior Matt Pile. The 6’8” standout was one of the state’s top scorers and rebounders, averaging 20.1 points and 15.3 rebounds per game. While Bonner Springs graduated the bulk of its 20-3 squad and moves down to 4A, Liberal has the pieces to again be in the hunt with only three players having graduated off last year’s 17-6 squad. Senior Deladris Green averaged a double-double a year ago (15.3 ppg, 10.2 rpg) and classmate Cade Hinkle averaged 10.2 points per contest. Mill Valley was the lone higher seed to advance out of the quarterfinals and rode the momentum all the way to the program’s first state title, taking an 87-84 win over Kapaun in the championship game. The Jaguars (19-6) graduated eight seniors off the title team, but junior Cooper Kaifes is more than a solid piece to build around for the title defense. See TEAMS, Page 14

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

6A, 5A and 4A Girls

Central’s new coach shows no Fear By BRENT MAYCOCK For Kansas Hardwood

Junior Elisa Backes emerged at another guard spot, averaging 9 points, 7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game and the Mustangs will enter 2016-17 with its most experiuring Geoff Andrews’ seven-year enced squad since the 2014 runner-up team tenure at Salina Central, the that featured Division I signees Shaelyn Mustang girls’ basketball program Martin (Kansas State) and Emily Wood evolved from one that found plenty of satis(Nebraska). faction in posting a winning season to one “I’m excited about this,” Fear said. “I think that expected nothing less than to be comwe need to embrace those expectations a litpeting for a State title on a yearly basis. tle bit. You’re going to get everybody’s best Andrews compiled a 112-46 record, leadshot and we need to know that going in. We ing the Mustangs to the Class 5A State need to make sure they get ours as well. I tournament three times, including a runnerthink we can be tough from the get-go, but up finish in 2013-14. very good by the end.” The 2015-16 season, however, may have Perhaps the key to the Mustangs’ season been the ultimate testament to the is just how well they adapt to Fear’s style Mustangs’ staying power. and he adapts to his team’s strengths. Coming off a 15-7 showing in 2014-15 “It’s so nice what you can after having to replace virdo with them in the sum“I think we’re really versatile. We have a lot of girls tually the entire State runmer,” Fear said. “We didn’t ner-up team, Central was that can score in multiple ways, a lot of players put in a lot of my system ready to return to its spot that can handle the ball.” because what I wanted to do among the 5A favorites last Chris Fear was evaluate them so I can year. The Mustangs graduSalina Central Girls’ Coach see what they can do and ated just a few players off then develop and tweak what the rebuilding squad and we want to do. I’m not one with a young squad getting of these guys who says, a year of experience under ‘We’re going to do this.’ I’m its belt, Central had the very willing to tweak things based on the basketball coach at Kansas Wesleyan in look of a contender. personnel we have. Salina. Prior to coming to Salina, he’ d also Then disaster struck. Playing in a summer “I think we’re really versatile. We have a served as head coach at Dana College in tournament in Iowa, leading rebounder and lot of girls who can do a lot of things. We’ve Blair, Neb., as well as an assistant coach for second-leading scorer Keisha Hamilton got players that can score in multiple ways, a men’s programs at Midland University in blew out her knee and was lost for the sealot of players that can handle the ball.” Fremont, Neb. and Calvin College in son. The 6’0” senior represented the Central will get tested on a night-in, Michigan. Mustangs’ lone inside presence and her loss night-out basis as the Ark Valley Chisholm His experience is lengthy. His experience left a gaping hole. Trail League is littered with contenders in with high schools girls is non-existent. What could have been a crippling blow 6A, 5A and 4A. “I’ve coached for 21 years, but all at the instead became a rallying point for the college level and all with men,” Fear said. “It’s Mustangs. Led by standout junior Casey Maize and Newton threaten Knoth, Central ripped off an 8-0 start to the certainly going to be different. But I enjoyed In 5A alone, Maize and Newton will pose it this summer, getting the chance to work season and hardly slowed down, finishing serious threats to the Mustangs, each comwith these girls.” fourth at the Class 5A State tournament ing off strong seasons. The Eagles were 15-7 But he’ s shown no fear in jumping into a and with a 19-6 record. last year and return two of their top-three new venture and shouldn’t with the cast “There were some ups and downs, but scorers in seniors Taylor Holmes (11 ppg) Central has returning. Coming off last year’ s they came through it,” said new Central and Brecken Roe (8.9 ppg). Newton, meanfourth-place finish, the Mustangs return all coach Chris Fear, who replaces Andrews. while, was 17-6 and a state qualifier last year but one player, departed forward Reagan “This league is so tough and if you’re not and has one of the top sophomores in the Montre. ready on a particular night, it’s going to be Knoth is well on her way to becoming one state in DesiRay Kernal (10 ppg). tough. There might have been some of that Aquinas is the defending 5A champion, of the best players in Mustang history, leadlast year. But with a young group, they capturing the program’s fifth state title last ing the team in scoring for the second learned some of those lessons and things year with a 39-38 win over two-time reignstraight year. The first-team All-5A selecwent well for a big part of the time and were ing champion Leavenworth in the champition averaged 18 points and 7 rebounds per very competitive at state. Having that expegame last year despite entering the season as rience should make us hungry and drive us See GIRLS, Page 13 the Mustangs’ lone proven offensive threat. to take it a step or two further this year.”

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After last season, Andrews stepped down as coach, moving into an administrative position within the district. When the job came open initially, Fear admitted he didn’t really know much about the Mustangs’ history before looking into the position. “I knew they’d been successful and Geoff had done a good job,” he said. “The success has been really recent, like the last five years and beyond that they weren’t very competitive at all. Geoff and some other people did a really good job of getting things going, getting the young girls involved and they’ve had some really good players go through here. The program’s taken off and hopefully I can build on what those guys did and maybe take it to another level.” Fear spent the past five seasons as men’s


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

Page 13

Girls Continued from Page 12

other 6A school has ever won four straight titles and only five other teams have ever accomplished the feat in state history (Hoxie, Little River, Miege, Spearville, Moundridge). It will be a far different looking Titan team which begins its quest for a fifth straight crown — something no school has ever done in state history. Gone from the four title squads are the program’s rocks, center Kendrian Elliott and guard Ericka Mattingly, each of whom were four-year starters and All-State selections last year. South will lean heavily on a strong junior class led by Kyla Callins, Trezure Jobe and Mauri Scales, who were starters last year. AVCTL power Derby answered any question about how it would handle the loss of Grace Mitchell, who transferred to

(22-3) also qualifying for state last year. West returns almost everyone, including doubledouble post Mackenzie Loe, while Northwest graduated All-Stater Brenni Rose. Free State has arguably the top returning player in the state in senior Madison Piper, an All-Stater last year after averaging 18.2 points per game, and Lawrence made huge strides a year ago and returns virtually its entire team. Washburn Rural lost a trio of starters, but sophomore center Carly Bachelor was one of the state’s top freshmen last year and led the Junior Blues in scoring and rebounding.

onship game. Both powers will be loaded for a return with the Saints (20-5) only graduating one player off its title squad and returning a junior-dominant squad which suffered two of its losses to 4A Division I champion Miege and two to Missouri schools. Sereena Weledji leads the Saints. Leavenworth suffered more losses to graduation, but having a healthy Terrion Moore and Aarika Lister will make a huge difference for the Pioneers, who were 20-5 last year as well. Moore missed parts of the season, but Miege tops 4A-Division I the guard duo are quick beyond belief and Class 4A Division I has belonged to Miege key the Pioneer press which has served as a since the split with the Stags claiming the benchmark for their success, particularly past three titles, going 25-0 last year. The adjusting to life without a trio of 6’0” title was the 19th in program history, far and Division I playaway more ers who led the than any other two championArguably the top returning player in 4A I is Labette County’s school in the ship teams. Tristan Gegg, who led the Grizzlies state. The Carroll (20prospects for 5) beat Central to a fourth-place finish and 21-4 season. title No. 20 in last year’s look pretty third-place strong as well. game and also Even though lost just one Miege lost player to gradWellington for her senior year. The Panthers seven players off last year’s title team, few uation. The Golden Eagles knocked out programs reload better than Terry English’s rode a pair of freshmen sensations to the Maize in the sub-state finals and have a and the return of senior Hunter Bentley and strong 1-2 punch in seniors Brynn Maul and program’s best season in years, going 19-4 Ashley Carrillo, who combined for 18 points and returning to the state tournament where three sophomores who were on last year’s state squad make the Stags the favorite for they were bounced in the first round by per game for the defensive-minded Eagles. their fourth in a row. KC Schlagle took 5A by surprise last year, Olathe East. Sophomores Kennedy Brown Paola lost 67-56 to the Stags in last year’s and Tor’e Alford will have a largely new supgoing 19-4 and the Stallions should once title game to cap a 22-3 season, but the porting cast to go with them this year, but again be a factor, led by KCAL MVP Riana Panthers were hit hard by graduation, losing their presence alone has Derby among the Lawson, who averaged 16 points per game, All-4A pick Morgan Laudan and three other short list of teams poised to dethrone South and fellow guard Kiara Brown, who added seniors. Seniors Chandler Karr and Matti this season. 13.1 points per game. Mill Valley and East nearly accomplished the feat last year, Morgan will look to keep Paola in the hunt Goddard both were at last year’s state tourney, but suffered huge graduation losses from falling 43-36 to South in the state semifinals. this year. Mitchell’s arrival at Wellington helped key The Hawks only lost one player to graduawhich they will have to rebuild. a huge season for the Crusaders, who went tion and had four freshmen on last year’s Emporia missed out on the state tourney, 24-1 and finished third after a semifinal loss but brings back senior Braxtyn Stewart and a state squad to go with junior standout to Paola denied them a shot at Miege for the Sydney Wilson, making them a team to solid cast of younger players, while Shawnee title. Mitchell was dominant, paring with watch for the next few years. Heights could have one of the top players in Lauryn Snipes to give the Crusaders one of Olathe South finished 21-3 last year, tak5A if Division I volleyball signee Jazz Sweet the top tandems in the state. Mitchell is now ing fourth in 6A, and has been a perennial plays as a senior after averaging a doubleat Nebraska, but Snipes returns and gives contender for much of the past 20 years. double last year. Wellington the presence to again be a force. However, the sudden retirement of veteran Arguably the top returning player in 4A I coach Steve Ingram will be a tough blow for Wichita dominates Class 6A the Falcons, who also graduated a strong trio is Labette County’s Tristan Gegg, who led Class 6A has been dominated by Wichita the Grizzlies to a fourth-place finish and of seniors, but return standout Dejanae South, which captured an unprecedented 21-4 season. The sharp-shooting junior has Roebuck. fourth straight title last year with a 36-30 The Sunflower League boasts a wealth of victory over Shawnee Mission Northwest in See GIRLS, Page 14 depth with SM West (12-11) and Northwest the championship game to finish 25-0. No


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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

Teams Continued from Page 11 Kapaun, which finished 16-9 and runner-up, also had big graduation losses, but senior Chris Meitzner emerged as a scoring sensation in the State tourney. Salina Central (16-7) very well could have the most balanced squad returning in 5A, even with the graduation of second-leading scorer JD McHenry. Only one other player is gone off the State squad and senior Brayden Neuschafer returns as the Mustangs’ leading scorer from a year ago. Topeka could produce a trio of contenders with Highland Park (17-8) a perennial power which finished fourth a year ago. Malik Keith and four other seniors are gone, but the Scots have routinely found their way to the Kansas Expocentre and remain one of the top programs in 5A. However, they will get challenged within the Centennial League by both Shawnee Heights and Seaman. The T-Birds dropped a two-point decision in the sub-state finals to Highland Park last year and have a strong 1-2 punch in seniors Poncho Freeman and Trey Brown, with Brown committing to Missouri Western. Seaman was young a year ago and could continue to make strides under veteran coach Craig Cox.

Girls

Continued from Page 13

been a dynamic scorer from day one and averaged 23.4 points per game last year. Labette only lost two players off last year’s squad, but Erica Gartner was a steadying force for the team and will be missed. If Gegg isn’t the best player in 4A I, then McPherson’s Taylor Robertson would have to be the pick. Like Gegg, Robertson is a marksman shooter and as a sophomore averaged 20 points per game, hitting 53 percent of her 3-point attempts. The Bullpups were knocked off by Labette in last year’s first round, finishing 20-3, but also return plenty to go with Robertson to challenge for the title this year. DeSoto (14-9) rode a strong sophomore and junior class to a state berth a year ago and only graduated one senior, but moves up to 5A this year. Andale qualified for State with a 10-12

KC Washington (15-9) knocked off Eisenhower in last year’s state quarterfinals and continues to be a threat from the KC-Atchison League. The Wildcats return senior DeMarco Smith and all but three players off last year’s state squad. Wichita Heights was upset by Kapaun in the sub-State finals a year ago, but Joe Auer’s Falcons have been one of the state’s top programs for more than a decade and will continue to be a factor in 5A. St. James Academy boasts one of 5A’s top scorers from a year ago in Zack Thornhill, while Maize (Grant Bugbee) and Valley Center (Tyler Brown) return scoring sensations capable of carrying their teams far. The landscape in Class 6A gets a markedly different look as most of last year’s top squads took big hits from graduation. Champion Shawnee Mission North no longer has the Weathers brothers to wreak havoc after the duo carried the Indians to their first State title since 1953 with an 80-56 demolition of Wichita Southeast in last year’s championship game. Southeast may have lost All-State senior Jerrick Harding, but might have 6A’s most electric returning player in junior Israel Barnes, who emerged as a solid 1A to Harding a year ago. The Golden Buffaloes (20-5) had three freshmen and two sophomores on last year’s state roster, which will serve the program well not

only this year but next year as well. Lawrence (22-3) entered last year’s State tourney as one of the teams to beat, falling to Southeast in the semifinals before bouncing back to finish third. The Lions lost a quartet of stellar seniors led by Justin Roberts, but have a strong returning duo in senior Jackson Mallory and sophomore Noah Butler. A year after taking the 6A title, Wichita East (16-7) fell in the first round and will have to adjust to the loss of Xavier Kelly and two other seniors. City League rival Wichita South (1310) could be Southeast’s top challenger in Wichita with all but three players back off last year’s State squad, led by senior Dawson Gunter. Blue Valley Northwest (19-6) captured backto-back state titles in 2013-14 and is poised to add another piece of hardware to the trophy case after finishing fourth last year with just one senior. Senior Darien Jackson leads a talented cast for veteran coach Ed Fritz. The Huskies will be challenged in the Eastern Kansas League by Blue Valley, which returns Tyler Geiman and Gus Gomez from a squad which lost to Northwest by just five in the subState finals.

mark, but returns the bulk of its squad and should get back to state, especially if the Indians end up in Division II. Abilene rounded out last year’s state tourney field, but will have to be considered in a rebuilding mode after graduating the tandem of Cara Donley and Belle Barbieri, both at MIAA schools now. KC Piper was denied a trip to state after being stuck in the same sub-state with Miege, and even though the Pirates lost standout Jessica Wayne, the return of Maya Morrow and Ryan Cobbins should have them capable of another big season after going 19-3 last year. Maize South drops from 5A to 4A this year and has a strong 1-2 punch in Sierra Mortensen and Jaylynn McLaurian.

Division II champion. But after having to replace some key players off the 2014-15 squad, the Tigers certainly caught a few people by surprise as they caught fire at the State tourney and rode the momentum all the way to the program’s first State championship. Clay Center knocked off heavily-favored, oneloss Hugoton 53-42 in the semifinals and then pulled away late for a 56-50 victory over Hayden in the championship game. A quartet of seniors led by Courtney Hammel will be hard for the Tigers to replace as they go after a repeat this year, but a solid cast of underclassmen got a taste of it last year and will no doubt be hungry to deliver Clay Center another crown. Runner-up Hayden may have lost six seniors off last year’s squad, including All-4A pick Jordan Lenherr, but the return of sophomore Preston Reid makes the Wildcats one of the favorites for this year’s title.

Clay Center returns in 4A-Division II Judging from its 21-4 record, Clay Center hardly was a complete shock as last year’s 4A

Brent Maycock is a sports writer for the Topeka Capital Journal.


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

Page 15

Junction City Blue Jays

Garden City Buffaloes

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s he starts his seventh year as head coach of the Buffaloes, Jacy Holloway worries his players will be challenged by their lack of size. Still, he has confidence in their ability to play multiple positions. “We should be able to run and spread the floor,” he said. Garden City returns three starters from a team that ended the 2015-16 season with a 7-15 record: seniors Zac Karlin, 6’3”, 5.5 points per game and 3.3 rebounds, and Griff Brunson, 5’9”, 2.7 points and 1.9 rebounds, and junior Garret Doll, 5’10”, 10.5 points and 3.6 rebounds. “Karlin and Brunson have been solid players for us in the past and will continue to hellp us a lot this year,” Holloway said. “I see both of these guys scoring more and leading the team. Doll is ready to have a breakout year after averaging 10 ppg as a sophomore.” Girls Led by Abbie Dart and other members of her senior class, the Lady Buffaloes are in search of “a bounce back” season. Garden City finished the 2015-16 season with a 7-15 record overall and 0-8 in league. “Each player brings a specific/ unique skill set,” said Matt Pfeifer, who is in his first season as head coach. Dart, a player Pfeifer describes as “the ultimate competitor,” is joined by fellow seniors Kyra Bellows, Lexi Hogan, Serianna Stinemetz and Alyssa Long and juniors Josie Calzonetti and Kensi Peitz. Pfeifer said his players’ strengths are their hard play and motivation for an improved season They also are an athletic, multisport group. Some players will be inexperienced as they move into new roles.

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Hutchinson Salthawks

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he Lady Salthawks return three starters, seniors Brooke Ackley, 5’5”, 7 points per game, and Chaliese Seeks, 5’7”, 3 points; and junior Kasey Hazell, 5’10”, 10 points and 6 rebounds. Other letter winners are: seniors Madyson Regier, 5’5”, and Miceh Tomea, 5’5”; and junior Abbey Hefley, 6’2”. Casey Stiggins starts his fourth year as head coach. The Lady Salthawks finished the 2015-16 season with an overall record of 7-14 and a league record of 3-9.

Boys

The Salthawks finished the 2015-16 season with two wins under first-year head coach Chad Wintz. This year looks to be better. Unlike the 2015-16 season, when Hutchinson lost its top three players to graduation, the Salthawks continue Carryout or Delivery to grow under a new system. 620-662-7788 123 W. 4th Canyon Maldonado, a 6’2” senior Dine-in, Carryout, & Delivery forward, was responsible for 620-662-0571 930 E. 30th Hutchinson’s first win under Wintz, when he sank two free throws Hutchinson against Campus with 2.2 seconds left in a game that was tied 40-40. He will be joined by senior Kolby Holmberg, who started as little more than a name on the Salthawk program, and developed into a marquee player over the course of the season. Holmberg, who was named to the 2nd team, All-League, averaged 12 points a game and shot 42 percent in 140 attempts from 3-point land. He is expected to lead the team. “We don’t bring back a ton of experience. Hopefully, we’ve attained the benefits of good summer camp,” Wintz said.

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ate Schmitt makes a jump from Class 3A Lakin High School in southwest Kansas into his first year as head coach of the 6A Blue Jays. Schmitt will be rebuilding a Junction City program that returns only two starters. “Our top 35 guys had 80 percent attendance or better to summer workouts,” Schmitt said. “This allowed us to implement our system and expectations. “Expect us to be more aggressive on offense and defense. We will build our own program around defense, rebounding and team play. “If we are going to have a winning season, compete in the Centennial League and be a top team in 6A, we must continue to impove our commitment, mind set and attitude on and off the court. We are looking forward to building on what we started this summer.” Returning starters are: AJ Range, 6’5” senior, and Xavier Cason, 6’5” junior.

Manhattan Indians

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ll-State point guard and Centennial Player of the Year, Trevor Hudgins, 5’10” senior, leads Manhattan into the 2016-17 season after going 18-3 in the regular season this past year before falling to Wichita East in sub-State. Manhattan returns three senior starters along with two lettermen, and a fast-paced offense with a strong perimeter. Cade Roberts, a 6’6” senior, will anchor Manhattan’s offense in the paint. Despite setbacks prior to his tenture, head coach Benji George has thrived since taking over the program, and has not only kept Manhattan’s program above water in 6A, but elevated the Indians to their highest potential over the past two years. Also returning is Tommy Ekart, 5’10” senior.


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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5 Great Bend One number to call

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Central Mustangs

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he Mustangs don’t have a lot of size this season, but they’re great shooters and the team has speed. And four returning starters. They also have a veteran coach in Doug Finch, who is starting his 13th year at Central. The Mustangs posted a 16-7 record during the 2015-16 season. They also finished third in their league. Returning starters are: Brayden Neuschafer, 5’10” senior who averaged 16 points per game; Sam Shaffer, 6’0” junior who averaged 8 ppg; Marion Miller, 6’4” senior who averaged 5 ppg and six rebounds; and Ethan Speer, 6’3” junior who averaged 7 ppg and five rebounds. They will be joined by juniors Zach Farmer and Ethan Kickhaefer. See Page 7 for story on Central’s Brayden Neuschafer and Page 10 for overview of Central’s 5A competition this season. Girls Central returns five starters and six other letter winners from a team that finished 3rd in league this past season. Depth and experience will help first-year head coach Chris Fear build on the success the Mustangs had last season. Fear comes to Salina Central after five years at the collegiate level as head coach of Salina’s Kansas Wesleyan University. Returning starters are: Casey Knoth and Emma Cain, both 5’10” seniors; Elisa Backers, 6’0” junior; Myah Ward, 5’10” junior; and Selah Merkle, 5’9” sophomore. See Page 8 for story on Central’s Casey Knoth and Page 12 for overview of competition. Dine-in, Carryout & Delivery

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Great Bend Panthers

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he Panthers have a new head coach this year, Tim Brooks, who has a good foundation of players from the 2015-16 season, when Great Bend finished 4-17. Returning starters are seniors Kody Crosby, 6’6” post who averaged 14 points a game; Konner Ireland, 5’10”; and Jacob Murray, 5’11”. They are joined by senior Logan Perry, 6’3”. “Kody can both score from the perimeter and the paint,” Brooks said. “Konner is a very heady guard that shoots the three well. Jacob does all the intangibles and can get on a roll from the arc. “We have experience from the senior class, but must find depth from underclassmen.” Girls The season looks good for the Lady Panthers as they return their leading scorer, 5’8” junior Carley Brack, who averaged 17.7 points a game during the 2015-16 season, and their leading rebounder, 5’7” senior Carly Dreiling, who averaged 8.8 points and 5.6 rebounds. They will be joined by veteran players, seniors Brooklyn Burkhart, 5’10”, 1.7 points and 1.9 rebounds, Kate Warren, 5’10”, 3.9 points and 4.7 rebounds, Keely Ireland, 1.4 points, and Camryn Dunekack, 6’4 points and 4.3 rebounds. “We have some young ladies returning that will be great leaders and big contributors to our team,” said Carrie Minton, who is in her 5th year as head coach. Great Bend finished second in its WAC league this past year with a 6-2 record. Joel Benson, CPA Mary Benson, CPA

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Hays Indians

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he Lady Indians will be a young team with a lot of sophomores and freshman seeing playing time this season. Two returning players, seniors Talyn Klowono, 5’7”, and Maddie Keller, 5’9”, return from ACL surgery. “Hopefully, they’re ready to play,” said Kirk Maska, who starts his eighth year as head coach. “We have several sophomores that saw significant playing time as freshmen so hoping experience will help with so many young girls playing.” Maska also has concerns about size; however, he hopes speed and depth will compensate. Starter Kallie Leiker, a 5’4” sophomore, also returns. Boys Rick Keltner has high hopes for his Indians this season. “We believe we have the potential to play with anyone and will work hard to be a dangerous team by post season,” he said. Hays lost eight seniors to graduation; however, returning players include Shane Berens, 6’4” senior forward-post, who was All-League honorable mention in 2015-16 with 11 points per game and 7 rebounds. Berens will be joined by fellow seniors Xander Swayne, 6’4” post, Tyrese Hill, 6’4” post, and Collyn Kreutzer, 6’0” guard. Hays also will have the benefit of Claiborne Kyles, who moved from Hill City, where he averaged 18.2 points a game and 10 rebounds. Kyles had 30 points in a State tournament game this past season. “We hope the tough 4-5-6A schedule we play will help us grow as a team,” Keltner said.

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South Cougars

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he Lady Cougars return two starters from its 2015-16 team that finished the season with an overall record of 6-15. Ryan Stuart, who starts his fourth season as head coach, will have two juniors, Angie Hall, 5’11”, and Allie Valdez, 5’10”, in leadership rolls, along with Claire Olson, 5’6” senior. “I really look for Angie, Allie and Claire to provide solid leadership on this year’s team,” Stuart said. “They will also be counted on to provide increased statistical production.” Stuart said overall team size, defense and chemistry will be strengths for this season’s Cougars. Scoring and ball handling will be weaknesses. Other players expected to contribute: Mya Hanson, 5’9” senior; Jacie Marcotte, 5’8” junior; and Camdyn Schreiber, 5’10” sophomore. Boys The Cougars kick off their 2016-17 season Dec. 2 with a non-conference game against Andover Central. Coach Jason Hooper will lead a team that lost five starters — and their experience — to graduation, including Jacob Marcotte and 6’7” post Trace Kochevar. That leaves the Cougars with seniors Devin Johnson — the only returning player with significant varsity experience — Austin Jensen, Josh Reed, Lance Rassette and Eli Truhe. Salina South finished the 2015-16 season with a 15-8 overall record and 9-3 in league. “This will be a very inexperienced team,” Hooper said. “Despite the inexperience, this team is excited to finally get their opportunity. This group looks to build on what last year’s group started ... As the season progresses we will see what the identity of this group will be.”


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

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Liberal Redskins

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he Lady Railers have the best of both worlds — iberal will look to repeat as youth and experience. league champions as they The only senior the team lost to return four starters from a graduation this past spring was State-qualifying team that went Peyton Roberts-Parker, 6’0”. 17-6 last season, and 6-2 in league. Returning are Taylor Deladris Green, a 6’6” senior, Antonowich, 5’11” junior and will anchor the team. He averaged probably Newton’s best defender, a double-double this past season and DesiRay Kernal, 5’11” sophowith 15 points per game and 10 more who moved into the starting rebounds, and was an all-state lineup mid-way through the 2015honorable mention, as well as a 16 season. 3rd team 5A selection in some This athletic pair is joined by polls. Kyndal Bacon, junior point guard, Others expected to contribute and Abby Schmidt, 6’3” senior are: seniors Cade Hinkle, 6’0”, 10 post. points and 3 rebounds, Kylan The Lady Railers are coached Thomas, 6’2”, 10 points and 5.5 by Randy Jordan, whose day job is rebounds, and Cole Evans, 6’5”, 6.7 police chief of North Newton. points and 6.3 rebounds. The team ended the regular The Redskins are led by head 2015-16 season with a 17-5 coach Scott Hinkle. record, which included a 10-game Liberal lost an experienced winning streak at the end. point guard to graduation and there is some concern about bench Boys depth. However, experience will be Andy Preston starts his second an asset, along with the team’s season as head coach of the Railers. ability to play together. Of his top three players during the 2015-16 season, only one returns, Girls Nathan Arens, 6’2” senior forward. Carter Kruger enters his first year Lost to graduation were Tevin as head coach of the Liberal girls with Berry and Malik McKinney. four starters, including senior Jada Newton ended its season with a Mickens, a 6’0” forward who averages 6-14 record overall and 3-9 in league. 14 points and 8 rebounds a game. “She can score, rebound and defend,” Kruger said of the 1st team All-WAC forward. The team also is strong on guards as Ali Lucero, 5’5” junior, 8 points and 3 rebounds, and Whitney Hay, 5’9” sophomore, 7 points and 3 rebounds, return. They are joined by Laci Rush, a senior forward who averages 5 points and 3 rebounds. Also on the senior roster are Sam Terrazas, 5’9” guard, and Reyna Gonzales, 5’10” forward. Liberal ended the 2015-16 season with a 4-17 record. “Our interior play offensively should be our biggest strength,” Kruger said. “We can shoot the ball well from the perimeter. We will be integrating several freshmen so their development will be crucial for our success.”

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bilene returns two starters from a team that had a perfect 10 wins in league play this past season. McKenzie Funston, a 5’6” senior who averaged 11 points per game and 3 rebounds, was all-league. She will be asked to be the primary scorer for the Cowgirls this year. Also in a senior role of leadership is Olivia Gassman, 5’6”, 11 points and 3 rebounds. Head coach Steve Riedy expects to move Gassman to point guard to give the team a primary ball handler. He describes her as “a very steady player who makes few mistakes.” Seven other letter winners return to the team, so depth will be a strength for the Cowgirls, as coach Riedy expects to continual1703 N. Buckeye ly rotate 10 players throughout Abilene the season. 785-263-7777 “We will do a lot by commitDine-in, Carryout, & Delivery tee,” Riedy said.

Boys The Cowboys return one of the top players in 4A, Ryan Wilson, a 6’3” senior and three-year starter who averages 10.1 points per game. Terry Taylor, who starts his 10th season with Abilene, calls Wilson a complete player — “our best defender, ball handler, scorer.” “The remaining team was part of a JV team that went 30-4 over the past two years,” Taylor said. “These seniors and juniors are anxious for a chance to prove they can win at the varsity level.” On the roster with Wilson are seven lettermen, including seniors Ben Veach, 6’3, 8.3 points; Carter Wildey, 6’0”, 8.1 points, Parker Base, 6’0”, 11.4 points; Parker O’Neal, 6’0”, 5.6 points; and Jacob Schartz, 6’3”, 3.6 points. “Don’t write off the Cowboys just yet, even though we graduated six seniors from last year’s team,” Taylor said. “We feel we have the players to be a very good 4A team. Our confidence is high, our players expect to win each night we play.”

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rennan Harris returns for his senior year to lead the Irish. The 6’5” Harris was an All-State selection, while setting three school records for single season points (478), single game points (40), and single season average (22.7). Chapman has depth and leadership, but will have to improve on defense, and learn to play more cohesively to be successful this season, said James Bell, who is in his third season as head coach. Other returning starters are: seniors Tanner Hettenbach, 6’1”, 7.2 points and 7.3 rebounds, Dakota Davis, 5’10”, 2 points and 1.1 rebounds, and Kevin Leister, 5’10”, 2.7 points and 1.2 rebounds. Girls This season’s Lady Irish team will be athletic, fast and play hard. They also are inexperienced, not very tall and sometimes struggle with jump shots. That is the assessment of Nick Evans, who is in his third year as head coach. Chapman finished the 2015-16 season 11-11 overall and 2-8 in league play. The only returning starter from that team is Brianna Loy, a 5’6” junior who averages 3.4 points. “She has worked hard all summer and her teammates have followed her,” Evans said. “We have a very athletic freshmen class we are excited about. They will help a lot with our depth.” Rebekah Thomas also is a member of this year’s senior class.

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Larned Indians

errod Smith moves from assistant to head coach this year. He will do so with five new starters, which Smith admits “makes for a challenge.” It’s one he thinks his team can overcome.

“I’m confident we have the players to be successful if we play tough, patient, determined basketball,” he said. Returning seniors are: Johnathan Herter, 6’1”, 7 points per game, Dalton Bright, 5’10”, 4

points, and Mason Schartz, 5’10”. “[These are] athletic young men with good leadership skills,” Smith said. “We will need the young players to buy into the program and do all the little things to have much success.”

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Clay Center Tigers

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he Tigers return three starters, all of them 6’ feet or more. They are: Kade Wallace, 6’0” senior, 7.5 points per game and 2.1 rebounds; Anthony Enneking, 6’4” junior, 7.4 points and 5.4 rebounds; and Dalton Althiser, 6’2” senior, 7 points and 2.5 rebounds. They will be joined on the floor by seniors Mason Ahlberg, 6’3”, and Parker Focks, 5’11”. “Excited to see who will step up this year for us,” said Drew Gruver, who is in his first season as head coach at Clay Center. “For us to be successful, our players must be willing to accept their role and work to fulfill that role as best possible. We must play together as a team. “Defense is something that we must work on and be committed to. Playing solid team defense, playing together as a team, being disciplined and working for the shot we want on offense will be keys to our success this year.” Clay Center finished the 201516 season 4-17 overall and 2-8 in league. Girls The Lady Tigers have set the bar high following a successful 2015-16 season. Clay Center finished 21-4 and as 4A, Division II champion. It was their first title. A quartet of seniors led by Courtney Hammel will be hard for the Tigers to replace as they go after a repeat this year, but a solid cast of underclassmen got a taste of it last year and will no doubt be hungry to deliver Clay Center another crown. The Lady Tigers are led by three-year head coach Kelly Williams.


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mprovement is the name of the game this year with the Eagles. Brad Wildeman starts his second season as head coach after a 3-18 record in 2015-16. Included was a league finish of 1-10. Returning starters are: seniors Brooks Curry, 6’3”, 10.5 points per game and 5 rebounds, Donte Whitfield, 6’3”, 7 points and 4 rebounds, and Leighton Rinehart, 5’10”, 3.5 points and 2 rebounds, and sophomore Jordan Schippers, 6’2”, 11 points and 5 rebounds. Girls The Lady Eagles have a deep bench with at least a dozen players expected to start the 2016-17 season having varsity experience. Finding a go-to scorer will be something Colby will have to figure out as the season progresses. “Almost half of our schedule will be against schools with a higher classification than ours,” said Ryan Becker, who starts his fourth year at Colby. “Our schedule will provide the needed competition for us to prepare for a sub-State run. We need to be competitive and show a certain amount of fight in each and every game for us to reach our goals at the end of the season.” Returning starters are: senior guards Bailey Foss and Jordan O’Malley, both 5’6”, and Courtney Van Eaton, 5’8”. Other seniors are: Jordan Slaven and Callie Siruta.

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Concordia Panthers

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he Panthers return four players with experience, including Ian Nordell, a two-year starter. The 6’4” senior averages 11.3 points per game and 6.4 rebounds. The other returning starter is Billy Bechard, 6’0” junior. They have big shoes to fill with the graduation of Cooper Holmes and a solid senior class. “All will have to raise their level of play,” said Michael Roe, who starts his fifth year as Panther coach. “Our returners are very athletic and have played a lot of minutes on the court.” Concordia finished the 2015-16 season with an overall record of 13-8 and a league record of 6-4.

Girls The Lady Panthers hope to improve on their 3-17 record this past season. To do that, junior Cydney Bergmann, 5’8”, 12 points per game and 6.3 rebounds, and sophomore Mykah Eshbaugh, 6’1”, 9.9 points and 7 rebounds, will have to shoulder the load, said Michael Wahlmeier, who is in his fifth year at Concordia. Jordan Eshbaugh, a 5’10” senior who averages 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds, is out until February with a knee injury. “Our depth will be better

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esston returns four experienced players, but will have to develop depth as the season goes on. “We will not have a large number of players this year,” said Matt Richardson, who is in his 12th season as head coach. “With a roster of just under 20, our girls are going to have to come to practice and work hard everyday ... We will be inexperienced at many positions and rebounding is a definite concern for the upcoming season.” He expects the 2016-17 season to be “tough” simply because of the talent in Hesston’s league. “You will not be able to overlook anyone this season. This might be the most balanced the CKL has ever been from top to bottom,” Richardson said. The Lady Swathers ended the 2015-16 season with an overall record of 18-5 and a league record of 9-2. Returning letter winners include seniors Olivia Brubacher and Emma Clark. Boys Seniors Zach Vogt, 5’9”, 13.1 points per game, and Zach Esau, 5’11”, 10.3 points, bring leadership and experience to this season’s team. Fellow seniors Cole McCreary, 6’5”, and Dylan Fry, 6’0”, will be expected to fill the gaps from losing five seniors from this past season’s 20-3 team and 1st-place league finish with an 11-0 record. “We will have an experienced backcourt and a good big man inside with McCreary,” said head coach Greg Raleigh. “We need some of our freshmen and sophomores from last season to fill the holes from losing five seniors off of last year’s team.”

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Holcomb Holton Longhorns Wildcats

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he Longhorns lost 28 points per game and 11 rebounds to graduation this past spring, but they still expect to be a top contender for 2016-17. Holcomb, which won a State championship in 2015, returns seniors Conner VanCleave, 6’6” forward who averages 20 points per game and 13.4 rebounds; Brad Stegman, 6’0” guard, 5 points and 2.4 rebounds; and Dillon Williams, 6’0” forward, 5.5 points and 3.7 rebounds. They are joined by junior Trey Gilbert, 6’2” guard, 5.7 points and 2.2 rebounds. Veteran head coach Chad Novack, who is in his sixth year at Holcomb, said his team’s strengths include overall team size, varsity experience and love of the game. Weaknesses? “The unknown ... meaning who will fill those big roles that we lost from last year’s graduation. Who is going to step up?” Novack said. The Longhorns finished this past season with a 19-3 record.

Girls Zoe Engler, 5’9” senior, and Ebobni Sapien, 5’6” junior, are expected to lead the Lady Longhorns this season. “They are both tremendous athletes that will offer many different strengths,” said Nathan Novack, who is in his third season as head coach. “They both take pride in their defense and rebounding. They will be able to lead by example and push for a competitive nature with this year’s team.” Returning junior starters are: Courtney Wren, 5’3”, and Britnie Novack and Taylor Sleep, both 5’11”. Other seniors are Kim Sinoy, 5’0”, and Brynna McVey, 5’6”.

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

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enior Bryson Patch, 6’1” guard, returns as an allleague player and second in league scoring. He will be joined by juniors AJ Haussler, 5’11” guard, and Mason Strader, 5’10” point guard. Senior Riley Strader, 5’10” guard, returns after missing his junior season with a hip injury. “Last season, inconsistent play caused us to finish on a five-game losing streak,” said Ryan Noel, a 15-year coach who is in his third year at Holton. “We will still be undersized, but will look to play faster than past years and take advantage of the athletic ability and depth on the roster.” Noel said keys to success will be “each player committing to their role and defending relentlessly.” Girls The Lady Wildcats return three starters from the 2015-16 team, which ended the season with a 12-9 record, including a third-place finish in league play. Returning are: Courtney Bosswell, 5’9” senior who averages 9.8 points per game and 3.4 rebounds; senior Ashlynn Wielert, 5’6” senior with 8.3 points and 2.3 rebounds; and Shay Tanking, 5’9” junior with 12.3 points. Holton is led by veteran coach Jon Holliday. He said all of his returning starters are solid players with good athleticism. The team’s weaknesses include a lack of post players and size.

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803 N. Main Pratt, KS 67124 620-672-9444 www.homelumberpratt.com

Hugoton Pratt Eagles Greenbacks

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he Eagles return three proven players with a lot of experience and high expectations for themselves and their team. “Deep post season run last year gave the team a lot of confidence heading into this season,” said head coach C.J. Korf. “Our size is definitely an advantage. We will start three players 6’5” and taller.” Hugoton finished the 2015-16 season with a 23-2 record, which included first place in its league. Returning from that team are 6’5 seniors Zack Leininger, who averaged 13 points per game and 8.7 rebounds, and Colby Korf, 8 ppg and 3.2 rebounds. Others seniors are 6’9” Tony Kinser and 6’1” Valentino Degollado. “Our biggest weakness is the lack of experience from the rest of our team,” Coach Korf said. “We lost eight seniors off of last year’s squad and two juniors who transferred to other schools. We have a lot of talent in our younger guys ( JV was undefeated last year), but not a lot of experience on the varsity level.”

Girls Hugoton finished this past season with a league title and an overall record of 23-2. This year should be even better. The Lady Eagles return all five of its starters: seniors Amy Scott, 5’6”, 16 points per game and Katy Heger, 5’8”, 16 points; and juniors Jo Rawlins, 5’10”, 5 points, Dallie Hoskinson, 5’7”, 11 points, and Brooklyn Harper, 5’7”, 7 points. Andy Gillen starts his fifth season as head coach. See Page 25 for more on Hugoton.

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he Greenbacks lost three starters from the 2015-16 team to graduation; however, they also return three starters and two other key contributors that helped the team make a run at State. Pratt High will also look to add two seniors that missed most or all of this past year due to injuries. Another adjustment will be the coach, as Chris Battin takes over for David Swank, who is now the school’s athletic director. “The Greenbacks are excited for the challenges and opportunities that this season brings,” Battin said. Returning starters are: seniors Noah Meyers, 5’11” guard, and Bryce Stegman, 6’4” center; and sophomore Travis Theis, 5’11” guard. Also in the senior class are: Drew Roadhouse and Devan Stephans, 6’4” forwards; Samson Kohman, 6’4” guard; and Traik Peltier, 6’6” center. The Greenbacks finished the 2015-16 season with a 15-8 overall record and 8-3 in league play. Girls Hannah Coates, a 6’1” senior who averages 9 points and 6 rebounds a game, is Pratt’s only returning starter. “Hannah Coates is a tremendous worker that will provide great leadership and enthusiasm for our younger players,” said Emmanuel Adigun, who starts his 10th year at Pratt, his fourth as head coach. Pratt posted an 11-10 record in 2015-16. Adigun said his team’s strengths will be balance, depth, length and defense. Inexperience, lack of offensive threats and shooting will be areas of improvement.


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McPherson Bullpups

n his 12th year at McPherson High School, head coach Chris Strathman hopes the 2016-17 season will be one of the strongest yet since several of his key players are returning to this year’s team. Last season, the Lady Bullpups posted a 20-3 record, and took 1st first place in league play by finishing 10-0. But the team’s winning season was cut short after losing to Labette County in the first round of the state Class 4A-I championships. Three returning full-time starters include senior Emma Yowell, a 5’5” guard, and juniors Mandi Cooks, a 6’0” forward, and Taylor Robertson, a 5’9” guard. Other varsity players returning this season are seniors Jordan Bruner, a 5’9” forward, and Emma Ellet, a 5’8” forward, and sophomores Hannah Hageman, a 5’9” guard/forward and Riley Hett, a 5’5” guard. “Expectations are very high as we enter the 2016-17 season,” Strathman said. “We return several key players from last year’s 20-3 team, led by the very talented junior duo of Taylor Robertson and Mandi Cooks. We have several girls that have had to wait for their time, and we feel they are ready to contribute on the varsity floor.” However, Strathman can’t help but realize the significance of key graduation losses like Ashtyn Schieferecke, Paige Schmidt and Ally

Ulsaker. “Schieferecke and Schmidt were full-time starters for us,” he said. “Schieferecke received first-team league honors, and was a three-year starter for our team. Ulsaker played a key role for us as a post off the bench.” Looking ahead to the new season, Strathman admits it will be both exciting and challenging. “We will have a loaded non-league schedule, which should prepare us well for our post-season,” he said. “Our non-league schedule is filled with state-qualifying teams from last year— Derby, Bishop Miege, Abilene, Newton and Andale all qualified for the state tourney in their respective classes. We could also see Olathe South and Manhattan at our mid-season tournament, and both of those teams will be excellent this season… I believe that our league will be tougher than it has been the last few years, from top to bottom.” Because Robertson and Cooks will be the players opposing teams will likely focus on, Strathman said it will be important for his other Lady Bullpups to get aggressive. “…It will be very important for the rest of our team to build confidence, and step up as everyone will be needed for us to get to where we want to be,” he said. “We want to be playing on the last Saturday of the season, and we feel we have the team that can do that if we can

stay healthy.” Boys

McPherson returns one starter from a team that finished 2nd in 5A State this past season. The 6’6” Ben Pyle returns as one of the top juniors in the state, and Jake Alexander, 6’4” should be one of the top sophomores in Kansas with his length and athleticism. Pyle averages 14.7 points per game and 6.2 rebounds. McPherson will be an excellent shooting team, but may lack in overall quickness. Despite losing four starters, McPherson will again be a favorite to win league. Head coach Kurt Kinnamon has been at McPherson 21 years. Dine-in or Carryout

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5 “Know the difference between having a Bank and being part of one.”

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Smoky Valley-Lindsborg Vikings

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his is Brian Gentry’s first year as the Beaver head coach after being an assistant to Glenn O’Neil, who led Scott City to three State titles and left earlier this year for the head football job at Topeka Seaman. “We’re looking for the seniors to step up and set the tone immediately,” said Gentry, who coached almost a decade before coming to Scott City. “We will need some guys to be a little more assertive in the offense and look to get their shot and create for others.” Returning starters are: seniors Bo Hess, 6’4”, 14 points per game and 8 rebounds, Justin Faurot, 5’10”, 4 points, and Drew Duff, 6’1”, 8 points and 2.3 rebounds. Gentry said the Beavers will have a size issue in their GWAC league. Their strengths will be experience and depth at the guard position.

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ohn Bellah, who is in his second year as head coach of the Lady Vikings, said defense will be a strength this season. “We are fairly athletic,” he said. “Team unity will also be a strength. We have a great group of studentathletes to work with. They will do whatever the team needs them to do. Good depth.” Bellah said his team’s weakness will be size. Smoky Valley had a 7-14 season in 2015-16. Returning starters are seniors Kate Deterding, 5’8” forward who averaged 6.9 points, and Katie Bellah, 5’6” guard who averaged 7.9 points. “Katie Bellah and Kate Deterding have started for two years,” Coach Bellah said. “We expect them to help lead the team this season. They are solid players that are capable of doing several things on the court.” He said keys to the team’s success this season will be finding ways to get great looks at the basket and excellent defense.

Boys The Vikings return 65 percent of their scoring from the 2015-16 season, including junior guard Nick Reinert, who averaged 16.6 points per game as a sophomore starter and 6’4” junior Jacob Adams, who averaged 5.7 ppg and 5.3 rebounds as a starter. Also returning is junior Brett Heitschmidt, who averaged 8.1 ppg and 4.7 rebounds, and seniors Ross Schrag and Ryan Weldy. “Defense is one area where Smoky Valley lost a strong presence last season,” said Doug Schneider, who is starting his sixth year as head coach. “It will be important for the Vikings to find ways to force opponents into difficult shots as well as forcing steals in the open floor.” The team’s strength will be its shooting ability, a trait that took Smoky Valley to a 10-13 record. The Vikings defeated Chapman and Concordia to win sub-State and then lost to Rock Creek in the first round of the 4A-DII State tourney.

LOOSE BALL Larned’s Isuah Perez (11) shot is blocked by Pratt’s Noah Myers Jan. 23, 2016 in the MidWinter Classic tournament at St. John.

Girls Scott City returns four starters from a team that finished the 201516 season with an overall record of 7-15. The Lady Beavers ended with a 4-6 record in league for 4th place. Returning with another year of experience to their credit are: seniors Kiana Yager, 5’10”, 10 points and 4 rebounds a game, and Paige Winderlin, 5’10”, 5.5 points and 6 rebounds; and junior Bailey Lalla, 5’4”, 5 points and 3 rebounds, and Kaitlyn Roberts, 5’6”, 8.5 points and 3 rebounds. They are joined by seniors Emily Smith and Kaylene McGonagle. Nancy Wiebe, 5’7” junior, also is a returning letter winner. Sarah McCormick is in her fourth season as head coach.

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

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3A — Beloit High School

Budke paces team through example

By MARK McCOY Kansas Hardwood

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eloit’s Hunter Budke has terrorized the North Central Activities Association’s hardwoods for three seasons beneath the rim as one of the top post players in 3A. “I like to take pride in my defense,” Budke said. “I continually tried to improve in my defensive areas, because I felt it was one of my weakest skill sets in my younger years.” The 6’ 4” post averages an impressive 6.3 rebounds per game. He has accumulated 442 boards in his three years on the Trojan team and has earned the deep respect of his opponents beneath the rim. “I believe in heavy rebounding,” he said. “I always try to hit the boards hard. I think that makes a big difference for our team.” Budke has added a total of 594 points for Beloit in three seasons making 249 2-point field goals for a 54 percent shooting average from the floor. He is a solid free throw shooter, too, making 93 of 163 charity shots for a career average of 57 percent from the stripe. Budke’s overall philosophy of basketball is teamwork. “I try to do everything that I can to benefit the team,” Budke said. “I always try to be a team player.” “Hunter has been a big part of our team for three years,” said head coach Ryan Eilert. “He is very athletic, does a good job of finding the ball and following people around. “Off the glass, his rebounding is good, He is always up there. He is the area leader in rebounding and is a huge part of our defense. We are looking forward to seeing what he can do his senior year.” Budke, a busy student, is taking 15 college credit hours, plus his high school responsibilities this semester. Budke is also a talented football player. “It’s pretty hectic. I really don’t have a life between homework and practice. But this is the last year I can do it so I want to do it the right way,” he said. Budke is an honors student maintaining a 3.8 grade point average and currently has a 4.0 GPA in his college courses. ‘“He’s good leader off and on the court,” Eilert said. “He’s a hard worker and the kids look up to him.” Budke would like to pursue his athletic career after high school, preferably in football, but basketball isn’t off the table. “I’m pretty open right now but I’m focused on playing football somewhere,” he said. “I’m also leaving my options open for basketball, too.” Budke said that his basketball idol is NBA player LeBron James. “Ever since I was a little kid I always idolized LeBron James. He is good in every aspect of the game. He makes me work on my ball handling and things like that. I’d just like to be an all-around better player like LeBron.”

MARK McCOY/Kansas Hardwood

Beloit’s Hunter Budke guards an opponent during a 2015-16 season game against Ellsworth.

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

3A — Sterling High School

Cousins challenge each other on court

By KYLE McCASKEY For Kansas Hardwood

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he one-on-one basketball rivalry games at Mary Lou Comley’s home in Hutchinson will go down as some of the most fiercely competitive showdowns of the 2000s. There was no home-court advantage for Kenan or Kyler Comley. “When we were little kids, we’d always go to our grandma’s house for Christmas or Easter or all of the above. Just family dinners,” Kyler said. “First thing we would always do is we would always go out and we’d ask grandma to move her car out of the garage so we could shoot on that Little Tikes basketball goal. That’s what we loved to do.” The hoop stood only about five-feet high, but the dreams were much loftier — Kenan had a knack for pretending to be former Duke sharpshooter J.J. Redick, while his cousin Kyler would imagine himself as his favorite Kansas player of the moment. “We’ve just been playing on that goal for so long,” Kenan said. “It’s been great times on it.” The children’s size goal is still in use today, though it takes a beating as Kenan and Kyler tower over it and hammer down their best dunks. The action more often spills onto real hardwood now, where Kenan and Kyler have since teamed up. The Comley connection has become a sensational duo for Sterling. Sterling returns nearly everything from a 17-6 campaign that ended one win shy of a 3A State tournament berth. The Black Bears’ opportunity ended with a 59-57 loss to Scott City in the Lakin sub-State final. “We maybe didn’t accomplish our goal, but to say it wasn’t successful would be not the correct statement,” Kyler said. “We were happy with how things went. We just got an unlucky break or two at the end.” Kenan and Kyler are back for one more go at it together. Kyler, the senior preparing for his final chance, will be back on the wing, where he averaged 16 points, four rebounds and two assists. “Kyler has worked his butt off to get to where he is today. He’s one of the hardest workers in the high school,” Kenan said. “He’s a really good kid to look up to when you want to be good at something, too.”

MIKE COURSON/KansasHardwood

Kenan Comley takes a shot from the paint.

Kenan, the junior point guard, orchestrates the attack coming off a sophomore season that registered 17 points, four rebounds and four assists per game. Kenan’s older sister, Kylah, led the Sterling girls to fourth place in 3A this past season and has since signed on with Sterling College. “Kenan is obviously probably the better player. It hurts my pride to say that significantly,” Kyler said. “But in all honesty, he is. He can handle the ball and he’s a game manager. He scores when he needs to score. He doesn’t turn the ball over.” Kyler and Kenan both note, however, that Kyler once beat Kenan in the high school’s one-on-one practice tournament. “So I guess you could say he won when it mattered,” Kenan said. “Hopefully we can have a rematch this year, this season.” Though Kyler generously concedes Kenan may be the more talented of the two, the competition remains fiery. That only seems to come at the benefit of the Black Bears, with both understanding the priority is team success. “They have an interesting relationship because they don’t want to lose to each other,” said Sterling coach Derek Schneider. “They’ve played a lot of one-on-one when there’s not a coach around. They just go and play.” Kenan’s father, Chad, and Kyler’s father, Clark, grew up in Buhler. Chad went on to play basketball at Sterling College, while Clark sang there. Kenan and Kyler have followed similar paths, as Kyler is also a talented vocalist. Their passion for basketball also was passed down a generation. “They’ve had all the impact, really,” Kyler said. “I bet I would have never even gotten into basketball if it wasn’t for my dad. I played in third grade, I liked it and my dad started coaching me.”

Kenan grew up in Lyons before making the short move down to Sterling before his sixth grade year. Before and after that transition, Kenan and Kyler often intersected, whether it was for working on fundamentals, drilling high school offenses or even for games of oneon-one or two-on-two — Blake Richter and Lucas Briar, also seniors on this season’s team, often join in. There will be unavoidable playing time crunches for Sterling — the Black Bears are overflowing with depth. Along with Richter, Briar and the Comleys, Brady Ochs, Edward Weiner, Joel White, Kaleab Wilson, Max Fulbright, Will Dutton, J.J. Oden and Brett Oden — in no particular order — fill out much of the veteran-laden roster. The Comleys do not foresee any friction. “You know, we have fantastic teammates. Teammates that are going to back us. Teammates that are going to back each other,” Kyler said. “So the thing is, while they’re competing as hard as they can in practice for a playing spot, the minute we walk outside those practice doors, we’re best friends again.” Kenan and Kyler are automatically looked upon for guidance, though the experienced group can patrol itself rather well. This is one area Kyler takes the lead in the competition. Kyler’s maturity and focus makes him more of a vocal leader, though Schneider said Kenan is making progress. Much of their leadership stems from their own accountability. Kenan and Kyler each play football, basketball and tennis, along with participating in various school clubs. “They show up to anything. They’re the kind of kids that when we have a workout session, they’re going to be there,” Schneider said. “They miss very few things. They do it while they’re balancing all their other stuff.” Despite their competitive natures, there is one position Kenan and Kyler agree on — their desire is to push the Black Bears to State. “That’s what we’ve dreamed of since we were little,” Kenan said. “Try to make the most out of it and grow in my relationships with them. My teammates are amazing. Every practice I go to, I enjoy with them. Every bus ride. It’s a blast.” Kyle McCaskey writes for the Hutchinson News.


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

Page 25

3A — Hugoton High School

Practice makes Leininger perfect By KYLE McCASKEY For Kansas Hardwood

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ugoton senior Zack Leininger was not fond of rebounding in middle school. His father, Chuck, took notice. Chuck began charting Zack’s work on the glass. The goal became double-digit rebounds and a couple dozen box outs per game. These days, Chuck still finds ways to encourage Zack, taking to social media to message him with inspirational quotes from coaches. “He always pushes me to do better,” Zack said. “If I want to go to the gym, no matter what he’s doing, he’ll stop what he’s doing and help me improve my game.” Zack rebounds now, by the way. He pulled down 8.7 per game as a junior on Hugoton’s 4A-Division 2 state runner-up squad. “I think that’s something he realized, and that was one of the things I emphasized last year, is we have to outrebound teams,” said Hugoton coach C.J. Korf. “He stepped up to lead us in that regard.” Leininger’s fervor for basketball was sparked around third or fourth grade. He joined a rec league and MAYB team, where his father was his coach. “As a little kid, that thrill of making that occasional shot made me want to keep improving, and having some of my best friends also love basketball the same as I did, I always had someone to go play with. I didn’t have to go by myself,” Leininger said. Much of Hugoton’s basketball success now can be traced back to those impromptu hoops sessions with

friends. Parker Titus, an integral part of this past season’s Hugoton team who has since signed with Friends University, regularly joined Leininger Leininger to hoist up some shots. Fellow senior Tony Kinser, who lives about a mile from Leininger, would partake as well. When the Korfs came to Hugoton in Leininger’s sophomore season, C.J.’s son, Colby, became a practice mainstay with Leininger. Those early lessons from dad and those shoot-arounds with future teammates culminated into Leininger helping lead Hugoton to state a year ago — the Eagles’ first state trip since 1951. “That experience was pretty lifechanging,” Leininger said. Hugoton, often an afterthought to bigger cities on the other side of the state, demanded respect. “Our kids played a lot of basketball, maybe not at the level where we’re getting recognized throughout the state. We’re just out there in our corner,” Korf said. “The fact is a lot of people in the state don’t know anything about us. That’s where I think the state trip helped us.” Leininger agrees, and concedes the lack of exposure for a program in the southwest corner of Kansas can be frustrating. However, it also serves as a distinct motivator for him to work more diligently. Leininger works plenty, whether that is athletics or otherwise. In football, basketball and baseball,

Leininger received all-State recognition as a junior. He hopes to play basketball in college, though football is piquing his interest of late. “I’m waiting to see where life takes me to decide,” Leininger said. Off the fields and court, he is the student council president, a member of National Honor Society, choir and the Science Club. Each Wednesday, he spends his evening with his church youth group. He also is a talented singer, performing in Hugoton’s annual musical or play each year. Hugoton will perform High School Musical this year, where Leininger fittingly will play the part of Troy — the small-town high school sports star. Even though time is at a premium in Leininger’s basketball off-season, he has found time to refine his repertoire. At Korf ’s encouragement, Leininger, a 6’5” post for the Eagles, is trying to add a perimeter shot. “I shoot like every day after practice,

or even late at night, I go with my dad to the gym. Just working on that consistency of getting that elbow in has been a challenge for me,” Leininger said. “Hopefully this year, I can showcase my outside shooting.” Leininger topped the Eagles with 13 points per game as a junior. Hugoton is a bit of a wild card entering the 2016-17 campaign. Gone are starters Wade Heger, Manuel Mendez and Titus from a 23-2 team. Back are Leininger, Kinser and Korf. With Leininger joining the 6-foot-9 Kinser and 6-foot-4 Korf, Hugoton has a forest’s worth of height to bother opponents. Coach Korf sees the losses to graduation as an opportunity for others to rise into leadership roles. Leininger has fulfilled that before, and is likely to do so again. “The expectations are going to be high, and our seniors are going to make sure of that,” Korf said. “I think they’re going to push some kids at practice.”

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Page 26

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

3A — Ellsworth High School

Ellsworth’s Kaden Davis opens a tunnel between two defenders as he eyes the basket during a game this past season.

Mark McCoy Kansas Hardwood

Hard work fuels Davis

BY MARK McCOY Kansas Hardwood

K

aden Davis, of the Ellsworth Bearcats, has a simple philosophy concerning basketball. “Work hard,” he said. Davis is considered by opposing coaches to be one of the top 3A basketball players in North-Central Kansas. “Davis is a dangerous opponent,” said head Central Plains Oiler’s coach Brett Rolfs, whose team met the ‘Cats in the championship game of the 2015-16 Amos Morris-George Stephens Basketball Classic in Lincoln. “He can get to you from anywhere on the court. We had a lot of respect for him going into that game.” Although recognized by opposing coaches and sportswriters as a top basketball player, Davis said basketball is not his preferred sport. “Basketball is my third favorite sport behind football and track,” Davis said. “But I work hard at it, because I want to be successful in everything that I do.” Davis’ drive for success was a big part of Ellsworth’s emergence in the latter part of this past season as a solid basketball team in the tough North Central Activities Association. The Bearcats ended the season with a 12-10 overall

record, defeating a good Phillipsburg team in the first round of the Norton sub-State before falling to Norton in the quarterfinal game. The ‘Cats played a tough regular season schedule that included 2A State runner-up Sacred Heart, Southeast of Saline and 2A State third-place Central Plains. The Knights of Sacred Heart and the Trojans of Southeast Salina also compete in the NCAA league. Davis led the ‘Cats in total points scored last season with 327; averaged 63 percent from the charity stripe; almost 44 percent of 2-point field goals and 25 percent from 3-point land. He averaged 14.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. On the defensive side of the ball, Davis led the team in steals with 49 and in rebounds with a whopping 193 boards. He scored 10 blocks in the 2015-16 season. Although Davis is loaded with talent — he is the current 3A 200-meter State sprint champ and placed second in the 100-meter and 400-meter sprints at the State track meet in Wichita — he knows hard work is necessary to achieve his goals. “Kaden is one of the hardest working individuals I’ve ever met,” said Trevor Kuhlman, head coach of the Bearcats. “He puts a lot of time behind the scenes.

He’s kind of a ‘gym-rat’, if you will. “Last year, we relied on him to score and do a lot of things as we had a pretty young team. Kaden rose up to the occasion. He’s a great rebounder and gets off the floor well. He’s going to be tough to guard and I think he will have a great year.” Davis said that competing in the NCAA against some top-tier talent has enhanced his basketball skills. “Competing against tough competition my freshman and sophomore year really prepared me for my junior year,” said Davis. “It taught me how hard I really need to work. That hard work really paid off last year. But I can’t do it without my coach. He’s my leader. He forces us to pick up the pace.” Davis is also a good student, maintaining a 3.79 grade point average. He said that chemistry is his favorite class. “My academic career is just as important to me as sports,” he said. Football is Davis’ first love and he plays a slot-back/wide receiver on offense for the Bearcats in the fall. He also plays linebacker or safety on defense. “I can pretty much play anywhere on the field,” he said. Davis plans to pursue a career in sports, perhaps as a coach or trainer following his collegiate career.


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

Page 27

3A — Thomas More Prep-Marian

Improvement is goal of Lady Monarchs By JENNIFER McDANIEL For Kansas Hardwood

“Each of these players played an important role in our success last season,” McFarland said. “We will miss each of these players, but we have a very experienced group of young ladies coming hen the Thomas More Prepback.” Marian girls basketball team This season, McFarland will rely on the expeclinched third-place at the Class rience of returning starters Megan Koenigsman, 3A State championship last season, the vica 5’6” senior point guard; Madyson Koerner, a tory proved sweeter for players who wanted 5’7” senior shooting guard; Katelyn redemption for the previous year. Zimmerman, a 5’10” senior post; and During the 2014-15 regular seaKayla Vitztum, a 5’9” junior post. son, the Lady Monarchs were ridOther players returning from last seaing an impressive winning streak, son include Deonna Wellbrock, a 5’8” and were ranked third in senior forward; Aubrey Koenigsman, 4A-Division II going into sub-state. a 5’5” junior guard; Bailey Lacy, a But a first-round upset by Colby 5’10” junior post; and Savannah Yost, sent the Lady Monarchs home disa 5’10” junior forward. appointed, eclipsing what had been “All of these players have been playa successful season. ing varsity since their freshmen year,” After shaking off the loss, the team she said. “Megan and Madyson are a regrouped last year, and worked hard, threat on the perimeter, while Katelyn preparing for another season. But this and Kayla are a tough duo to guard in time, the Lady Monarchs didn’t yield the paint.” to the pressure by paying attention to As practice gets underway in a few the hype. weeks, McFarland said she’s already Instead, a new mindset helped playlooking forward to finding ways to ers tune it all out, giving them the freeimprove on last year’s accomplishdom to play their best ball with no ments, and watching this season’s regrets. team grow. “In the 2014-15 season, our team Already, she knows the Lady felt the pressure to win,” TMP-Marian Monarchs will be strong contenders head coach Rose McFarland said. this season with their experience and “Much was made of our win streak. depth, and ability to skillfully run the We never played to our full potential. floor, shoot three-pointers and presWe did not peak at the right time of sure the defense. Mark McCoy/Kansas Hardwood the season, and it ended with disapThe Lady Monarchs will begin the Lady Monarch Kayla Vitztum guards a player in the 2016 3A pointment. Last year, we had a more season playing three games in the sub-State game in Hays. experienced team whose motivation Hays City Shoot-out. was to have no regrets when the final “This tournament is always filled buzzer sounded. We had some adversiwith tough competition, and teams we don’t Sterling and a 23-3 record. ty during the season, but overcame it to come normally see during the rest of our season,” The trip to State gave McFarland her best together as a team and play our best when it McFarland said. “The tournament will give us a finish so far in her TMP coaching career. counted the most.” baseline of where we are as a team, and show us McFarland originally coached at TMP for four This past season, the Lady Monarchs went what areas we need to improve upon.” years in the early-1990s. She eventually unnoticed despite their reputation for winning Overall, she anticipates league teams being returned during the 2012-13 season, coaching consecutive games with killer three-point shots better from top to bottom this year, including the past five years. and defensive pressure. And while the team With the new season nearing, the Lady Hill City, which defeated the Lady went mostly unrecognized, it didn’t bother Monarchs will face it without the leadership of Monarchs last season. McFarland. seniors Melissa Pfeifer, Kelsie DeWitt, Morgan “The way the season ended, we may have Weber and Rachel Hamel, who graduated this been underrated,” she said. “We really did not past spring. McFarland described Pfeifer, a 1308 Vine care whether we were ranked in State. Our starting player, as an excellent shooter and Hays main focus was on self- and team improvement.” rebounder, while DeWitt served as back-up 785-628-1777 Soon, the team was again delivering devastat- post. Weber and Hamel, she added, helped lead ing losses. Eventually, the Lady Monarchs the team with their defensive efforts. Dine-in, Carryout, & Delivery earned a spot in the Class 3A sub-State cham-

W

pionship game with a 20-2 record, including 19 consecutive wins. After a rough first half which saw TMP struggle to score, players were able to get in a groove. After creating a gap in the third quarter, TMP won 60-48. Although the Lady Monarchs didn’t take the State championship in Hutchinson, they were able to end the season with a 76-70 win over


Page 28

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

3A — Overview — Girls

Powerhouses add to loaded mix

By MIKE COURSON For Kansas Hardwood

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hanges are coming in Class 3A. Always a loaded class, most of the girls’ basketball teams that advanced to the State tournament this past March relied heavily on senior contributions. With large pieces of those teams gone to graduation, the door is now wide open for different schools to take the lead. Then the Kansas State High School Activities Association released the new classifications Sept. 26 and threw a wrench in things, particularly with Hugoton dropping down a class. Two new powerhouses Hugoton has been a powerhouse for the past few seasons under coach Andy Gillen. In 2014, his girls went 19-4 and lost in the first round of State. They bounced back to win the 4A, Division II title in 2015, finishing the year at 22-2. Last season, despite of a roster with only one senior, the Lady Eagles took a 21-1 record into the State tournament, ultimately downing Girard in the consolation game to finish the year at 22-2. Expectations will be higher than ever in Hugoton as the Lady Eagles return virtually all their scoring from last year. Senior Amy Scott shot 39 percent from behind the arc to lead the team with 16.2 ppg. Senior Katy Heger hit 44 threes last season, adding 15.8 points and 4.9 rebounds a night. Junior Dallie Hoskinson rounds out the threeheaded monster, bringing back 11 points and nine boards a game. Kingman could also make waves back in 3A. Last year, the Eagles won 15 games but did not qualify for the 4A, Division II State tournament. Kingman is led by the Bangert twins: as sophomores last season, Bailey was a unanimous first-team selection in the tough Central Kansas League, and Sydney was a second-team selection. TMP reloads for another run Just two teams that played in the Class 3A State Tournament in March survived graduation: Thomas More Prep in Hays and Caney Valley. TMP last won a State title in 2010. Last year, a relatively young Lady Monarch squad earned several big wins, including a takedown of No. 4 Garden

Plain at State. TMP continued to impress with a 76-70 come-from-behind win against Sterling for the third-place trophy. “The experience our players received in last year’s postseason will benefit this year’s team,” said Lady Monarch coach Rose McFarland. “The players have a better understanding of how hard they need to work and have experienced the rewards of that hard work. They got a taste of how special it is to play in the state tournament and have set their sights on returning this year.” Of the four Lady Monarchs who graduated, only Melissa Pfeifer was a significant scoring threat at nine points a game. That means Rose McFarland has most of her scoring back for the 2016-17 season. Junior Kayla Vitztum paced the team with 14.5 points a night, and was second on the team with seven rebounds a night. Senior Madyson Koerner brings back 13.1 points a night, and senior Megan Koenigsman scored averaged 11.7 ppg. Senior Katelyn Zimmerman averaged just 7.7 ppg last season but led the team with 7.6 rebounds a night. Whereas many teams are dealing with the loss of players, McFarland actually picked up a pair of talented players in Sara and Emily Schippers, who transferred from Victoria. Emily was a key contributor for Victoria last year as a freshman. Tough games every night Two leagues have stood out as basketball powerhouses in recent years: the Central Kansas League featuring teams like Hesston, Sterling, Lyons, Haven and Kingman, and the Central Prairie League featuring Garden Plain, Cheney, and Conway Springs. Sterling, now in the Heart of America league, was a powerhouse for four seasons with Kylah Comley at guard. She has graduated, along with four other seniors. Garden Plain was the No. 4 seed at State last season. The Owls lose three of their top four scorers but return sophomore Taylor Joplin, who averaged 12.2 ppg and 5.5 rpg last season. Conway Springs is one of the schools ready to burst through the door left open by graduation. The Lady Cardinals went 18-4 this past season and they did it with just two seniors who brought less than seven

points to the table each night. Conway returns its top five scorers from last year, including sophomore Halie Jones (9.7 ppg), junior Sabrina Bellar (8.1 ppg), and senior Erica Ebenkamp (6.7 ppg). “Our expectations never change,” said Conway Springs coach Pat Carl. “We want our girls to do their best, get better every time they step on the court, play as a team, and have fun playing the game they love.” Carl knows Cheney and Garden Plain are still the teams to beat to get to the top of the CPL. Cheney is the school that bounced Conway Springs in sub-State last year. Five of Cheney’s eight losses came against Conway and Garden Plain last year, and the girls also fell to Wellington, which finished the year at 24-1 in Class 4A, Division I. Like Conway, Cheney will be relatively unaffected by graduation, losing just one senior who averaged three points a night. Senior Haley Albers will be one of the top players in Class 3A after averaging 16.6 points and 8.0 rebounds a game last season. Junior Kirsten Campbell averaged 6.2 ppg last year. Hesston looks to regroup Hesston can never be counted out. The Lady Swathers went 25-1 to win the title in 2014, then repeated with a perfect 26-0 record in 2015. By Hesston’s standard, last year’s 18-5 season leaves plenty of room for improvement, even though all five losses came against high-quality teams in Sterling, Kingman, and Garden Plain. Hesston coach Matt Richardson has graduated one of his standout daughters in each of the last two seasons. Cami Richardson was a primary contributor last year, and in all, the Lady Swather seniors contributed 67 percent of the offense. Richardson will have just two starters back in junior Kailey Jo Ince (12.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg) and senior Olivia Brubacher (4.0 ppg). Both players earned all-league honors last season. “It will be a challenge to get going this season as we have graduated almost all of our kids that went to state and played on that floor,” Coach Richardson said. “Each season is fun to try to put together the next puzzle. Trying different combinations of kids and getting them to have high expectaSee SILVER LAKE, Page 39


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

Page 29

3A — Overview — Boys

New powers on the rise this year

By MIKE COURSON For Kansas Hardwood

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ne thing is certain heading into the 2016-17 basketball season: Scott City will not win Class 3A. Heading into last season, the Beavers had posted a remarkable 121-8 record over the previous five seasons. Under new head coach Brian Gentry, Scott City will take its talents to Class 4A, Division II for the upcoming season. Norton, Southeast of Saline Southeast of Saline was a force last year, entering State as the No. 4 seed. The Trojans lose just three seniors, but Easton Montgomery leaves some big shoes to fill after averaging 22.2 points and 9.4 boards a night. Montgomery also shot 42 percent from the outside. Also missing will be Kannen Haist’s 9.2 points and 5.7 rebounds a night. Seniors Jackson Montgomery, Bryce Banks, and Ben Murray bring back a combined 24 points a game. Norton is another relatively young team that played at State in March. The Bluejays posted an 18-4 record in 2014-15, then went 20-4 this past year. Norton loses Quinton Porter to graduation but returns three of its top four scorers in seniors Tyus Henson (12.6 ppg) and Landon Porter (11.8 ppg), and junior Jace Ruder (11.8 ppg). Ruder, a sought-after commodity on the gridiron and a state medalist in the hurdles, led the team with 8.3 rebounds a game last year. Joining Norton in the Mid-Continent League is Phillipsburg. With just nine wins last year, the Panthers are an easy team to overlook on paper but will continue to improve this year and next after losing just one senior. Sophomore Trey Sides led the team with 14.8 points a night, and was second on the team with 6.4 boards a game last season. Other key returners include juniors Trey Thompson (9.8 ppg), Jordan Ford (7.7 ppg) and Chris Vankooten (6.7 ppg), and sophomore Nathan Moon (5.7 ppg). Sterling’s Black Bears are hungry Sterling is poised for a big year as the smallest school in Class 3A. Derek Schneider made an immediate splash there

several years ago, leading his No. 6 seed Black Bears all the way to a 2A State title in 2012. Sterling opened last year at 5-0 before finishing at a disappointing 15-6, including a 59-57 heartbreaker to Scott City in the sub-State championship. “Our expectations are always high, because we always expect the best effort out of our guys,” Schneider said. “We will continue to measure ourselves against our best selves, which makes each day another opportunity to get better. “I’m hoping to help build great relationships among the veterans and new team members, as well as continue to have intense work during practice among all the guys, old and new. All of these things will help us to compete at a high level on the court and execute at our very best level.” Senior Kyler Comley will be a four-year starter for Schneider. Last season, he shot 40 percent from behind the arc and averaged 16.3 ppg. Junior Kenan Comley has earned All-Central Kansas League honors in each of his first two seasons. The quick guard hit 44 threes and led the team at 17.1 ppg last year. Schneider has plenty of young players in his arsenal. Junior Blake Richter is yet another reliable outside shooter, going 31-for-67 (46 percent) from behind the arc last season. He’s also a presence inside, averaging 11 points and eight boards a night. Junior Lucas Briar canned 30 treys last year and averaged 8.5 ppg. Schneider lost just one senior from last year’s squad, but this will be the final season the Comley cousins will have a chance to make an impact as high school teammates. “I think every year has a sense of urgency to some extent, especially with each year inching many of these kids closer to the end of their high school careers,” said Schneider. “Kyler has given a ton to our program and I’m excited to watch him in his final season. He joins a great group of guys that we’re hoping to build into great future individuals, husbands and fathers.” Sterling left the Central Kansas League for the Heart of America League, and that means escaping Hesston. The Swathers went 26-0 in 2014 and finished at 21-3 in 2015. Hesston just missed another trip to State with a 51-50 loss to Southeast of Saline in the sub-State finals a year ago.

Coach Greg Raleigh will be down five seniors from a year ago.

Hugoton drops to 3A For the first time in nearly 30 years, Hugoton will play in Class 3A. The Eagle boys have tried to keep up with the Lady Eagles as one of the premiere teams in 4A, Division II. This past season, Hugoton finished at 23-2 and advanced all the way to the State championship game before falling to Collegiate. The Eagles took some lumps with eight players graduating in May and two more players transferring in the off-season, but the team will have back three of its top five scorers from last winter. Leading that charge is 6’5” senior Zack Leininger, who nearly averaged a double-double last year with 13 points and 8.7 rebounds a night. Senior Colby Korf averaged 7.9 ppg, and 6’9” senior Tony Kinser averaged six points a night and will transition from the sixth man to a starting role. The Eagles lose 21 points a night with the graduation of Parker Titus and Wade Heger. “We do return three seniors who have played quite a bit, including two that started on last year’s team,” said Hugoton coach C.J. Korf. “They will have to step up and be leaders. We have some younger kids who don’t really have the experience but they’re pretty talented. It may take a little time to get acclimated to the varsity level. We hope they come along as the season progresses.” Being a Western Kansas 4A school meant seeing similar opponents in sub-State. Last year, the Eagles had to contend with reigning State champion and league-foe Holcomb in sub-State. The move to 3A will alleviate some of those problems. “The thing that will be nice for us is that it will be different,” said Korf. “Our subState last year was made up of league teams so we were playing everyone for the third time. That was tough. We had the defending state champ in our sub-state and league last year and we won’t have to see them in the postseason, but I’m sure there are some pretty good 3A teams we’ll run into that we’re not real familiar with at this point. That will be kind of nice just to see somebody new.” See OSAGE CITY, Page 34


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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

GOOD LUCK

BELOIT

TROJAN BASKETBALL

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Beloit Trojans

he Lady Trojans start a new season with a new coach, Garry Lowry. “This is a great group of girls that have experience and have had a lot of success in all sports,” he said. Returning starters are: seniors Josie Wilson, 5’3”, and Carly Budke, 5’7”. Wilson, Lowry said, is a “great leader and outstanding defensive player.” Budke “does all the small things that don’t show up in the box score.” Also expected to contribute are: seniors Taryn Post and Kourtni Hubert, both 5’6”, and Sydney Johnson, 6’2” junior. Johnson averages 9.5 points a game and 7.3 rebounds. Lowry said his team will need to replace “a lot of production” from 2015-16, when the Lady Trojans finished the season with a 17-6 record overall and an 11-1 league record for first place. Boys Beloit returns a strong senior class, led by Caydren Cox, 6’0”, and Hunter Budke, 6’2”. Budke averages 13.8 point per game and 7.8 rebounds. Underclassmen will have to make their way into varsity roles to develop depth, and build the team’s foundation. Head coach Ryan Eilert will look to play differently than he has in the past to give his team the best opportunity to win this season. Other seniors are: Taylor Travis, 6’0”, 6.6 points per game; and Brendon Mason, 6’5”, 2.6 points.

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Council Grove Braves

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he Braves lost six players from this past season’s team, and along with them 55 percent of their scoring power. Council Grove will return seven lettermen along with three starters. “There is plenty of opportunity for other players to show what they can do and battle to earn varsity playing time,” said Bruce Hula, who starts his 12th year as head coach. “The Braves should have more solid depth to this year and there are a number of players that have the ability to come in and be major contributors off the bench. “Look for the Braves to be very competitive throughout the season.” Returning starters are seniors Blake Buchman, forward, Brett Frye and Chandler White. Other members of the senior class and key players are: Logan Bieling, Kobe Hula, Braden Reddick and Corbin Criqui. Girls The Lady Braves hope to continue what they started this past season, when they open the season with a 2-2 record before going on a multi-game winning streak. Council Grove will miss Megan Poole and Erica Auchard; however, senior Faith Brintle should be a major contributor if she stays healthy. Brintle averaged 11 points per game and 3.5 assists.

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Ellsworth Bearcats

K

en Cravens enters his 15th season as head coach with a young team. “This year will require contributions from all the underclassmen, and a sharp, but steady learning curve,” Cravens said. Ellsworth will return three starters from a team that went 4-17 this past year, but replacing scorers will be the Lady Bearcats’ biggest challenge. “Scoring will be important for our team this year, as most of it has graduated the past two seasons,” Cravens said. “We will have to quickly identify key roles for the team to be successful.” If the Lady Bearcats can identify those roles, and improve throughout the season, they should be able to lay a solid foundation for upcoming seasons. Returning starters are: seniors Amy Westerman, 5’10” forward, and Emma Klein 5’6” guard/forward; and junior Kolby Davis 5’9” guard/forward. Boys Ellsworth will be a strong perimeter team with experienced guards who can shoot well. The Bearcats will lack in the post position, and will need to continue to develop down low, said Trevor Kuhlman, who is in his third year as head coach. Returning starters are: senior Kaden Davis, 6’1”, who averages 14.9 points per game and 8.8 rebounds, and juniors Jordan Base, 5’10”, 10 points and 2.4 rebounds, and Sam Keener, 6’3”, 7 points and 3.2 rebounds. “We will rely on Kaden Davis and Jordan Base to show leadership skills,” Kohlman said. “We have excellent guard play led by those two that can cause problems for opponents.”

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Goodland Cowboys

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he Cowgirls return two seniors; however, one of them — Kaitlyn Daise — won’t be back until after Christmas because of a knee injury. Daise, 5’8”, averaged 8 points per game and 5 rebounds. She will be joined by Margaux Thompson, 5’6”, who averaged 13 points. Other lettermen are Demi Mitchek, 5’6” junior and Ellee McDaniel, 5’8” junior. “We return two girls that didn’t play much or any at all last year in Margaux Thompson and Kelsi White,” said Ron Wolf, who is in his second year as head coach. “We will look to our other upper classmen to step up.” Wolf said his team’s strengths will be its speed and at least two good shooters. “We will be able to run faster than last year,” Wolf said. “[But] not much size or inside presence.” The Cowgirls finished this past season with an overall record of 11-10 and a league record of 7-3 for second place. Boys Challenge may be the word of the season for the Cowboys — with both a tough schedule and the adjustment players will face with new coach Bill Biermann. “I believe we have some talented kids and have the ability to compete; however, working with their third coach in three seasons, learning new expectations and systems will be a challenge early,” Biermann said. “We will need to become more consistent shooters and find some easy ways to score in transition and off of offensive rebounds.” Returning starters are senior guard Nolan Deeds, 5’9”, 1.8 points per game; and junior forwards Levi Archer, 6’4” and Wentz Hendrich, 6’3”. Both juniors average more than 8 points a game. 512 Kunkle Dr.

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Hillsboro Trojans

E

xperience is a trademark of this season’s Trojans. Hillsboro returns four starters: seniors Preston Loewen, 5’11”, 7.6 points per game, Carson Herbel, 6’2”, 4.3 points, and Braden Vogt, 6’1”, 4.7 points; and junior Elias Werth, 5’9”, 8.9 points. They will be joined by sophomores Darian Ratzlaff, 6’0”, 10.6 points, and Joe Knoll, 6’0”, 5.4 points. Darrel Knoll is in his 29th year at Hillsboro. “Preston Loewen earned CKL honorable mention,” Knoll said. “He handles the ball well and plays tough defense. Darian Ratzlaff earned CKL 2nd team and Wichita Eagle 2A honorable mention. As a point guard, he is a good floor leader. Both Braden Vogt and Elias Werth will be third year varsity players.” Hillsboro finished the 2015-16 season with a record of 15-8. “We have good quickness and depth on the perimeter,” Knoll said. “We also have a couple of players with good size who will compete well in the paint. “Along with the returning lettermen, we have three other players who saw good minutes in several of the games and contributed well. Overall, we return 80 percent of our scoring. We should also have good chemistry with this team, so we should be very competitive this year.” Girls The Lady Trojans lost their top two scorers from this past season. The two also led the team in rebounding and steals. On the plus size, Hillsboro returns seven upper classmen, two of which were starters. The Trojans will have to use their experience, and leadership to be a balanced team on both ends of the court. Returning starters are: Callie Linnens, 5’9” senior; and Abby Sechrist, 5’11” junior.

Hoisington Cardinals

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he Cardinals return four seniors that started more than 18 games during the 2015-16 season. They are: Cameron Davis, 6’2” guard/forward who received an All-League honorable mention; Brenner Donovan, 6’1” guard; Grant Dolechek, 6’0” guard/forward; and Tyler Specht, 5’11” guard. They will be joined by fellow senior Kyle Lang, 6’2” guard. Hoisington is led by Kyle Haxton, who had been with the Cardinals first as an assistant coach from 2006-08 and now as head coach. The Longhorns finished the 2015-16 season with an 8-13 record, losing to Beloit in the first round of sub-State. “We have the potential to be stronger on both sides of the court this year if we focus on playing as one unit,” Haxton said. “Our depth will be much different as we graduated several players that played some good minutes ... Our athleticism and desire to compete will play a huge factor into how solid we are on the defensive end. “If these seniors, along with some of our young players making strides, work together and use their athleticism then it could be a very successful year for us.” Girls The Lady Cardinals return two starters, Emma Harmon, 5’5” senior guard, 9.5 points a game, and Jocelynn Pedigo, 5’8” junior, 4.7 points. Other members of the senior class are 5’10” posts Delaney Smith and Vikki Donetz. Hoisington finished the 2015-16 season with a loss to Norton at subState. The Lady Cardinals overall record was 14-7 and 7-4 in league.

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Lyons Lions

s Brian Friess begins his 18th year as head coach, he will continue the work he started last year rebuilding a young team. Although the Lions lost starters Jesse Hursey, Edgar Fierro and Tyler Edwards to graduation, Friess will depend on juniors Wlisses Landeros, a 5’9” guard, and Jon Gomez, a 5’11” forward, and seniors Eduardo Arballo, Jack McClure and Riley Kirkhart, to step up and lead the team. The team will also try to improve its shooting percentage, which has plagued the Lions in recent seasons. While the 2015-16 season proved tough, it saw the team’s field goal percentage improve to 42 percent – a 10 percent increase over the previous year. The Lions finished last season with a 3-15 overall record, and went 2-11 in district play. After a 63-43 district playoff win against Kingman, the Lions lost their next playoff game to Halstead 38-28. Their season ended when Scott City handed the Lions a decisive 57-23 loss. Girls Last season, Leanne Hollinger and the Lady Lions felt the effects of losing their height advantage — falling from a 19-4 record and sub-state appearance in 2014-15 to 9-14. But with a few taller players joining this year’s team, Hollinger, who begins her seventh season as head coach, says she’s ready to change it up this season with more inside play. “Coming in to last year, we had lost all of our height, and so we had to do things a little differently,” Hollinger said. “This year, we have some height back, so we will be able to utilize our game inside the paint. We will be young, but we have girls that are ready to step in, be aggressive and play some ball.” The Lady Lions will see returning starters Ruth Pineda, a 5’5” senior, and 5’7” junior Bailey Hollinger. Another returning varsity player is 5’6” sophomore Karime Vargas.

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Marion Warriors

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fter losing several experienced players to graduation, Lady Warriors head coach Kelly Robson knows there will be challenges ahead this season. Still, she believes this season’s Lady Warriors team has the promise of being successful, but it will take hard work. “We graduated seven seniors from last year’s team, so we will not be very experienced at the varsity level,” Robson said. “Though most played together at the junior varsity level, stepping up to the speed of the varsity game will take some time. I believe we have the potential to be a very solid team, but will only go as far as our defense and rebounding take us.” Last season, the Warriors were 16-6 overall, and rolled to an 8-1 record in league play — an impressive improvement on the 2014-15 season, which ended with a 6-15 record. The 2015-16 season ended with a 44-34 loss to Southeast of Saline in the Class 3A semifinals. Returning starters are team leader Kourtney Hansen, 5’8” junior who averaged 10.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. During last season’s state semifinal game, Hansen led the Warriors, scoring 12 points.

Boys First-year head coach Randy Skiles will be taking over this season as the Marion High School boys basketball coach. Skiles, who formerly served as athletic director at Haven, is replacing former head coach Jeff McMillin, who coached the Warriors for eight years. Last season, the Warriors posted a 10-9 overall record, and were 7-3 in district play. Gone are starters Tyler Zinn and Nicholas Stuchlik at post, giving other players like seniors Mason Pederson, a 6’0” guard, and Peyton Heidebrecht, a 5’8” guard, a chance to step up. Both players started for the Warriors last season. Other players to watch are 5’6”-sophomore Sam Zinn and Zach Stuchlik, a 6’2” junior. Both Zinn and Stuchlik previously held post positions for the Warriors.


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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

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Hutch Trinity Celtics

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ith six seniors on the roster, the Lady Celtics should have more than their share of leadership this season. Others also appear ready to step up. Junior Elizabeth Zrubek was an All-League honorable mention player in the 2015-16 season. She averaged 8.7 points a game and 4.3 rebounds. “We look for her to take that next step as being a leader and playmaker for us,” said head coach Ricky Snyder. Hutch Trinity ended this past season with an overall record of 4-17 and a 2-7 in the HOA League. Other returning starters are: Callie Schleich, 5’5” senior, 3.5 points per game and 2.9 rebounds, and 5’9” sophomore Jordan Galliger. Sophomore Olivia Shank also is expected to contribute this year after significant playing minutes her freshman year. “We will need to play uptempo to create extra possessions,” Snyder said. “We are not very big and at times struggle to score.” Boys The Celtics return two starters, junior Connor Remar, 6’9”, 9.1 points per game and 5.3 rebounds; and sophomore Kaleb Hammeke, 5’8”, 6.6 points and 1.8 rebounds. The Celtics finished the 2015-16 season with an overall record of 6-15 and a 4-5 in the Heart of America League. Head coach Joe Hammersmith is in his 23rd year at the school.

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Marysville Bulldogs

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my Renyer already has great expectations for her girls’ basketball team. Renyer coached the Lady Bulldogs to a State title in 2001 and 13 North-Central Kansas League championships. Last season, the Lady Bulldogs finished 10-11 overall and 5-5 in league play — good enough for a third-place finish. But this year, Renyer expects her players to be more aggressive on defense, pushing competitors and forcing turnovers. Despite the team’s struggles with its outside game, she said, players must be able to score, take care of the ball, control the defense and play more aggressively. Renyer calls these her keys to success. Despite losing two players, the Lady Bulldogs have four returning starters, including, 5’6” senior forward/post Macy Larson, who can shoot three-pointers and has improved her defensive game, and 5’8” senior forward Kali Crome. Crome, Renyer said, is a great rebounder who scores, on average 7.8 points per game. Other returning starters are juniors Sydney Pacha, a 5’7” forward, and Alex Denner, a 5’5” guard. Pacha, she said, takes the ball to the basket, averaging 8 points per game, and has great court sense, while Denner handles the ball well and can see the court. Boys Marysville has improved over the past two seasons, finishing 4th in its league in 2015-16. The Bulldogs have five returning starters, and three other lettermen that have high expectations for the 2016-17 season, and head coach Scott Brown is confident in his team’s progress and leadership. “We’re lucky to have these guys

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Minneapolis Lions

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hough the Minneapolis Lady Lions will have to find a way to overcome their inexperience, head coach Bryan Weatherman is hoping several players can use their height to their team’s advantage. Last season, the Lady Lions were 12-9 overall and finished the season with a 6-6 league record. But their season came to an abrupt end when the team lost 52-39 to Russell in the first round of 3A sub-State tournament action. Unlike the previous season when Weatherman had six returning players, this year, he only has one. Senior Mykenzi Allison, a 5’8” starter, will join other returning varsity players, including 6’0” senior Adylen Laws and Karisma Vignery, a 5’4” sophomore. “We will have a lot of length on our front court,” Weatherman said. “We could be playing several kids who are tall and athletic. We will be very inexperienced as a team, and we also will need to find someone to step up and handle point guard duties (after losing) a four-year starter at that position.” Boys This year’s Minneapolis Lions boys’ basketball team will once again be under the direction of head coach John Darrow. Last season, the boys were 2-10 in league play and 7-13 overall. The Lions were eliminated in the first round of the Class 3A substate tournament, losing 51-26 to Thomas More Prep-Marian. Returning starters this year include senior Jace McKinney, a 6’2” post.

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Norton Blue Jays

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oing into the 2015-16 season, Blue Jays head coach Doug Reusink had high hopes for his

team. After coming off an impressive 18-4 finish to the 2014-15 season, the veteran coach wanted his players seen as formidable opponents when they entered league competition. This past season, his team gained that respect, earning itself a spot in the Class 3A boys basketball State championship. After coming off a winning regular season, the Blue Jays pushed on, capturing the Class 3A boys sub-State title by eliminating Thomas More Prep-Marian 62-50. But in the first round of the State tournament, Norton fell to Southeast of Saline 55-46, ending the Blue Jays’ season. As the Blue Jays look forward to a new season, the team has several starters returning, including seniors Landon Porter, a 5’11” guard, and Tyus Henson, a 6’0” point guard. Despite the loss of two seniors, including team leader Quinton Porter, Norton still has a number of players with the height and the experience to push the team even further this year. Girls Late last season, the Lady Blue Jays picked up momentum, closing the gap and trimming the deficit between themselves and the competition. In their last dozen games, the Lady Blue Jays won seven, beating their opponents, on average, by 20 points. But it wasn’t enough. Throughout the season, the Blue Jays simply couldn’t score consistently, allowing their rivals to widen the gap. The Lady Blue Jays were 12-10 overall last season, ending their run in the Class 3A sub-State. Returning are senior starters Miah Melvin, at 5’6”, Caitlyn Cox, at 5’10”, and Baylee Miller, 5’7”.

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Phillipsburg Panthers

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he Lady Panthers return three senior starters to fill out an experienced backcourt, but will need to improve offensively and find a way to limit turnovers. Phillipsburg can hopefully benefit from second chance opportunities as they have added more depth inside. The Lady Panthers went 8-11 this past season season and finished 6th in their Mid-Continent with a 3-5 record. Rachel Miller starts her fourth season as head coach. She will have as returning starters: seniors Tatum Bartels, 5’10”, 14.3 points per game and 10.4 rebounds; Madi Mathes, 5’5”, 2.5 points and 3.2 rebounds; and Hannah Hoover, 5’5”, 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds. Boys Given the youth of the Panthers and the experience they will have as the months pass, Phillipsburg could have a bright future. The Panthers return all five starters: sophomores Trey Sides, 6’0”, 14.8 points per game and 6.4 rebounds, and Nathan Moon, 5’6”, 5.7 points and 1.6 rebounds; and juniors Trey Thompson, 6’1”, 9.8 points and 4.2 rebounds, Jordan Ford, 6’3”, 7.7 points and 4.5 rebounds, and Chris Vankooten, 6’0”, 6.7 points and 5.4 rebounds. Sides was named to the league 2nd team as a freshman. He is expected to lead the Panthers in “every category.” “With all five starters returning and still no seniors with varsity experience, we will be a young team, but with a year of experience under our belt,” said Keith Sides, who starts his 15th year at Phillipsburg. “This team will have more depth than last year.” Team speed and quickness will be strengths; size and perimeter shooting will be weaknesses. Phillipsburg finished the 2015-16 season with an overall record of 9-11 and 4-4 in league.

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Russell Broncos

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ussell went .500 last season, finishing 11-11, but after a productive summer and all five projected starters returning with a year of varsity experience under their belts, the Lady Broncos have high expectations for the 2015-16 season. “We were a very young team last year,” said coach Frank Schulte. “We will be strong inside. Three-point shooting could be a strength as well.” Russell has good size inside, with Kyleigh Casper, 6’0” post, returning for her senior year, as well as a proven scorer in Megan Boxberger, 5’6” senior, at guard. “We need to develop a few more scorers to compliment Kasper and Boxberger,” said Schulte. “We’ll need our other starters to be more consistent scoring, as well as continuing to improve on defense.” Other returning starters are: juniors Sam Ptacek 5’6” guard, and Delaney Pospichal 5’7” guard; and sophomore Jaclyn Schulte 5’7” guard. Boys The Broncos are in the hunt for baskets and rebounds this season. “We graduated a lot of our ‘stats’ from last season,” said Eric Swanson, who starts his fourth year as head coach. “We are going to have to find scoring and rebounding from players that were not big contributors on last year’s team. “One thing we will have is good team speed, which I hope will allow us to play a more wide-open game this year. Our defense is going to have to create turnovers and easy points.” Russell finished the 2015-16 season with an overall record of 3-18 and a 1-9 in league. Returning starters are seniors Travis Ochs, 6’5”, 5.4 points per game and 4.3 rebounds, and Colton Fritschen, 5’10”, 7.8 points and 2.4 rebounds. Other returning senior lettermen are Matt Buhrle, Cameron Kilian and Skylar Bender.

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Sacred Heart Knights

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he Knights lost three of their top scorers to graduation, but Sacred Heart replaces them with a junior varsity team that went undefeated during the 2015-16 season. “They know how to win,” said Pat Martin, who starts his 10th year as head coach. The Knights went 25-1 this past season, finishing first in their league with a 12-0 record. Returning starters are: Stratton Brown, 5’9” senior who averaged 6.3 points per game and 3.2 rebounds; Caleb Jordan, 5’10” junior, 12 points and 4.2 rebounds; and Quinn Riordan, 6’3” senior, 6.8 points and 3.8 rebounds. Other seniors are Zach Gaskill and Tyler Gormley. “Point guard Stratton Brown is a 3-year starter who led us to 45-3 record the last two seasons ... and finishing as State runner-up,” Martin said. “Shooting guard Caleb Jordan led area in 3-point shots made and guard/forward Quinn Riordan will be effective inside and out — a tough kid to match up and guard.” Martin said this year’s team makes up for its lack of size with great team speed and chemistry. A weakness could be ball defense. Girls The plan is to play full court defense to force a transition game, said Arnold Schmidtberger, who starts his ninth year as head coach of the Lady Knights. “The Knights will be very young and inexperienced with only five upperclassmen on the team,” he said. Sacred Heart finished the 2015-16 season with a 4-17 overall record and 1-11 in the NCAA League. Returning starters are seniors Grace Ivey, 5’10”, 3.7 points per game, and 5 rebounds; and Grace Worcester, 5’7”, 4.4 points and 3.6 rebounds.

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Gypsum - Southeast of Saline Trojans

he Lady Trojans lost several good players this past spring to graduation; however, they return two with experience — Karis Calahan, 5’10” senior, and Kylee Thaxton, 5’7” junior. “Kylee and Karis will bring experience and leadership to the team,” said Shauna Smith, who starts her first season as head coach. They will be joined by Laura Peterson, 5’9” junior. Smith said her team’s strengths will be the winning tradition at Southeast of Saline and a work ethic that produced an 18-6 record during the 2015-16 season. The Lady Trojans were 8-4 in league play. Dine-in, Carryout & Delivery

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The Trojans lost an allState post player to gradDine-in or Carryout uation from a team that 785-823-5169 550 S. Ohio St. finished the 2015-16 seaSalina, KS son 22-4, but they return a strong perimeter with several good shooters, starting with senior CONSTRUCTION CO., INC. Jackson Montgomery, a 7793 E. K-4 Hwy • Gypsum, KS 67448 (785) 536-4288 two-year starter and allGrain & Material Handling Specialists league point guard as Serving the Ag Industry Since 1949 well as all-State honorJoel Benson, CPA able mention. Mary Benson, CPA Bryce Banks, a 5’11” Specializing in small businesses senior, joined Benson Accounting Montgomery on the all1929 S. Ohio Office: (785)827-3157 league team at shooting Salina, KS 67401 Fax: (785)827-3159 guard after making 51 jmbensoncpa@yahoo.com 3-point shots this past season. Ben Murray and Jess Koehn also return as senior starters to fill out the remaining nucleus of last year’s team. However, the Trojans will have to develop depth to maintain success this season as they have no returning lettermen coming back to the team. Southeast will be undersized without any post experience returning to the team, which could ultimately limit the overall potential of the team. Southeast of Saline is coached by Jeff Wells, who starts his third year. Carryout or Delivery

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Continued from Page 29 Back to state? As the reigning State champions, Osage City cannot be overlooked. The Indians have lost just four games over the past two seasons but said goodbye to four seniors in May. Sabetha has seen similar success over the past two seasons with back-to-back 24-2 seasons and two top-three finishes. The Bluejays lost seven seniors to graduation. Fredonia entered state last year as the No. 3 seed, making an

early exit against Garden Plain. That Yellowjacket team featured six seniors who have graduated, but five seniors are back from the squad that finished the year at 21-3. Wellsville has been able to reload with three straight state appearances. The Eagles finished fourth in 2015. and, in spite of losing a talented group of seniors, made it to state in 2016 as the No. 8 seed. Wellsville was one of the younger teams at state last year with just three seniors.

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

Stanton County Trojans

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oach Mike Doll has three players with the experience to lead this year’s Trojans. Alexis Molina, a 5’11” junior, has been a starter since his freshman year. “He is able to create for himself, but he also creates well for others,” Doll said. Creed Puyear, a 6’4” sopohomore, is poised for a breakout year as a “very athletic, well-rounded player,” and Edgar Garcia, a 5’6” junior, “is a ball hawk on defense and a very good shooter.” “We will be able to get up and down the floor with a lot of success,” said Doll, who is in his third year at Johnson. “We will have great ball movement and a lot of distribution in scoring. “Rebounding on both ends of the floor will be the key.” The Trojans finished fourth in their league with an overall record of 9-12 in 2015-16.

Girls The Lady Trojans have an experienced player in Nayeli Molina, 5’9” senior who started in 2015-16, when Stanton County ended the season 6-15. Other upperclassmen are Rebeca Avelar, 5’5” senior, and Grecia Caro, 5’5” junior. “This year’s team will be inexperienced, but will make up for it with the energy and effort that they give.” said Trevor Siebert, who is in his fourth year as head coach. “We might struggle offensively at times but should be very solid on the defensive

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

Page 35

2A — Hoxie High School Lady Indians 2016-17

The 2016-17 Lady Indians of Hoxie are, front row from left — Lyndzee Fellhoelter, Nicole Heim, Addison Campbell, Ashlyn Dorenkamp and Ashlyn Kaus. Middle row from left, Head Coach Todd Cossman, Brooke Dorenkamp, Brecken Rowh, Latasha Fellhoelter, Katie Geerdes, Macalee White and Alexia Torluemke. Back row from left — Trinity Balluch, Rebekah Castle, Lilly Schamberger, Brynn Niblock, Erin Carter and Chloe Johnson. Mark McCoy/Kansas Hardwood

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

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New coach, same tradition

Season ushers in new era for Hoxie girls

By LINDA MOWERY-DENNING Kansas Hardwood

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everal years ago, the first time Kody Epp served as “The Voice of the Hoxie Indians” in a basketball game against Olpe, he sensed there was something special about the team from northwest Kansas. “Winning just seemed to be a part of what they did,” said Epp, who is game announcer for the Colby-based Open Spaces Sports. Little did he know. Since Epp’s initial impression, the Hoxie girls’ program has been named the best in the United States by USA Today, the Indians have added four State championship titles to their resume and Hoxie holds the Kansas record for most consecutive games won at 107. All of this happened under the guidance of Shelly Hoyt, who used hard work, sacrifice and commitment to build a superior program. Her second year at Hoxie, the Lady Indians finished the season 21-3. “That team laid the foundation,” Hoyt told Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University, in a 2015 interview. Among the girls who cheered on that team were second and third graders who would go on to become starters for Hoyt once they got to high school. But few things are forever and this past year Hoyt announced she planned to leave Hoxie. Her husband, Scott, accepted an administrator’s job in Eureka and she later took a job at Madison. Thus begins a new era in the girls’ basketball program at Hoxie. One recent Friday, as much of the school prepared for a night of football against the mighty Wildcats of Wallace County, Hoxie’s new girls’ basketball coach Todd Cossman talked about his expectations for the 2016-17 season. “I want to press. I want to push the tempo — fast break — all the things Hoxie has been known for,” he said. The Lady Indians return starters Brynn Niblock, 5’11” senior who averaged 10 points per game and four rebounds, and Lilly Schamberger, 5’9”

Mark McCoy/Kansas Hardwood

Returning starters of the Hoxie High School girls’ basketball team are, from left, Nicole Heim, Erin Carter and Brynn Niblock. junior, who averaged 7 points and 5 rebounds. They will be joined by Erin Carter, 5’10” senior; Nicole Heim, 5’7” junior; and Rebekah Castle, 5’10” junior. “Brynn Niblock and Rebekah Castle will provide great size and scoring. Both players can score down low as well as play on the perimeter,” said Cossman, who coached several Hoxie players in AAU summer basketball. “Erin Carter and Lilly Schamberger are both shutdown defenders. Erin Carter is a great fast break player who thrives in an up and down game. Lilly will help provide good 3-point scoring.” She will be joined by Heim, cousin of Carly Heim, a three-time member of the KBCA Class 1A All-State Team who now plays for Fort Hays State University. “The team is long and athletic. We should thrive with our press defense.” Cossman said. “We want to create fast breaks off other team’s turnovers. We have great balance on offense with good post players and 3-point shooting.” As with most sports teams in small, rural communities — Hoxie’s population is 1,207 — girls’ basketball has become a rallying point for the community. “I think in every small community, in every small town, the school keeps the town alive,” announcer Epp said. “It’s either high school or agriculture

— that’s just the way it is.” Hoxie principal Gary Johnson remembers the USA Today poll, which allowed supporters to vote on-line. Hoxie finished with 210,934 votes to defeat schools in Baton Rouge, La. and Deer Creek, Okla. This from a school with fewer than 100 students. Johnson said administrators opened the computer lab so district patrons could vote. “It went back and forth,” he said. “Then, over the final weekend, we were behind on Friday and the votes kicked in,” Johnson said. “I think everybody just had fun with it ... Athletics become our social life in rural Kansas so that’s a huge part of what we do.” Hoxie mayor Roger Aumiller said the town continues to hold its own. BTI, a John Deere dealer with other locations at Bucklin and Pratt, built a new facility this past year west of Hoxie. Other agriculture-related businesses include a feedlot and acres of irrigated farmland. Having a high school girls’ basketball team capture national attention only adds to the economic mix. “It’s always good anytime your name is out there,” Aumiller said. See HOXIE, Page 66


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

Page 37

More than a basketball team valuable court time. Nighswonger said a highlight of the 2015-16 season was the game Hill City won against Hoxie, 32 miles to the west. The win ended Hoxie’s 107-game winning streak, the most ever by a Kansas girls’ high school basketball team. “It was just a fun game and a great atmosphere,” said Nighswonger, who is originally from Hoxie. “The place was packed with red. They’re red, we’re red. You couldn’t tell where one town ended and the other started.”

al State champs, the Central Plains Oilers. The Lady Ringnecks are ready for another trip to State. This summer, with Keith and her junior he chemistry between members of class in charge, the squad had a perfect the Hill City girls’ basketball team 24-0 record in Mid America Youth extends beyond the court. Basketball competition, which includes It’s obvious in the pages of the books tournament titles in Hays, two in Wichita Christy Keith designed on her computer to and a final crown in Edmond, Okla. represent her daughter Connor’s freshmen “We even played in the senior division a and sophomore years on the Ringneck couple of times,” Keith said. team. “We can do some great things this seaFor sure, there are the photographs son.” Christy snapped of important games and The coaches are a bit plays. But along with the more cautious. court action are other “We’re hoping for a photographs — of the great season. A lot of luau that kicked off the things have to fall into 2014-15 season, of the place but the potential fondue party that ushered is there,” said in 2015-16, of the midNighswonger, who season art session that starts her 11th year as ended with the players, head coach. head coach Linda Other members of Nighswonger and assisHill City’s junior class tant coach Greg Deines are: Lauren Jones, Ellie holding the basketball Keener, Carrie Kennedy, paintings they made. Braelynn Lemon and Deines is the only guy in Shaylin Russell. the photo. Nighswonger said the “Off the court, we’re juniors are experienced, like family,” said Connor but lack size. Russell is Keith, who expects to the tallest at 5’11”. play a major leadership Keith started playing role this season as a basketball when she junior. LINDA MOWERY-DENNING/Kansas Hardwood was in the third grade It’s a responsibility she Hill City’s Lady Ringnecks are eager to start the 2016-17 season. and her father, Carl, welcomes. started coaching. “I’ve been waiting since “He helped me so much and I just kept Getting back to State also was an summer was over. This is my sport,” Keith working at it. I loved it,” she said. important moment for the Lady said. “We had a lot of seniors who left. I’m As she gets older, Keith said she can feel Ringnecks. Here’s how the Hays Daily pretty much the leader, but I love taking the progress she has made over the years. News described Hill City’s win over charge.” At 5’4”, she is not intimidated by taller Meade at Manhattan. During the 2015-16 season, with five players. seniors on the roster, the Hill City girls Deines said Hill City’s most recent sucThe No. 5 seeded Ringnecks survived finished with a record of 22-4, a first-place cess in basketball started in 2009, when Wednesday night during a climatic 74-69 overfinish in the Mid-Continent League and a time win over the No. 4 seeded Meade Buffaloes the Lady Ringnecks finished 23-3. Several trip to State. Four of the seniors were players on that team had watched their to move on to the semifinals. starters; the fifth was the first one off the older sisters on the court. Now, older playHill City coach Linda Nighswonger was at a bench. ers extend a hand to the team’s younger loss for words for a bit after the come-fromThey were paced by Lexie McDowell, members. behind victory. now at Washburn, with 15 points, four And, in the summer, the squad keeps “Wow, yeah, wow,” Nighswonger said with an rebounds, three assists and two steals a exhausted smile. “They were smiling and having playing basketball, with breaks in the fall game. Amanda Conway used her athletiand spring for volleyball, cross country a good time out there. They were stressed there, cism to score almost 13 points per game. and track. but all season long we’ve been cohesive and supAdrianna Nickelson was the biggest presThis is a team that knows how to work. portive of each other.” ence in the post and allowed for many “They’re just good athletes and people,” kick-outs to her 3-point shooters. Kayla Nighswonger said. Hill City later lost a nail-biter to eventuBell and Kylie Simon also contributed

By LINDA MOWERY-DENNING Kansas Hardwood

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Page 38

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

2A — St. John — Hudson High School

Kinnamon provides extra motivation By MIKE COURSON Kansas Hardwood

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t. John senior Cole Kinnamon enters the 2016-17 season as one of the most decorated players in all of Kansas. He was a key contributor his freshman and sophomore campaigns, helping the Tigers to a combined 52-0 record and back-to-back Class 2A state championships. He will also be one of the most motivated players in the state. Kinnamon played a large role in St. John’s staterecord 63-game win streak that ended last year with a loss to rival Central Plains. To add insult, the Oilers later knocked off the Tigers in a sub-state battle that kept St. John out of the postseason. “They’re definitely motivated,” said Clint Kinnamon, coach of the Tigers and Cole’s father. “They were really disappointed we didn’t make it. I thought our guys handled it really well. It made them hungry again. Sometimes ... you have to find ways to keep that hunger fed. Hopefully this is a little bit of a fire. I know in the offseason they’ve worked their tails off. They’re excited about coming back to the gym in November.” The star-studded 2013-14 Tigers were rarely tested, winning every game but one by at least 10 points. That roster featured four seniors, including Cole’s brother, Kade, who is a walk-on at Kansas State University this season. Even as a freshman, Cole finished fourth on the team in minutes, averaging 4.1 points and 3.4 assists a night. With Kade gone for the 2014-15 season, Cole ran the offense, leading the team in minutes and bumping his production up to 13.3 points, 4.6 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.4 steals a night. With future K-Stater Dean Wade under the rim, the Tigers were tested just twice, both times against Central Plains, including a dramatic 49-44 championship game. The Oilers turned the corner with a large senior class in the 2015-16 season, beating St. John in all four meetings and finishing third at the Class 2A state tournament. The Tigers were otherwise untested once again, and put on a show by outscoring Cunningham and Kinsley by a combined 180-43 tally after the 63-game win streak was snapped. Without Wade on the floor, Kinnamon again had to step up his game. He led the team in minutes, this time leading the way with 16.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, and four assists a night. Coach Kinnamon said his point guard has continued to improve in the off-season. “His game has really been elevated since last season,” Clint said. “Not only is his skill set a lot better, but his athleticism is what has really improved.” Cole has been able to do a little of everything on the court, from handling the ball, to posting up, to shooting from range. Last year, he shot 61 percent from the floor, including 42 percent from the outside. He’s still working

to improve all aspects of his game. “It’s just about everything imaginable,” he said. “I’ve been in the gym a lot this summer working out quite a bit.” And that’s just what Kinnamon is, a gym rat. Having a dad as a coach gives him access to the court, and having a brother like Kade, and a former teammate like Wade gives him ample competition in the off-season. “It’s been huge pretty much getting to go to the gym whenever I want,” Cole said. “Some kids can’t do that. Having a brother who wants to push me and help me get as good as I can be, that’s helps too.” St. John will again be among the favorites for a Class 2A title in March. The only team that has been able to beat the Tigers, Central Plains, lost key seniors but does return enough firepower to be a threat. “We are extremely excited to start the season,” Cole said. “We can’t wait to especially play Central Plains. It’s always a fun game against them. They’re classy guys and we’re looking forward to it.” The Tigers lost just two seniors to graduation in Jacob Milton and Nathan Ward. Milton was a force, at time, averaging nearly 18 minutes and eight points a night. Ward averaged just over a point a night. Kinnamon will have his co-captain back in senior Jorge Calleros, another speedy sharpshooter who averaged 22.5 points and 4.9 rebounds a game last season. Calleros shot 39 percent from behind the arc. Also returning is junior Chase Fisher, who brings back some size and 8.1 ppg. Junior Quincy Smith also saw significant minutes last year as a guard where he averaged 5.4 ppg. Senior Alexis Valenzuela is yet another returner with serious minutes. He averaged 4.3 ppg last season for the Tigers. Heading into the 2016-17 season, Kinnamon is not thinking about the two state titles he’s already won. He’s not thinking about a win streak. The only goal is getting back to the title game and winning it all. “The past doesn’t matter,” Kinnamon said. “We have our minds set on one thing.”

Cole Kinnamon feels at home in the gymnasium. Kansas Hardwood photo by Mark McCoy


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

Page 39

2A — Republic County Buffaloes

Buffs’ Kuhlman a multi-sport standout

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he Republic County Buffs return their leading scorer, Trey Kuhlman, a 6’1” senior who averaged 12.2 points per game and 4.3 rebounds, and is one of the best outside shooters in class 2A. “He is a great shooter and has drastically improved other areas of his game,” said Clay Mettlen, who starts his second season as head coach. Kuhlman is one of the North Central Activities Association’s top returning players, earning first team All-League honors his junior season. Kuhlman was the only Republic County player on the first team last year. Beloit’s Hunter Budke, Ellsworth’s Kaden Davis, and Southeast of

Saline’s Jackson Montgomery also return for their senior seasons after earning first team All-NCAA honors. But Kuhlman is more than just a basketball standout; he’s also wrapping up a solid season as the Buffs’ starting quarterback, passing for over 900 yards through eight games this season, and scoring eight touchdowns, while adding seven more scores on the ground with 235 yards rushing. Kuhlman is also one of the top returning golfers in Class 2A, shooting an 82 at this spring’s State Tournament to finish in 12th place, to go along with a ninth place finish at the NCAA league meet earlier in the year, and help his team to runner-up finishes at league and State tourneys.

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Silver Lake Continued from Page 28 tions and to play well together is where I get most of my enjoyment from coaching. “Getting kids to understand how important each of them is to the team is also a challenge. Having them realize that even if they don’t score 10 points a game or have five steals, they are still as valuable as anyone else on the team. We pride ourselves on our team defense and doing the jobs that don’t show up on the stats.” Elsewhere in 3A Silver Lake wins at everything. Last year, the Lady Eagles marched through the state

bracket as the No. 1 seed, beating No. 2 Sabetha 57-44 in the state finals to complete a perfect 26-0 season. Over the past two seasons, Silver Lake has placed first and third in 3A with a combined 49-3 record. The good news for other teams is that five Lady Eagles graduated in May, including team captain Taylor White, and notable athletes like Rachel Heiman. The bad news for those other teams is that Silver Lake usually finds a way to win and four seniors will be back this season. Sabetha has been another powerhouse team over the past two years, finished second and fourth at state with a combined

45-7 record. Two of those losses came against Silver Lake at state. The Lady Jays will have some firepower back in 2016-17, but said goodbye to seven seniors in May. Southeast of Saline lost a group of seniors who played varsity ball for four years, and West Franklin also lost five seniors to graduation. Beloit has bounced in and out of the rankings the past few seasons. The Lady Trojans will have to replace Remi Behrends and Alana Budke, who brought a combined 32 points and 10 rebounds to the floor each night to remain a power. Junior Sydney Wilson returns after averaging 9.5 points and 7.3 rebounds a game last winter.


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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

2A — Girls and Boys Overviews

Hoxie, Claflin matchup possible? Colgan of Pittsburg has dominated the southeast corner of the state for three seasons and also should return to the State tournament.

BY Mark mccoy Kansas Hardwood

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he girls’ 2A basketball season will be exciting this year, as the topflight program out of Hoxie, the Lady Indians, move out of the 1A classification and up to 2A. Hoxie has dominated 1A play for several years, winning four consecutive State titles from 2012-16 and amassing a 107-game winning streak along the way — setting a Kansas high school record. The Lady Indians placed fourth in the 2016 1A State tournament. Roughly 147 miles southeast of Hoxie is the Oilerdome, home of the Lady Oilers of Central Plains, the three-time defending 2A champs that plan to retain their title this March at the big dance in Manhattan. Both teams will have big changes in their line-up, as Hoxie has a new head coach in Todd Cossman, who replaced long-time Lady Indian coach Shelly Hoyt. Hoyt will be coaching at 1A Madison this season. The Lady O’s graduated two of the top female basketball players in the state with Reagan Phelan and Taylor Rolfs and two top-notch defensive players in Kendi Maxwell and Kaycee Steiner. However, both teams return with tons of basketball talent with deep benches. Basketball fans and pundits in Central Kansas have dreamed and speculated of a Hoxie/Central Plains matchup for two years and if the teams don’t meet in a subState tournament, expect a shoot-out at State.

MARK McCOY/Kansas Hardwood

Lady Timberwolf Tayor Bayne pulls down a rebound in the March 5, 2A 2016 sub-State championship game in St. John.

Thirty-three miles east of Hoxie are the Lady Ringnecks of Hill City, the team the broke Hoxie’s winning streak this past season. Hill City placed fourth at the State tournament in 2016 and like the Lady O’s and Hoxie, will return a lot of seasoned talent. Olpe, located in the heart of the Flint Hills south of Emporia, is coached by the legendary Jesse Nelson, (who holds the record for most wins in Kansas High School history). The Lady Eagles are almost a permanent fixture at the State tournament and are

a good bet to return. Seven miles south of the Nebraska border in north central Kansas is the home of the Lady Buffaloes of Republic County, coached by Allen Sheets who is widely respected by his peers in the North Central Activities Association and area teams. Moundridge, in SouthCentral Kansas, has made a lot of noise in the past three seasons and this year should be no exception as the Lady Wildcats only lost two players to graduation and will return with a solid team of basketball players. St. Mary’s

Boys side On the boys’ side, the 2A classification might be one of the most competitive in the state. Defending 2016 champion Jackson Heights was on few people’s radar this past season. The Cobras were impressive at the tournament, have a deep bench and the loss of five seniors from the team shouldn’t lessen their playoff chances. Sacred Heart of Salina lost only one game last season — to the Cobras in the championship 2A game. Like Jackson Heights, the Knights also have a strong bench to replace graduating talent. The Knights also compete in the tough North Central Activities Association, which gives them a bit of an edge since they see a lot of top 3A schools during the season. Sixty-four miles southwest of Salina are the Central Plains Oilers, who placed third in State during the 2015-16 season and second the previous season. The O-men also lost top talent to graduation, but their deep bench just seems to refill every season. Also playing in the Central Prairie League with the Oilers are their arch-rivals, the powerful Tigers of St. John-Hudson, who under head coach Clint Kinnamon, will make a run at the title. The Ringnecks of Hill City will have a team loaded with seasoned, senior players and should have shot at the title.


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

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he Chargers expect to have more depth this season as they move from six or seven players a game to eight or nine when needed. “The biggest need is to improve our shooting percentage as a team from the field like we did the previous year,” said Skyler Suther, who starts his third year as head coach at Wabaunsee. “We lost a total of eight games last year that we had a chance to win and didn’t finish like we could have or should have. We are a tough nose defensive team and get the looks we want on offense, but need to get better at finishing when we get those looks.” The Chargers are loaded with seniors, including Cooper Imthurn, 5’10”, 10.5 points per game and 5 rebounds; Reed Murray, 5’10”, 9 points and 2 rebounds; Kameron Wurtz, 6’0”, 9 points and 4.5 rebounds; and Mitchell Wertzberger, 6’1”, 8 points and 5 rebounds. Other seniors are: Luke Swicegood, 6’1”; and Heath Hier, 5’11”. Wabaunsee went 8-14 overall in 2015-16 and 1-9 in league play. Girls The Lady Chargers return a team loaded with experience as four starters from the 2015-16 season suit up. They are: seniors Brit Michaelis, 5’6”, and Rayann Johnson, 5’9”; junior Karsen Schultz, 5’10”; and sophomore Abby Oliver, 5’10”. Schultz averages 14 points a game. Head coach Shanna Perine said the Lady Chargers have length, athleticism and experience, but will have to work on consistency. Wabaunsee finished this past season with an overall record of 14-9 and a league record of 4-6.

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Bennington Bulldogs

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ead coach T.J. Trout thinks cohesion will be one of the Lady Bulldogs’ strengths this season as they return six players that received significant varsity time during the 2015-16 season. Bennington finished the season 6-15 overall, losing in the first round of sub-State. Returning starters are juniors Tacey Kaiser, 5’10” guard/forward, and Alexis Watson, 5’9” center. They will be joined by Meghan Stanley, Sam Swearingen, Kalli Shipley and Claudia Trout. Trout said the keys to Bennington’s success this season will be offensively — “Push the ball creating scoring opportunities off the drive and younger player stepping up with guard play” and defensively — “Eliminate dribble penetration and keep post players off the block.”

Boys The Bulldogs won more games than they lost during the 2015-16 season under first-year head coach Curtis Pickering. Pickering, who previously served as girls’ head coach, followed Tim Dolloff, who spent about a dozen years at Bennington. The team posted a 13-9 record in 2015-16 and 6-3 in league. Returning starters are seniors Zac Reed, 6’2”, 10 points per game, and Avery Kidd, 5’11”, 8 points, and junior J.J. Allen, 5’8”, 10 points. Pickering said Reed will move out to the perimeter to create “a good mismatch in the block or from the outside.” Allen, with his “great athleticism,” is a good 3-point shooter. “We should have a good balance of size, speed, experience, outside shooting and attacking off the dribble,” Pickering said.

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ayla Smith returns as the Lady Mustangs top starter. “She is extremely athletic and can play any position on the floor,” said coach Jordan Broxterman, who is starting his first year as head coach. Smith, a 5’9” junior, averages 17.6 points per game and 5.3 rebounds. Also returning is starter Miranda Ohlde, 5’6” senior. Valley Heights finished the 2015-16 season with an overall record of 16-7 and a league showing of 9-3 for 3rd. Boys The Mustangs lost four key players to graduation this past spring; however, they return several players with experience, including Logan Woodyard, who is expected to be the team’s catalyst. “He leads with his passion on the floor and helps lead others to become better,” said Adam Schreiner, who starts his third season as head coach. Valley Heights finished the 2015-16 season with a record of 12-9. “We started off a little slow but found our way midway through the year,” Schreiner said. “We played well the remainder of the year and ended up losing to Solomon by two in subState.” Schreiner said the Mustangs like to play “an up-tempo style of play offensively. We share the ball and look to hit open shots when available. We’ll play inside out. “Defensively we will play a match-up zone and man-to-man. We will play aggressive looking to cause some havoc.” Other returning players include Bryan Yungeberg, Adrain Pishny, Harrison Blaske, Jeremy Reed and Brady Trimble. Dine-in, Carryout & Delivery

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Brookville Ell-Saline Cardinals

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he Cardinals have a new head coach, Chencho Arceo. Arceo has his work cut out for him. Ell-Saline returns only one starter, Tyler Weems, 6’0” senior. The Cardinals finished the 201516 season with an overall record of 2-19 and no wins in league play. Arceo said his team is young and somewhat inexperienced, especially given the Cardinals’ tough schedule. But the players are a good group and are expected to play hard. Other letter winners who return are: seniors Tanier Clifford, 6’1”, and Konon Hays and Cody Clancy, both 5’10”; and juniors Mason Farrell, 6’1”, and Hunter Kindlesparger, 5’7”. Girls Jeff Vogt, who starts his fourth season as head coach of the Lady Cardinals, returns three experienced senior starters, Sydney Omli, 9 points per game, and Baleigh Griffin, 7 points, both 5’4”, and Kadi Relph, 5’9”, 7 points. Senior Reilly Brin, 5’5”, also returns. Ell-Saline finished the 2015-16 season with an overall record of 7-14 and 2-7 in league play.

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Canton-Galva Eagles

he returning Eagles won’t have much time to step into leadership roles if they want to compete early in the season. The team lost 80 percent of its scoring to graduation following a year when Canton-Galva went 11-11 overall. Returning letter winners are seniors Hunter Pearson, 6’2”, 5 points per game and 4 rebounds, and Reed Wiens, 6’4”, 5.5 points and 3.1 rebounds. Top newcomers are Jordan Gagnebin, 6’2” senior, and Jonah Sargent, 5’10” junior. “We need Hunter and Reed to show senior leadership immediately,” said Shane Duncan, who is in his 5th year as head coach. “They are the only players returning that have extensive varsity experience. I expect them to welcome the expectations and have productive seasons. “I expect Jordan Gagnebin and Jonah Sargent to step in and be key contributors for us this season.” Duncan said his young team should have good size in its starting lineup. It also moves to the Wheat State League, a development the coach considers exciting. “We will get the opportunity to play teams that haven’t been on our schedule the past few years,” Duncan said. “Experience and depth could be an issue for us to start the season. We will focus on developing both of those throughout the year.” Girls After 13 years as assistant coach, Dean Scott moves into the head coach’s job this season with three returning starters from the 2015-16 season: Kelly Nightingale, 5’5”, 10 points per game, Autum Colgin, 5’9”, 4 points, and Britney Nordstrom, 5’9”, 8 points. The Lady Eagles finished the season with an overall record of 12-11.

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

K ANS A S

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Oberlin

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Page 42

Central Plains

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eteran coach Pat Stiles returns three starters from a team that went 26-0, winning the 2A State championship in 2015-16. His seniors will have to take on different roles this season, but Stiles has a blueprint for success that has yet to be broken. His teams have only lost four games in five seasons, and this year won’t be much different. “Success will depend on us continuing the play the Oiler Way: playing hard, and playing together by making the extra pass and sharing the ball, which we have done so well in the past,” Stiles said. “We have a great group of seniors who are very coachable and love playing with each other.” Returning starters are: seniors Janae Ryan, 5’7” guard, Cassidy Crites, 5’10” guard, and Kylee Kasselman, 5’9” forward. Boys The Oilers return two starters from a 25-1 team that finished 1st in its league this past season. Central Plains will need to work some of its other returning letter winners into more consistent roles to continue to be successful. Brett Rolfs starts his fifth season as head coach. Returning starters are: Alex Barton, 6’3” junior, 8 points per game, 4 rebounds; and sophomore Devin Ryan, 5’11” sophomore, 8.5 points and 2.5 rebounds.

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Decatur Community Red Devils

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s he embarks on his first year as head coach of the Decatur Community High School boys’ basketball team, Trevor Williams already has expectations for his team. Williams wants his players to achieve qualities that will serve them far beyond the basketball court. Last season, the Red Devils finished with an overall record of 3-17 and were 0-6 in league play under former head coach Tim Berth. A 66-41 loss to Hill City in the first round of sub-State brought the team’s 2015-16 season to an end. Returning starters for the Red Devils are Kole Breth, a 5’11” junior, who averaged 9.5 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. Also returning are Gatlin Hissong, a 6’1” senior, and Braden Beagley, a 5’10” junior. Other returning varsity players include Donte Robinson, a 6’0” senior.

Girls Head coach Brandon Gehring hopes to improve on his team’s 2015-16 season, which saw the Red Devils finish 2-18 overall and 0-7 in league play. Gehring will rely on his returning starters, Britney Wesley, a 5’3” junior, and Madison MacFee, a 5’0” senior. Wesley averaged 7.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Other returning varsity players include sophomores Faith Meitl, 5’7”, Jean Soderlund, 5’10”, and Clayton Carter, 5’9”. “We are a young team that had a good summer,” Gehring said. “We are hoping to take some of the experience from last year, combine it with a good incoming freshmen class, and be successful.”


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

Page 43 Little River State Bank

W. Hwy 24

Hill City

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Hill City Ringnecks

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he Ringnecks may have one of the best guards in the state in Zech Wilson, a 5’10” senior, who averages 12 points per game and 9 rebounds. He is joined on the court by the team’s other returning starter, Evert Brandyberry, 5’9” senior, who averages 6 points and 2 rebounds. “Our strength should be our guard play with Wilson and Brandyberry,” said Keith Riley, who starts his 48th year at Hill City. “Second semester transfer Garrett Handley will help a lot.” Riley said his team’s weaknesses will be a lack of size and inside scoring. Other members of the senior class are Joel Pimlott, 5’9”, and Adam Vanloenen, 6’0”. The Ringnecks ended the 2015-16 season with a 14-9 overall record and a league finish of 8-2 for third place. Girls

See Page 37 for story on the Lady Ringnecks.

Ellinwood Eagles

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ith only one starter returning, the Eagles have a learning curve for the 2016-17 season. Tyson Martinez, 6’0” senior who averaged 15 points per game and 4 rebounds, contributed to a 14-8 season in 2015-16. He has received All-League honors for two years. “Tyson is a quality guard who can shoot the ball with deep range,” said Derek Joiner, head coach for three years. “He’ll need to carry the load with such a young group.”

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Hoxie Indians

More experience and more confidence belong to this year’s young Indians team. Jake Moss, who is in his third year as head coach, hopes to improve on this past season’s 7-15 record. Returning starters are: juniors Eastor Slipke, 5’9”, 16.6 points per game and 3.4 rebounds, and Latham Schwarz, 5’8”, 11.7 points and 3.2 rebounds and sophomores Jarrod Dible, 6’0”, 6 points and 2.6 rebounds, Sean Robben, 6’5”, 5.2 points and 3.7 rebounds, and Logan Weimer, 5’8”, 2.2 points and 1.5 rebounds. “We’re a guard-oriented team,” Moss said. “We should be very quick and a decent shooting team. Not much size and still only about a year of high school experience across the board.” Girls Brynn Niblock, 5’11” senior, and Lilly Schamberger, 5’9” junior, are expected to lead the Lady Indians in carrying on a basketball tradition that includes four consecutive State championships and a record for longest winning streak at 107 games. They join a trio of other lettermen — senior Erin Carter and juniors Nicole Heim and Rebekah Castle — and a new coach, Todd Cossman, who replaces Shelly Hoyt, who moved to Madison. Cossman said the biggest challenge this year will be to replace the leadership lost with the graduation this past spring of three seniors. He thinks his team is up to the challenge. “The team is long and athletic,” Cossman said. “We should thrive with our press defense. We want to create fast breaks off other teams’ turnovers. We have great vbalance on offense with good post players and three-point shooting.” See Pages 35 and 36 for story on the Lady Indians.

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Lincoln Leopards

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he Lady Leopards return three senior lettermen this year to lead the squad. They are: Brittany White, 5’5”; Brittney Heald, 5’4”; and Tanner O’Bannon, 5’9”. White averaged 4.7 points per game during the 2015-16 season. “We graduated three seniors last year so it will take us some time to build up some experience,” said Steve Crist, who is in his 18th year at Lincoln. “Team speed and experience should be a strength.” The Lady Leopards finished the 2015-16 season with a 12-10 overall record and a fifth place finish in league. “Our three seniors all filled roles for us very well last year,” Crist said. “This year they will need to step up and lead us.” Boys The jury is out for Joe Biggs in his first season at Lincoln. The Leopards finished 2nd in league this past season, but don’t return a single starter, and only one letter winner, August Walter, 6’2” senior, remains on the roster. For Lincoln to be successful, Biggs will have to get a complete team effort out of his boys day in and day out at practice, and in every game. “The few times I have seen the guys play, it looks like we have a great group of kids who want to do well,” Biggs said. “Gaining experience and the skills needed will take some time.”

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Little River Redskins

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ook for an improved Little River girls’ team this season. “Our strength this year is our athleticism and knowledge of the game,” said Trey Look, who is in his second season as head coach. “This team has worked hard in the off season to improve their game.” He said the team’s top players provide leadership and knowledge. “They will lead our younger players by attitude and example,” Look said. Weaknesses are the team’s youth and lack of varsity experience. Returning starters are senior Allie Peters, 5’10”, 7.5 points a game and 3 rebounds, and junior Melanie Renken, 5’11”, 9 points, 7.5 rebounds. Senior Jamie Linder, 5’8”, also is a member of the senior class. Little River ended the 2015-16 season with an overall record of 4-17 and a league record of 1-6. Boys Clay Zeller, a 6’1” senior who averages 16.4 points per game and 7.7 rebounds, is expected to lead this season’s Redskins and be a key factor in their success. “To be successful, we will have to get guys to the rim,” said Chad Rafferty, who starts his eighth year as head coach. “This team has many players that can take the ball to the basket off the dribble, which we will have to do because of our struggle shooting the ball.” Other returning starters are 5’9” juniors Peyton Harvey and Levi Swenson. Little River ended the 2015-16 season with a 9-12 overall record and 4-3 in league.

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Page 44

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he Buffaloes lose 70 percent of their scoring from this past season’s team to graduation, but they return two senior starters in Lawson Luetters and Blake Keith. The 5’11” Luetters, who averages 8 points per game and 2 rebounds, and the 5’9” Keith, 8.2 points and 1.8 rebounds, will have to help fill those gaps in scoring as well as provide leadership to underclassmen and letter winners without as much experience. The jobs of the younger players will be to find new roles on the team and take on

Meade Buffaloes

more varsity responsibility. “We have a lot of holes to fill, but we have a good group of seniors who I expect to fill those spots and also provide leadership for the team,” said Aaron Dardis, who is in his first season as head coach. The Buffaloes finished the 2015-16 season with a 16-6 record. Other seniors include: Logan Meyers, Kale McCulloch and Caleb Enns.

Meade’s Jaylin Stapleton is shown on the court her sophomore year. The game was the quarter-final State game played March 13, 2015 in Bramlage Coliseum at KSU in Manhattan. Kansas Hardwood Photo by Mark McCoy

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

Girls Senior Jaylin Stapleton has been Meade’s point guard since her freshman year. She averages 15.6 points per game. Joining her are fellow seniors Bailey Lewis, 6.7 points, and MaKenna Rudzik, 3.6 points. “I expect to see great improvement and leadership from all three girls,” said Craig Batchman, who starts his seventh year as head coach. The Lady Buffaloes are coming off an outstanding season record of 20-2. They finished 7-1 in the Hi-Plains League for 2nd place.

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

Oakley Ness City Eagles Plainsmen

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n recent years, Ness City High School has had a tough time keeping the Lady Eagles head coaching position filled. Last season, first-year coach Cody Bixler took on the role, but later resigned. Eventually, Jerry Clarke, publisher of the Ness County News, agreed to step in, making him the team’s third head coach in four years. Clarke is looking ahead to the promise of a new season. Last year, the Lady Eagles were 8-12 overall, and ended their season after a 63-39 loss to Sublette in the first round of the sub-State tournament. The Lady Eagles will count on returning starters Alexis Clark, a 5’7” senior, and Jaycie Richardson, a 5’8” senior. Clarke led her team by averaging 10.1 points per game, while Richardson averaged eight points and five rebounds a game. Other returning starters include Tianna Epperson, a 5’8” sophomore, who put eight points on the board and averaged six rebounds, and Baylee Holecek, a 5’6” junior, who averaged 4.5 points and five rebounds. Other returning varsity players are Miriam Guzman, a 5’5” junior, and Jaymi Stewart, a 5’10” junior. “The summer has helped the Lady Eagles grow as a team,” Clarke said. “We will need the younger ladies in the program to step up early. The team also got a new assistant coach, Shelby Heim. She learned a lot from her high school coach at Hoxie, Shelly Hoyt. Hopefully, she will bring with her some of those winning ways.” Boys The Eagles don’t expect to have much depth, but they should be solid at both ends of the court. Matt Overlease, who starts his seventh season as head coach, thinks his team will do well in league this season. Returning starters are: seniors Chander Stiawalt, 6’3”, 16 points per game and 5 rebounds, Devin Brown, 6’3”, 10.4 points and 4.8 rebounds, and Payton Fellhoelter, 6’0”, 3.7 points and 2.1 rebounds; and sophomore Andres Rios, 6’2”, 7.1 points and 4.2 rebounds. “As a group, we are pretty long and athletic,” Overlease said. “Expectations remain high within our team and community ... Hard work, being disciplined, playing together and most importantly, having fun, will help define our season.” The Eagles ended the 2015-16 season 15-7.

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akley continues on the road to improvement as the Plainsmen return three starters from their 2015-16 team. They are: Kameron Gabel, 6’2” senior who averaged 12 points per game and 6 rebounds; Jace Engel, 5’8” junior, 12 points and 2 rebounds; and Kade Hemmert, 5’10 sophomore, 7 points and 4 rebounds. They will be joined by Kendrick Smith, 6’2” senior, and Grant Kuhlman, 6’4” sophomore. Craig Wamsley starts his third year as head coach. Girls Oakley welcomes a new girls’ head coach, Mike Zimmerman, who returns five starters and two other senior letter winners. “We had no seniors last year,” Zimmerman said. “We have a lot of experience. Must cut down on turnovers and hold our own on the boards.” Oakley finished the 2015-16 season with a 5-18 overall record and 1-7 in the Mid-Continent League. Returning starters are: Jenna Zimmerman, 5’9” senior, 14.8 points per game and 4.5 rebounds; Elise Corbett, 5’4” junior, 6 points and 2.1 rebounds; Taylor VanEaton, 5’9” senior, 5.9 points and 5.5 rebounds; Shanley Selzer, 5’10” senior, 4.1 points and 6 rebounds; and Nicole Sheetz, 5’9” junior, 3.7 points and 3.8 rebounds. Other senior letter winners are Myka Kuhlman and Katie Hefner, both 5’7” seniors.

Page 45 611 S. Washington

Plainville

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Oxford Wildcats

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espite a below .500 finish this past season, the Wildcats expect to be more competitive this season as they return five starters who are all upperclassmen, including all-league honorable mention selection, Camren Clements, a 6’2” junior who averaged 8 points per game and 3.8 rebounds. He will anchor the Wildcats’ offenese. Other starters are: Cal Shimkus, 6’4” junior , 4.9 points and 4.9 rebounds; and seniors Grant Smith, 6’0”, 4.3 points, Dylan Reuter, 5’9”, 2.1 points, and Tyler Vaughn, 5’10”, 3.3 points. Steven Eichelberger, 6’7”, also is a senior. Kyle Green starts his 11th season as head coach, following an 8-13 record in 2015-16. Oxford not only returns a breadth of experience, but a physically well-rounded roster with good size, and skill sets that cover them defensively as well as offensively, Green said. Oxford has the potential to finish with a winning record this season as well as finish in the top three in their league.

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Plainville Cardinals

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hris Drees enters his third season as head coach of the Cardinals after finishing last season 10-12, and losing in the sub-State semi finals to Central Plains. Plainville will look to gain experience and maturity this season, as the Cardinals rely heavily on a group of younger, athletic players. The Cardinals enter the 20162017 season without any senior leadership. Returning starters Hayden Friend, 5’10” point guard, and Justin Reif, 6’3” forward, both seniors, will lead the team. Replacing the squad’s primary scorers from this past season will be a priority as well. Drees said the Cardinal’s expect to play fast, and rely on defense due to their lack of size. Girls The Lady Cardinals return four starters from their 2015-16 season: Amy Casey and Claire McClellan, both 5’11” seniors; and Maeson Dewey and Hunter Meyers, both 5’10” juniors. Also looking for playing time will be sophomores Ava Brack, Rachel Gilland and Kate McClellan. The Lady Cardinals are coached by Kate Bremerman, who is in her second season. Plainville finished this past season with a 3-17 overall record. “We are looking forward to running a fast pace offense and a structured defense,” Bremerman said. “I have a talented group of upper classmen returning and am looking for [under] classmen who will contribute to our team.”

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Page 46

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5 Hwy 36

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Atwood

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Rawlins Co. Buffaloes

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he Lady Buffaloes return plenty of varsity experience, with four returning starters and three other letter winners. “We should be pretty good defensively but must do a better job of taking care of the ball and shooting,” said Brad Pfortmiller, who is in his second season at Atwood. “If we improve in those two areas we should have a pretty good season.” Returning starters are: seniors Gracyn Higley, 5’2”, 9.4 points per game and 2.1 rebounds, and Abigail Horton, 5’6”, 4.2 points and 5.9 rebounds; junior Natalie Hawkins, 5’10”, 4.2 points and 4.5 rebounds; and Amy Crouse, 5’6”, 4.1 points and 2.9 rebounds. The Lady Buffaloes finished the 2015-16 season with a 9-11 record. Boys The Buffaloes have a new coach and a veteran team. Only one senior was lost to graduation this past spring from the squad Ryan Marvin will coach. “We have a lot of athletic, smart and more experienced players eager for the ‘16-17 season,” he said. He also used “talented and determined” to describe this year’s crop of players. Returning starters are: seniors Wyatt Britt, 6’0”, 7.4 points per game and 5.7 rebounds, and Louis Zorn, 5’9”, 4.8 points and 2.1 rebounds; juniors Braden Leitner, 5’5”, 13.8 points and 3 rebounds, and Nick Withington, 6’1”, 15.9 points and 7.7 rebounds; and Jorge Chacon, 5’9”, 5.9 points and 3.1 rebounds. Jared Engel, 6’1”, also is a senior. Rawlins County finished the 201516 season with a record of 8-11. Marvin said his team’s challenge will be to learn a new system under a new coaching staff.

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he Buffs return their leading scorer, Trey Kuhlman, a 6’1” senior who averaged 12.2 points per game and 4.3 rebounds. “He is a great shooter and has drastically improved other areas of his game,” said Clay Mettlen, who starts his second season as head coach. “We return a lot of very capable players.” Kuhlman will be joined by fellow seniors Justyn Stindt and Justin Tietjen and juniors Deon Dyke, McKenzie Cromwell, Nick Allsman and Noah Springer. “They have been good JV players and are ready to make the transition to varsity,” Mettlen said. “One of our biggest strengths is our athleticism and how hard they play. This is a very good group of defenders that can make it difficult for opponents to find a good shot. At times they struggle offensively, but they are improving in that area and with more confidence they are able to go and [create] fast scoring bursts.” Republic County finished the 2015-16 season with an 8-13 record. Girls The Lady Buffs ended this past season with a 14-10 record, which included significant improvement over the months. “They also play in the Hillsboro Trojan Classic, which has perennial 3A powers ... The strong schedule prepares the Lady Buffs for the end of the season,” said head coach Alan Sheets. Returning starters are seniors Madison Scott, 5’5” guard, Kendsey Johnson, 5’4” guard, Audrey Sheets, 5’6” guard, and Casey Benyshek, 5’8” forward. C N B THE

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Smith Center Redmen

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mith Center only returns one starter, Sara Mann, 5’11” senior, from a team that finished 10-11 this past year, and posted a .500 record in league at 4-4. The Lady Red will continue to rebuild this season as they will have no choice but to get younger players varsity experience as they only have three lettermen coming back, with only one of them returning after graduation this May. Head coach Nick Linn starts his 24th year at Smith Center. Boys It’s all about playing to their potential for Joe Burgardt’s Redmen this season. “We return our leading scorer, top two rebounders and top assist man,” said Burgardt, who has been at Smith Center 12 years, four of them as head coach. Returning starters are: senior Thayne Benoit, who averaged 9 points a game and 4 rebounds; junior Brett Meyer, 14 points and 11 rebounds; and sophomore Austin Hobelmann, 6 points and 4 rebounds. Other seniors are Brett Decker and Joel Karg. “We should be athletic and quick,” Burgardt said. “We were young last year so have several kids back that played. We need to limit turnovers.”

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Solomon Gorillas

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his is Travis Smith’s first year as head coach of the Gorilla boys, but he already knows his team is hungry to improve on what they accomplished during the 201516 season. Solomon finished with only five losses, including the subState semifinal. “This year we will be looking to some young guys to fill new roles and develop good team chemistry,” Smith said. “We have a chance to accomplish many goals, but how well we accept various roles will determine how far we could go.” The returning starter is senior Nathan Webb, a 6’2” forward who averaged 6 points per game and five rebounds. He will be joined by seniors Noah Swarts, 6’1” forward; and Cade Fiske, 5’11” guard. Girls Solomon has two seniors who average 12 points per game — Brooke Homman, 5’9” forward, and Carley Rohleder, a 5’5” guard who also is a 3-point threat. The third returning starter is sophomore Kayla Webb, 5’7” guard. The team also has four other letter winners, all sophomores. “We will be looking at changing things offensively to fit our personnel,” said Justin Coup, a 17-year coach who is in his third season at Solomon. “We have very good chemistry and a group of girls who like to work, which will make it easier to battle day in and day out.” Solomon finished 9-12 during the 2015-16 season. Defense will be an area for improvement.

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

Page 47

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Herington Railers

Sterling Black Bears

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ead coach Gregg Hackerott is excited about his team’s prospects for the 2016-17

season. The Railers finished this past season with a 1-20 record; however, four players “with tons of game experience” return. “Look for us to play at a fast pace along with increasing our pressure defensively,” Hackerott said. “We’re very excited to see how this Railer team progresses throughout the season.” Returning are senior Tate Becker, 6’2”, and juniors Keegan Osburn, 5’10”, Jakob Rutschman, 6’2”, and Devonte McConnell, 5’11”. Other players are expected to compete for court time. “We need to be better defensively and improve our shooting percentage to be more competitive this season,” Hackerott said.

Girls The girls improved on their record, going from 2-19 in 2014-15 to 10-10 this past season. Head coach of the Lady Railers is Troy Heitfield. Returning are seniors Jordyn Schrader, 5’7” guard, and Ashley Hird, 5’4” point guard.

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he Lady Black Bears return senior Maddie Thrasher, a 5’5” point guard whose time on the basketball court was interrupted this past year by knee surgery. “We are expecting her to bounce back in a leadership role for us,” said veteran head coach Jill Rowland. Sterling finished first in the Heart of America League in 2015-16 with a perfect season while posting an overall record of 23-3. Also returning will be Taya Wilson, a 5’9” junior who averaged 7.1 points per game and 2 rebounds. “Taya got plenty of playing time for us last year as a backup,” Rowland said. “She is full of energy and makes our motor run.” Also expected to step into leadership roles this season are 5’6” seniors Lindsay Gilmore and Emma Horsch. “Emma is an excellent shooter and runs the floor well for us,” Rowland said. “Lindsay has limited minutes but is a smart ball player and will help in leadership rolls as well as being a good shooter.” Boys The Black Bears have a “great” junior class; however, this will be their final opportunity to share the court with senior Kyler Comley, 6’0” guard who averages 16.3 points per game and 4 rebounds. He also was a 1st team AllCKL pick. “Kyler has given a ton to our program and I’m excited to watch him in his final season,” said Derek Schneider, who starts his eighth year as head coach. “He joins a great group of guys that we’re hoping to build into great future individuals, husbands and fathers.” Other members of this year’s senior class are: Edward Weiner, Joel White, JJ Oden, Brady Ochs, Will Dutton, Kaleab Wilson, Max Fulbright and Brett Oden. Sterling finished the 2015-16 season with a 17-6 record. 324 S. 1st St.

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Washington Trego County Community Tigers Golden Eagles J

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wo seniors who played key roles on the Golden Eagles 2015-16 team return for their senior years. Emmit Owens, at 5’10”, averaged 16 points per game and 4 rebounds. Alex Haxton, at 5’11”, averaged 6 points and 2 rebounds. WaKeeney finished this past season with an overall record of 7-14 and 1-6 in MCL League play. The Golden Eagles have a new head coach, Sean Dreiling.

Girls Size has been an issue for the Lady Eagles the past two seasons. Trego Community lost seniors Teghan Sells, 5’6” guard, and Mariah Brungardt, 5’5” forward, to graduation. That leaves a young team that will benefit from more experience as the season goes on. “Most of the fun of this season will be to see how it plays out,” Jerod Brown, who enters his fourth year as head coach, said before the start of the 2015-16 season. “I expect this group of young women to want to be successful, and I know they will work as hard as they can to make that happen. “There is a lot of potential on this team and I am excited to watch it come out.” Brown’s motto during the 2015-16 season was “Expect Success.” The same philosophy applies this year.

ay Kearn returns as the Lady Tigers head coach after taking off a year to work at Onaga. “Looking forward to working with this group,” Kearn said. “They get along, have fun and hustle. Ready to work with them to improve their game. We all have high expectations for this season.” Included are finishing in the top of league and making a run at State. Returning starters who will be key to those goals are: seniors Annie Otott and Jenna Hennerberg, both forwards, and Cammie Miller, guard; and junior Tess Cecrle, center. Juniors Holly Delay, Andrea Bruna and Lauren Wyatt also are expected to contribute. Kearn said his team will play an “uptempo, pressing” style of “exciting basketball.” A challenge will be to stay injury free. Boys The Lady Tigers won’t be the only ones with a new coach. Bobby Smith takes over the boys’ basketball program. He follows Lyle Thompson, who worked to make the Tigers a regular at State. Unfortunately, much of the team’s scoring power from this past season was lost with the graduations of seniors Kyle McGatlin, 5’11” guard, Konnor Penning, 6’1” post, and Cale Thompson, 6’1” point guard.

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

1A — St. John’s Beloit/Tipton

Brenna Eilert sparks Lady Blujays By MARK McCOY Kansas Hardwood

ball supporter,” she said. “He LOVES basketball and I learned to love the game from him. He is always there supporting me.” Eilert is also a good student and maintains a 3.94 grade point average. “I’m ranked third in my class of 16,” Eilert said. “It’s nice to have Brenna on the team,” said Lady Blujay head coach Keith Kresin. “She is a good, all-around player that really, truly makes her teammates a lot better. But, she works hard in the off-season to make herself better. One has to do that in this day and age. She was real instrumental in making that run at the State title in 2015.

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ELOIT — The Lady Blujays of St. John’s Beloit/Tipton were down almost 20 points at the halftime break in the first round of the 2014 1A Division II State basketball tournament in Hays. Most spectators had already written off the Lady Blujays as the third quarter began, as a double-digit lead is tough — if not almost impossible — to overcome in a State tournament ballgame. But freshman Brenna Eilert had other ideas. Eilert began to drop 3-balls and attack the basket. She also made a lot of steals and converted those into the easy layups that coaches call “bunnies”. Her play inspired others on her team, who caught fire and battled the Lady Red Aces to a 3-point deficit in the final seconds of the game. Eilert’s long trey at the buzzer forced the game into a wild and exciting overtime. However, Eilert fouled out in the overtime period and with the Lady Blujay’s spark plug on the bench, the Lady Red Aces prevailed and moved on to the next round. Eilert is a seasoned senior this season and has led the Lady Blujays to a 2015 1A Division II title and a 2014 Northern Plains League championship. In her three-year varsity career, she has rolled up 1,075 points and averages 15.6 points per game. Eilert shoots 25 percent from the arc, making 45 of 175 3-point shots. Brenna is a 60 percent free throw shooter, canning 208 of 248 charity shots and is 41 percent from the floor, making 366 of 891 field goals. Eilert is equally fearsome on the defensive end of the ball. She has hauled in a total of 444 rebounds over her career and averages 6.4 per game. Eilert has racked up 130 assists in three years and averages 1.9 per game. She has a total of 135 steals and grabs an average

Mark McCoy/Kansas Hardwood

St. John’s Beloit/Tipton will turn to Brenna Eilert this season for team leadership.

of two per game. “I like the team atmosphere,” Eilert said about her philosophy of the game. “Our coaches have taught us is that it is teamwork, not the individual, which wins games. We all like each other and we help each other out if one of us is down.” Unlike a lot of modern basketball players, Eilert does not have a favorite college or professional player that she emulates or admires. Her basketball hero is a bit closer to home — her grandfather. “My Grandpa Eilert is my biggest basket-

“Brenna sees the floor well and I think that is something that she is getting better at. She trusts her teammates to get to the rim and do their job. Eilert was recognized as one of the top female players in the state her sophomore year. She suffered a minor injury last season but worked hard to get back on the court for her team towards the end of the season. “She’s a good leader both on and off the floor,” said Kresin. “She’s just a good person to be around.” Eilert plays basketball almost all year long as she is on a couple of MAYB teams and an all-star team based out of Pratt with a couple of girls from Hill City and the balance coming from 3A, 4A and 5A teams. “Winning State was really cool,” Eilert said. “We came in as the underdogs so that was really special and a lot of fun. It’s something I’ll always remember. We are definitely going to try and repeat that this year.”

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

Page 49

Davis Dubbert has been a standout for the Blujays for the past three years and hopes to help take his team back to State this season. MARK McCOY/Kansas Hardwood

101 E MAIN ST, BELOIT, KS 67420 785-738-2251 www.fnbbeloit.com

1A — St. John’s Beloit/Tipton

Dubbert eyes another title

By MARK McCOY Kansas Hardwood

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ELOIT — The St. John’s Beloit/ Tipton squad has dominated the 1A Division II brackets in both the regular and post-seasons for the past three years. The Blujays were knocked out of the 2016 State tournament by Hartford in the quarterfinals; placed second at State in 2015 and won the big dance in 2014. The Blujays play in the tough Northern Plains League. One of the players responsible for the Blujays’ recent success is 6’4” Davis Dubbert. Dubbert has contributed 1,107 points to the team in his three years as a varsity player for St John’s. He scored 89 shots from beyond the arc for a 45 percent average and scored 449 2-point field goals for a 58 percent average. Dubbert sank 202 charity shots for a 79 percent average from the stripe. On the defensive side of the ball, Drubbert averages 6.6 rebounds per game and has pulled down a total of 453 rebounds in his high school career. “Davis is about a good a kid as you can find,” said Blujay head coach Lance Bergmann. “He came to us in his fresh-

man year with great expectations following his junior-high career.” Despite his relative youth in the coaching profession, Bergmann is an “old school” coach and just because a player is highly touted in junior high, doesn’t mean he will see a lot of floor time as a freshman. “His freshman year, I really wanted him to earn his spot and not come in on talent alone,” Bergmann said. “I think that frustrated him a bit. He was good enough to play, but I wanted to get a little more out of him. Every year since then, he has always tried to get better than he was the year before. He works hard to be a good as he can possibly be. “Last year, I was very impressed with his leadership abilities. He followed up on his brother’s Trey’s footsteps. (Trey had been the Blujay’s floor leader for the previous two seasons.) I was very impressed with his transition from his sophomore to junior season in that leadership role. He is not very vocal, but he is definitely a lead by example type-of-a-kid. He’s a kid that does everything you ask.” Like many top-flight basketball players, Dubbert plays on summer and allstar teams in the off-season. Bergmann said he is looking forward to what

Dubbert can bring to the team this season from those experiences. “He makes me a better coach,” Bergmann said. “He doesn’t sit there and argue with me, but he likes to understand why it needs to be done a certain way. I’m excited to see what his senior season will bring. Dubbert also is an academic standout. “Well, I got one A- in high school — that is what kept me from having a perfect 4.0 grade point average — so I have a 3.99,” Dubbert said. “I scored a 31 on my last ACT test. I take pride in my grades. School comes easily for me, so that gives me more time for basketball. I can’t not do my homework, although that would be great.” Dubbert’s philosophy of basketball is to play for fun and play to win. He said watching his uncle play high school basketball when Dubbert was in grade school gave him his love of the game. He lists his brother Trey as a basketball inspiration. “I’m looking forward to the season,” he said. “Hopefully, we can win State again, that is our goal.” Mark McCoy is sports editor of the Ellsworth County Independent-Reporter and an annual contributor to Hardwood.


Page 50

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

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1A — Dighton Hornets

Basketball is an education for Lingg By JENNIFER McDANIEL For Kansas Hardwood

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hen Tyler Lingg was no more than 6 or 7 years old, he picked up a basketball. With all his might, he slapped it against the ground, attempting to dribble it. Instantly, the rubber ball ricocheted back. As a little boy, Lingg thought the game was fun, and something he could do with his friends. Little did he know that, years later, basketball would become such a significant part of his life. Today, Lingg is an 18-year-old senior at Dighton High School. The 6’5” center, who also plays forward, averages 13.5 points per game, sinking 51 percent of his field goal attempts. At the line, he lands 61 percent of his free-throw shots. Even though he’s older, and his ball-handling skills have more finesse, Lingg is still having fun playing ball with his friends. “(What) I enjoy most of all is all the team spirit,” he said. “It’s amazing what can happen when you get a whole unit working as one. If you can get five people on the court with great chemistry, the possibilities are endless.” While basketball has taught him qualities such as dedication and sportsmanship, Lingg said he’s learned so much more. “I’ve learned that there are going to be high points, but there will also be low points,” he said.

“Our coach always tells us that nothing is ever as great as it seems, and it’s never as bad as it seems. You need to keep it somewhere in the middle. If you can do that, you will be successful.” In the months leading up to basketball, Lingg stays in shape by playing football for Dighton. He’s also in the weight room nearly every weekday during strength class, and tries to practice at least two to three times a week. During his high school career, Lingg has racked up a slew of awards since his freshman year, including all-league third team, Kansas 1A-DII freshman of the year, second team all-state and honorable mention (Topeka Capital-Journal), first team allleague, all-state honorable mention team and second team along with several others. At 6’5”, Lingg said his height gives him an advantage both offensively and defensively. “Playing in 1A basketball, there are few players that are as tall as I am,” he said. Because of this, I have a better view of the court and can also block shots better.” As a senior, Lingg said he knows this is his final chance to make it to the State tournament, and he is hoping he can lead and motivate other players. “I’m excited for this season,” he said. “I feel we have a very talented team. We are going to have a tremendous work ethic every single day - I know our coaches won’t accept (anything) less.” Even though first-year head coach Ben Wilkens is new to coaching at the high school level, he is already quite familiar with

Lingg. “We have had Tyler in various basketball camps and clinics since he was around 10 years old,” Wilkens said. “We have also coached Tyler in summer ball and junior high. Tyler is an intelligent ball player; he has a lot of intangibles that you can’t teach. He is a leader by example on and off the court, has high character and is respected by his teammates and peers. Tyler is a very coachable player and is always trying to make himself, and his teammates around him, better during practice. “Tyler has had a major role in the basketball program for the last three years, (and) we expect him to continue to have an impact throughout his senior year. Tyler has the ability to play inside as well as shoot the ball from the perimeter. He led the team last year in scoring…and has had an impact on the defensive end as well.” Though the Dighton Hornets appear on paper to have a real height advantage, Wilkens said he thinks the team will be comparable in height to other league schools. But more than that, he’s hoping players will compete at a high level each night they take the court and continue to improve throughout the season. As he looks ahead to life after high school, Lingg said he plans on attending college and earning a physical therapy degree with an emphasis in athletic training. So far, Tyler said he hasn’t received any college scholarship offers, but has been in contact with a representative from Concordia University in Nebraska.


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

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1A — Triplains-Brewster

Brewster is a basketball town By RANDY GONZALES For Kansas Hardwood

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oach Michael Collett — who played for Brewster when it was a perennial state power — wants the TriplainsBrewster boys’ basketball program to approach that lofty status. The Titans have steadily improved under Collett, entering his fifth year as head coach, with three straight winning seasons. Last year, Triplains-Brewster went 15-7 and was one win away from the state tournament. But Collett knows this season he will have a whole host of new players on varsity — and not much height. “We’ve got a long way to go this season,” Collett said. “We’ll definitely get better as the season goes. I’m excited to see what these boys can do.” Collett knows what he has in 6-foot-1 senior forward Tad Holm, the Titans’ leading scorer and rebounder last season at 12.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. “We ran him at the 4 last year, worked pretty good because we got a lot of mismatches with him,” Collett said. “He could beat a lot of guys off the dribble.”

"We’ll definitely get better as the season goes. I’m excited to see what the boys can do." Michael Collett Triplains-Brewster

Holm’s season high last year was 26 points against Palco, and he also had three doubledoubles. He hopes the Titans can continue their winning ways. “We’re pretty young,” Holm said. “I’m hoping we can rebuild pretty good, stay strong like last year.” Holm also can shoot the 3-pointer, making 33 percent of his shots from beyond the arc last season. “He’s a very good 3-point shooter,” Collett said. “We get a big on him, he can hit a couple 3’s.” Collett is counting on his younger players to come through, most notably Jacob Benham, a junior guard. Collett also looks to senior forward Jaden Schmidt, who was on varsity last season. “We’ve had other guys develop on JV last

year,” Collett said. “We have some guys that should be able to step up and score the basketball.” The Titans will look to play at a fast tempo, Collett said. “We’ve always been a fast-paced, athletic team,” Collett said. “That’s what we’re going to do this year again. “We haven’t been the greatest shooting team in the past,” he said. “We’ve got some more natural scorers coming up. We can incorporate that fast-paced game with a little bit better shooting.” Holm understands he will be looked at as a team leader this season. “I feel like I am going to have to lead this team, hopefully have some help,” Holm said. “I definitely try to lead by example most of the time. I need to start getting more vocal.” Collett played on two Brewster teams that went to state in his four years on the squad in the 1990s. He knows about winning. “We’ve made the (sub-state) championship game twice in my four past years,” Collett said. “We haven’t made it to state yet.” But that’s always the goal in this hoops heaven in northwest Kansas. “This has always been a basketball town,” Collett said.

1A — Wheatland-Grinnell

Thunderhawks look to the future By RANDY GONZALES Kansas Hardwood

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he Thunderhawks already lost three key contributors to graduation off last year’s 18-4 team which made the sub-State title game. Now, Wheatland-Grinnell boys’ basketball coach Brendan Ptacek is dealing with the loss of his top player from last year, 6-foot-3 junior forward Chandler Ostmeyer, who was injured during the football season. Ptacek hopes to have Ostmeyer back on the court sometime in the second half of the season. “We’re looking at having him back — if we’re lucky — at the first of the year,” Ptacek said.

Until then, the third-year coach will have to rely on a mix of younger players and two returning starters in senior guards Cory Prewo and Jorge Esparza. “Even before the injury I was picturing us down a little,” Ptacek said. “We lost three really good seniors, two that started and one that was our sixth man off the bench. One was our point guard and the other was our post.” When Ostmeyer does return to the court, he should give the Thunderhawks a boost. Ostmeyer led the team in scoring last season at 16.9 points per game. Esparza added 11.5 points per game and Prewo averaged 6.4 points. “Now, it’s going to be a big adjustment,” Ptacek said. “We’re going to have trouble

scoring.” Ptacek is looking at starting a freshman at point guard in Kyler Haffner. He won’t be the only underclassmen expected to see playing time. “He’s going to be really good,” Ptacek said. “He’s just young and not very big yet. “There are going to be about three sophomores who are going to have to play a lot,” Ptacek added. Even with the the loss of key players due to graduation and injury, and the reliance on young players, Ptacek — who took his team to State his first year at Wheatland-Grinnell — is ready for the season to begin. “I’m still excited,” he said. “It’s going to take a while for everything to come together.”


Page 52

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

1A, Division I — Boys and Girls Overviews

Centralia could repeat as champions BY Mark mccoy Kansas Hardwood

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n the boys’ 1A Division I classification, the defending champion Centralia Panthers, from the northeast corner of the state, are good bet for a repeat performance in the 201617 season. The Panthers seeded fourth, upset top-ranked Hanover in the quarterfinals and then upset second seeded Osborne in the championship match. The Panthers only lost two seniors to graduation and hail from a program that has made it to the State tournament three times since 2012, including a second place showing in 2015. Hanover, a quality program from the northeast corner of the state, won the championship in 2015 and placed fourth in 2016. Although the Wildcats lost three seniors to graduation, they still should be contenders for the title. The St. Paul Indians, hailing from the southeast corner of the state, were a young team last season and didn’t lose a player to graduation. The Indians should be very dangerous this season as a team that has experience in

the post-season usually comes into the following season with a bit of an edge. The Osborne Bulldogs are another young team that could win a repeat performance at the big dance in March, having only lost one senior to the rites of spring. Osborne also competes in the tough Northern Plains League. The NPL is littered with quality basketball teams in three separate classifications. Lebo, from the east-central part of the state, is team that with be filled with a lot of senior talent in the coming season so look for the Wolves to make a run at the trophy, too. From the talent – laden Central Prairie League, both Otis-Bison and Victoria have quality programs and could be contenders in 2016. Perhaps the biggest basketball news in the 1A classification is the movement of Hoxie from 1A to 2A this season. The boys’ teams were almost always in the top echelon of 1A teams and the girls have simply dominated the classification since 2012. Which means that the girls’ title will be hotly contested this season as Centralia, the defending champs, grad-

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uated a lot of members last spring and could find them in a re-building season. Waverly, who placed second in 2016, also graduated a large senior class but will return with a lot of senior layers. South Barber, located just two miles north of the Kansas/Oklahoma line in central Kansas, had a young basketball team in the 2016 State tournament that only lost one senior to graduation. They should be on every 1A coaches’ radar. From the Northern Plains league, the Lady Longhorns of Thunder Ridge graduated four girls, but still have a lot of talent remaining for another run at the title. The Lady Coyotes of Kinsley was a team that few pundits or fans had on their radar last season, since they compete in the CPL against some top 1A Division II and 2A teams. But playing at that level of competition pays off dividends. Kinsley doesn’t have a lot of height, but they are quick and exceptional ball handlers. The girls also do a good job of attacking the basket.

Jetmore Hodgeman County Longhorns

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he Longhorns have a new coach, Chad Cohoon, who takes over for Trent Bright, now the Hodgeman County athletic director. The Longhorns posted a 10-13 season in 2015-16. Members of that team lost to graduation include Kyle Hayes, 6’4” post, who averaged 16.5 points a game. Returning as members of this year’s senior class are: Carson Cohoon, 6’0” guard, and Bryce Harms, 6’1” post. Junior Jacob Salmans, 5’11” guard, also was on the roster this past season. Girls The girls’ basketball team also has a new coach in Levi Salmans, who replaced Richard Dansel, a veteran of the Hodgeman County program.


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

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Fairfield Falcons

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he Lady Falcons ended the 2015-16 season with an overall record of 11-10 and 4-5 in league play. Four starters return from that team, seniors Emily Harner, 5’7”, 8 points per game and 6 rebounds, and Hannah Schoenecker, 5’5”, 10 points and 5 rebounds; and

juniors Ellie Schwertfeger, 9 points and 8 rebounds, and Hannah Knoche, 5’6”, 5 points and 3 rebounds.

“Emily Harner and Hannah Knoche will be key in getting the ball down the floor ... We are counting on Ellie Schwertfeger to be key for us inside with her ability to move and create off the dribble,” said head coach Chris Hewitt, who starts his 6th year with the Lady Falcons. “We may struggle in our halfcourt offense, but should be able to run the break and get the ball up the floor quickly.” Boys The Falcons enter the season with momentum from 2015-16, when they improved significantly as players gained experience. Terry Stuckey, who is in his second year as head coach, returns three senior starters to his rebuilding effort — Gage Schoenhoff, 6’3” center and a “heck of a jumper, Aaron Soelner and Damian Espinosa, point guard. Lost to graduation were two players — 6’7” and 6’9” — that gave Fairfield height. Schoenhoff will be expected to fill at least a portion of the height gap. Stuckey said the Falcons also have a less demanding schedule, with five of the first six games at home.

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he Wildcats return their two top scorers, seniors Michael Jueneman, who averaged 14.1 points per game and 6.2 rebounds, and Will Bruna, 14.6 points and 4.3 rebounds. The 6’1” Bruna was named to the first team in Class 1A a year ago, when Hanover finished with an overall record of 19-4. Coach Kim Lohse considers Bruna a good shooter and a great team leader. The 6’0” Jueneman can rebound, score and defend. “Look for both of these players to improve and be our two go-to guys all season long,” Lohse said. Joining them will be 6’1” senior Adam Fritschi. Girls The Lady Wildcats start the 2015-16 season with two talented returning starters, seniors Ashton Jueneman, 5’10”, 13 points per game and 8.5 rebounds, and Riley Doebele, 5’6”, 6 points and 3 rebounds. “Ashton is an undersized center, but uses that to her advantage, by facing up and using her athleticism,” said Chris Beikmann, who is in his first year as head coach. “Riley has the most experience in varsity basketball. She is a three-year starter. She is a do-it-all-guard.” Hanover also has a Macy Doebele, 5’11” sophomore who was the team’s second leading scorer as a freshman. Beikmann said his players are athletic, get up and down the court

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he Leopards return several starters, but the challenge will be to improve their shooting percentage. “We work and play very hard,” said Rick Schmidt, who is in his second year as head coach. LaCrosse went 3-18 during the 2015-16 season. Returning are: seniors Jasey Woods, 5’8”, 2.6 points per game and 2.62 rebounds, Jordon Reidel, 6’2”, 3.9 points and 2.05 rebounds, Kaleb Sherman, 6’1”, 7.2 points and 4.2 rebounds, and Garret Ryerse, 6’0”, 2.2 points and 1 rebound; and junior Brett Herrman, 6’0”, 10 points and 4 rebounds. Also playing his senior year is Jackson Dinsmore, 5’10”. “We need to stay healthy and avoid injuries to have some success,” Schmidt said. “Will need strong leadership from our upperclassmen.”

Girls The Lady Leopards return two senior starters, Olivia Baus, 6’0”, 10.5 points per game and 8 rebounds, and Erica Gilbert, 5’8”, 8.8 points and 4 rebounds. “Olivia Baus will be expected to average a double-double,” said Nicholl Weigel, who starts his second year as head coach. “She gives us great height and athleticism down low. Erica Gilbert will be playing the roles between point guard and second guard. She has a great outside shot with the ability to drive.” Weigel said younger players will have to step up into bigger roles and the Lady Leopards aren’t deep at the post position. The team went 15-5 and 7-1 during the 2015-16 season.

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he Lady Knights will look to expand on a 11-12 season in 2015-16 with four returning starters, as well as a deep bench and a talented freshman class coming in. “I have high expectations for the 2016-17 season with four returning starters, and a talented bench,” said Coach Travis Ebesle. Lakeside will also complement its returning starters, and their depth at bench with a talented freshman class. The Lady Knights have several young players, but mand of them already have a year of varsity experience. Ebesle will look to get his young team out in transition quickly, and use his team’s speed to run the floor as much as possible. Returning starters are: seniors MaKinlie Hennes, 5’11”, and Taylor Beckes, 5’8”; and sophomores Rachel Milles 5’7”, and Beylee Brummet, 5’7”.

Boys Head coach Drew Duskie returns three starters and two top lettermen in his second year with Lakeside. Despite the Knights finishing 11th in a 13-team league, Duskie is optimistic that this team could make drastic improvements if they improve their chemistry. “We have good varsity experience coming back and good players coming off the bench that know thir roles on the team,” he said. “We will work hard to play as a team and to reach our goal of getting to the State tourney.” Returning starters are: seniors Austin Stroede, 6’3”, 9.2 points per game and 6 rebounds, and Dawson Johnson, 5’10”, 8.8 points and 5.4 rebounds.

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Linn Madison Mankato- Osborne Bulldogs Bulldogs Rock Hills Bulldogs Grizzlies A T E

he Lady Bulldogs return many key players from their sub-State semi-final appearance during the 2015-16 season. Their goal this season is to make a run for State. “[We will] be offensively disciplined looking to play inside out with isolation type and quick ball movement,” said Ron Smith, who is in his first year as head coach. “Defensively, we will be aggressive with both man and trapping zones.” Key to Smith’s style will be playing “team basketball focusing on execution and fundamentals.” Returning starters include seniors: Karsyn Smith, 5’10” forward/post, Brooke Diederich and Kaitlin Ohlde, both guards, and Allison Duensing. “We have a lot of returning experience that should give us good depth,” Smith said. “As a new coach I am excited for the opportunity to take Linn girls’ basketball to the top of a very tough Twin Valley League and look forward to working with our program.”

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ven though Shelly Hoyt is in her first year as head coach for the Madison Lady Bulldogs, she isn’t nervous about the upcoming season. If anything, she’s ready to get started building on the team’s previous winning seasons, and potentially leading the Lady Bulldogs to their first-ever State title. If Hoyt’s name sounds familiar, it’s probably because she coached the Hoxie girls basketball team to a state record — 107 consecutive wins. Hoyt served 16 years as head coach in Hoxie, leading the Indians to four consecutive Class 1ADivision I State championships from 2012-15. The Indians were undefeated in their final three championship seasons. Hoyt is taking over the Madison girls’ basketball program from former coach Cody Ziegler. Last season, the Lady Bulldogs finished 14-8, but lost in the sub-State semifinals. During the 2015-16 season, the team had all five returning starters, including seniors Allyson Bond, Tori Melton and Montana Thompson in the starting lineup. The upperclassmen, along with younger teammates Emily Rayburn and Calli Dannels, propelled the Lady Bulldogs to a 13-8 record and capturing a portion of the Lyon County League title during the 2014-15 season. However, the team lost in the first round of the sub-state tournament. This year, returning starters include seniors Emily Rayburn, a 5’7” forward, and McKenna Farrow and junior Calli Dannels, a 5’6” guard. Other returning varsity players are sophomore Emily Farrow and junior Ashley Wolgram. When she accepted the job in May, Hoyt said in an interview with the Hays Daily News she was excited about her decision to come to Madison and the opportunity to lead a winning team. “I’m ready to meet my kids and players … I’m gonna go at it 110 percent,” Hoyt said.

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fter a disappointing season, the Lady Grizzlies will rebuild their basketball program this year with new head coach Matt Railsback. During the 2015-16 year, the team, under the direction of former head coach Lauren Charles, posted a 0-21 overall record and finished 0-12 in league play. With the loss of four seniors, including top-scorer Allison Railsback, the team will rely on younger players to step up and lead, including juniors Jalee Ortman and Baylie Dunstan. Both players consistently put up numbers last season. During a game against Lincoln last February, Dunstan scored 12 points and had 11 rebounds – a bright spot in a game that ended in a 38-62 loss.

Boys The Grizzlies will not be as deep as they have been in recent years, but will benefit from a taller roster. Rock Hills will be fairly balanced on offense and defense, but will have to improve on post play. “Our tradition of knowing how to compete in tough games is always a strength,” said head coach Matt Hesting, who has been at Rock Hills for 11 years, and has had 14 wins or more in the past 10 years. Hesting still has the pieces to have another winning season and be competitive in league. The Grizzlies went 16-7 this past season and 9-3 in league play. Returning players are 5’9” seniors Luke Broeckelman and Drew Beam and Jacob Spiegel, 6’3”.

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s the Osborne Bulldogs headed into last year’s basketball season, head coach Jamie Wolters said he felt his players lack of experience would be their team’s key weakness. But in the weeks that followed, the Bulldogs would go on to show they not only had the skills to capture the Class 1A-Division I sub-State championship, but would fiercely battle for a state championship. The Bulldogs finished the 2015-16 season 20-7 overall and 9-3 in league play, with players like then-junior Pierce Wolters, Cullen Grabast and Justin Burch all making names for themselves. During a game against Lakeside in January, Wolters shot five three-pointers, setting up a team win. The following month, Grabast, another impressive shooter for the Bulldogs, scored 30 points in the team’s 73-62 win over Pike Valley. But it was during the Class 1A-Division I sub-State championship at Rock Hills that Burch turned it on, scoring 28 points in the team’s decisive 57-36 win over Pike Valley. After clinching the sub-state championship, the Bulldogs went on to beat Minneola/ Ashland and Victoria, earning the team its first state title matchup since 1976. However, Centralia ultimately proved too much for Osborne, which trailed 28-11 at the half. The Bulldogs lost 38-27, and took second place. But despite the disappointing loss, seniors Wolters, Grabast and Burch are returning for another shot at the State title. With the loss of only one senior, the Bulldogs have the ability and experience to realistically make another push for State. Girls Here is the motto of this year’s Lady Dogs’ team: “Work hard week in/week out” and “Improve as the year goes on.” “Some of our strengths this year are going to be that we have some older girls that have played quite a bit of basketball together the last couple years,” said head coach Tracy Holloway. “We still struggle to score at times so we have to step up our defensive game.” Returning starters are seniors Bretton Wolters, who averaged 6.4 points a game; Savannah Noel, 4.8 ppg; Olivia Engler, 12 ppg; and Allison Grabast, 9.8 ppg and 9 rebounds. “Olivia Engler led the way for us last year in scoring and was one of our top ball handlers,” Holloway said. “I expect her to step up.”


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Quinter Bulldogs

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his could be a building year for the Warriors. Larry Mall takes the reigns as head coach again after several years absence. “Losing a bunch of playing enior point guard Lane seniors and one most-of-the-time Keith, who has started for the Bulldogs since he was a starter to transfer, this season will sophomore, is expected to lead his be one of acclimating the young team, which includes three senior group to a different head coach ... post players — Cody Bogert, 6’5”, Daily and game-by-game improvements will be our focus, on all facets 9.6 points per game and 8.5 of fundamentals,” Mall said. rebounds, Eli Glick, 6’4”, 2.6 Returning is Joe Cool, a 6’2” points and 2.4 rebounds, and junior who averaged 2.6 points in Isaiah Simpson, 6’3”. “Lane Keith will give us stability 2015-16, when the Warriors posted a season record of 4-18. He will be and leadership at the point,” said joined by sophomores Blake Gumm, head coach John Crist, who is in Kaury Stout and Caden Williams. his 24th year at Quinter. “The long, lanky Cool will be “We will be young in some relied on for both inside and outside spots, which will lead to some play,” Mall said. “Blake Gumm is a growing pains.” The Bulldogs finished the 2015- tremendous shooter. Kaury Stout will be running the point and Caden 16 season with a record of 8-13 Williams gives a good shot-blocking overall and 3-4 in the Northwest and rebounding presence inside.” Kansas League. Mall said his young team has a strong work ethic and enthusiasm for the game. “[We] will need several of the young players to assume large roles and not get drug down by any struggles that will occur during the he Indians have their tough schedule,” he said.

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Satanta Indians

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work cut out for them this season. “We have to replace four senior starters and four other senior lettermen from last year,” said Tim Dusin, who is in his fifth year as head coach. “We are hoping our young players/JV players step up and transition well to the varsity level.” Satanta returns one starter from a team that posted an overall record of 12-9 and a league record of 7-4. Rogelio Pando is a 5’9” senior who averages 4 points a game. He will be joined by Ty Blair, 6’0” junior, and Gabe Salas, 5’10” sophomore. “Ty will need to be a consistant shooter for us. Rogelio will lead the team with his defense. Gabe gives us anoth-

Girls The Lady Warriors return Rayna Schmidt, a 5’5” senior who averages 15.1 points per game and 3.3 rebounds. She was a 1st team AllLeague choice during the 2015-16 season, when Southern Cloud finished 16-6 overall and 9-3 in league. She will lead a team that includes starters: Sienna Gray, 5’9” junior, 6.6 points and 6.1 rebounds; Kaitlyn Morris, 5’5 sophomore, 6.2 points and 2.7 rebounds and Bailey Primeaux, 5’9” senior, 7 points and 4.8 rebounds. “Our main strength is experience,” said Tyler Williams, who starts his 5th season as head coach. “We return our top seven from a season ago, which was a team that grew as the season went on, with three of the six being freshmen. “It is exciting to know that all the girls we will count on have the ‘been there’ mentality as opposed to the uncertainty of what is to come. I have never seen them so excited to get going.”

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St. Francis Indians

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he Indians are loaded with talent and experience with four seniors from a team that finished 15-7 and second in league during the 2015-16 season. Returning starters are Brock Waters, 6’2” senior who averaged 16 points per game; Quentin Cravens, 6’3” senior; Taylor Rogers, 5’10” senior; Tate Busse, 6’2” junior who averaged 15 points; and Jeremiah Neitzel, 6’4” senior. “All four seniors can score, rebound and defend, and they play very hard for their teammates,” said Cory Busse, who is in his second year as head coach. W. Hwy 36 “We still lack some of the fundaSt. Francis mental skills that varsity kids need, 785-332-2601 but we made a lot of progress last year as well as over the summer so I Dine-in or Carryout am very encouraged. We have great athleticism and work ethic and the kids just like to play. We have very good outside shooting and rebounding and our inside offensive game was really improving at the end of last year and I think it will just build from where we left off. “We also have some very good sophomores and freshmen that are going to help push the older kids. Some of them will push pretty hard for varsity playing time. We like to play a very aggressive defense and that requires some good kids coming off the bench and I think we will have that this year.” Girls The Lady Indians continue rebuilding this season, returning four starters and five lettermen, none of which are seniors. St. Francis has the team chemistry and experience to improve from a 3-5 league record a year before, but head coach ShayLinn Zweygardt should have a lot to look forward to in 2017-18 as this same roster returns six seniors and three juniors from a team that will only get better this season. St. Francis should be competitive this year. Returning starters are juniors Hanna Bracelin, Reagan Beims, Zoe Sundstrom and Madison Tice.

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

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tockton will look to continue to improve as the Tigers return five starters from a team that went 2-7 in league this past season and 8-13 overall. The returning starters gained valuable varsity experience as well as acclimating themselves to league play in the tough Mid-Continent League. The nucleus returning for the Tigers is solid, but there are no returning lettermen outside of those starters, so developing depth and finding a way to get players without experience comfortable coming off the bench and settling into their roles on the roster will be key to how far head coach Tom Stephens can drive his team this season. Returning starters are: seniors Kian Coffey, 6’5”, 10 points per game and 7.3 rebounds, Joel Green, 6’0”, 12.7 points and 5.1 rebounds, and Kyle Hull, 5’10”, 4.7 points and 1.9 rebounds; junior Kyler Williams, 6’0”, 7 points and 4.6 rebounds; and sophomore Brady Beougher, 6’1”, 9.3 points and 2.8 rebounds. “Our team will have to develop some depth and remain healthy to have a competitive team,” Stephens said. Girls The Lady Tigers were a young team in 2015-16 and they’ll be a young team this season, but with a year of experience behind them. Here are the returning starters from the team’s most recent roster: seniors Emily Conyac, 5’10” forward ad Cecelia Beck, 5’7” guard; and juniors Haven Hamilton, 5’10” forward, and Delayne Colburn, 5’7” guard. They’re coached by Alexa Rogers, who starts her fourth year this season.

Thunder Ridge Kensington

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hunder Ridge and head coach John Boden are in the third year of rebuilding the Longhorn program. The Longhorns are still a young, inexperienced team that finished 4-17 last season. Getting the underclassmen more experience in the offseason in summer leagues and in the gym is something Boden doesn’t take for granted, and has been pushing his kids to do. The Longhorns are still a little way away from having their program on solid footing, but Bolden seems to have his team headed in the right direction. “Everyone is starting to buy into the program and spending a lot more time in the off season playing basketball,” Boden said. Returning starters are Kade Van Eaton, 5’8” senior guard, 15.9 points per game, and Brandon Grauerholz, 5”8” sophomore guard, 5.2 points. Girls The 2015-16 season ended for the Lady Longhorns with an 18-5 overall record and a 9-1 record in the Northern Plains League. Lost to graduation this past spring was Kirsten Burger, who gained attention as a freshman when she was named an All-League player. Thunder Ridge has some holes to fill. The team’s only returning starter is Kassie Bretteon, a 5’7” senior. Also on the roster are Lakya Pettijohn, 5’11” senior; and junior Kennedy Ritzke. Veteran head coach Daren Grauerholz said the future looks bright for the Lady Longhorns because of their “good sophomore team.”

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ith no returning starters in Dylan Dronberger’s third season at Victoria, the strength of the team will be his players’ willingness to learn and improve. The lack of varsity playing time for Victoria will be a sizeable setback to overcome in a tough league. This season could be a valuable year for Victoria to develop underclassmen. “This will be a quality opportunity for younger guys to get playing time. They’re eager to play,” Dronberger said. It also will be an opportunity for the Knights three letterman to step into leadership roles: Bryant Karlin, 6’0” senior; and juniors Cooper Pfannensteil, 6’1”, and Collin Kisner, 6’2”. Victoria ended the 2015-16 season with a record of 15-10 in overall play and 5-5 in the Central Prairie League. Girls

The Lady Knights have a new coach, Kristen Huser, who follows Anne Dinkel. Dinkel led the Victoria girls for five seasons. Huser will have a solid foundation on which to build her program. Returning for the Lady Knights are senior Sara Schippers, 5’10” guard; and juniors Sam Leiker, 5’8” guard/ forward, and Hannah Radke, 5’8” forward. Leiker posted a game-high 28 points in January as Victoria defeated Stockton 50-39.

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1A, Division II — Overview

Top teams return top players By RANDY GONZALES Kansas Hardwood

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ne coach saw his team finish as the runner-up at last year’s Class 1A, Division II State basketball tournament. The other coach had his squad take third. One can imagine where both coaches would like to see their teams wind up this season. Hartford (20-6), after a pair of close wins to get to the title game, lost 54-52 to Attica (24-2), which won its first state crown. Beloit/St. John’s Beloit/Tipton claimed third place after dropping its first game of the season to Hartford in the semifinals. Hartford missed a 3-pointer, then a follow shot in the final seconds in its first appearance in a state title game. Hartford’s path to the championship game included an overtime win over Hutchinson Central Christian on a 3-pointer at the buzzer in the quarterfinals. Then came that victory over No. 1 seed St. John’s-Tipton in the semi-finals, when the Blujays missed a game-tying trey just before the buzzer. “The success of last year’s season will only keep our boys wanting more,” Hartford coach Patrick Gardner said of his team, which has gone to state three straight years. “They want to keep building on our team

success.” Attica, the No.2 seed, defeated Dighton in the first round and Logan in the semifinals. While the Bulldogs lost to graduation first-team, second-team and honorable mention all-State selections in 1A-II by the Wichita Eagle, Hartford returns four starters, including an Eagle first team all-state selection for 1A-II in senior Danen Kistner and an honorable mention choice in senior Clayton Fowler. The 5-11 Kistner averaged 22.6 points and nine rebounds per game for the Jaguars and the 5-8 Fowler added 16 points, five assists and 3.5 steals per game last year. St. John’s Beloit/Tipton (24-1) returns 6’4” senior swingman Davis Dubbert, an Eagle first team pick who averaged 23 points and nine rebounds per game last year. Dubbert, who can play inside or out, made 11 consecutive 3-pointers over a three-game span last season. “Davis is too quick and too good of a shooter for big guys and he is too big and strong for smaller guards,” St. John’s Beloit/ Tipton coach Lance Bergmann said. “Davis has one of the best jump shots around, but he also has very smooth post moves.” The Blujays have three other returning starters — including senior big man Mason Eilert, an honorable mention Eagle pick —

and depth off the bench as they look to make state again. Bergmann said the players are aware of what can happen in postseason. “I think that they just have a better understanding that it only takes one game of not performing your best against a good team that plays well, and you can be beat,” Bergmann said. “I believe they don’t want to have that feeling again. The boys really like to win, but I think their dislike for losing is stronger.” Another top returner in 1A-II is Colten Ward, a 5-10 senior from Caldwell, a firstteam Eagle pick who averaged 18.6 points per game. Central Christian has back 6-1 junior Nate Heneha, who averaged 21.3 points and was a second-team selection by the Eagle. Honorable mention all-State picks in 1A-II by the Eagle who return this season are: Mason Eilert, senior, St. John’s-Tipton; Clayton Fowler, senior, Hartford; R.J. Haberer, junior., Sylvan-Lucas; Seth Hemberger, senior, Argonia; Nick Kyle, senior, Norwich; Tyler Lingg, senior, Dighton; Chandler Ostmeyer, junior, Wheatland-Grinnell; Carter Porubsky, senior, Cheylin; Tyler Thiessen, junior, Elyria Christian; Josh Van Laeys, senior, Logan; Spencer VanMeter, senior, Pawnee Heights.

court in their bid to make the season finale again, but Christensen considers Western Kansas Liberty League rival Wheatland-Grinnell as potentially the top team in Class 1A, Division II. “They’re definitely the team to beat in our league and probably in our division in 1A because some other teams moved up,” Christensen said. Golden Plains will go as far as its back court duo leads the Bulldogs. Kaycee Miller, a 5’7” sophomore, led the team in scoring last season at 12.5 points per game. She added 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2.5 assists a night. Gabi Schiltz, a 5’9” senior guard, missed part of the season last year with a concussion but still managed to average 8.1 points, 4.1

rebounds and 1.7 steals. “She was really played well when that concussion happened,” Christensen said. Miller saved her best game of the season for the sub-State title game against Wheatland-Grinnell. Miller scored a season-high 26 points and swished six 3-pointers — the most she had in a single game — as the Bulldogs advanced to state. Golden Plains lost in the first round to eventual state champion Dighton. “That was kind of her coming-out party,” Christensen said. While Christensen is counting on his backcourt to lead the way, he also knows

Wheatland is the team to beat

By RANDY GONZALES Kansas Hardwood

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ighton, this past year’s Class 1A, Division II State champion on the girls’ side, is expected to move up to Class 1A Division I this season. Other state stalwarts such as Norwich and Beloit/St. John’s-Tipton are also expected to move up to Division I this basketball season. Parker Christensen, who is entering his 24th season as coach at RexfordGolden Plains, sent his team to State for the third time in four years last season. The Bulldog girls return a solid back-

See GIRLS, Page 61


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H ow ell In su ra n ce A u to • H om e • Bu sin ess C rop • Life A shla n d 620-635-2297 Protection 620-622-4501

Ashland Blue Jays

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he Lady Blue Jays are small but mighty this year. Ashland returns its leadingt scorer, Jacki Endicott, a 5’3” junior who averaged 4.9 points a game. Also returning are four players with significant floor time — Carley Brown, 5’5” junior, Lezah Fox, 5’6” senior; Dylan Solida, 5’6” sophomore; and Bailey Koch, 5’5” sophomore. Ben Fox is in his first year as head coach. “I am looking for those girls to step into the roles of the two posts we graduated last year,” he said. Fox said it appears team members get along well. He considers that a plus and something on which to build. “I hope we can form an even tighter bond. I believe that is the key to a successful season and program,” he said. “We will be lacking in the height department, but undersized posts are my favorite type of players to coach. I am confident our girls can play bigger than their stature.”

Boys The Blue Jays graduated seven seniors from this past season’s State runner-up team. However, returning is 6’2” sophomore Luke Reimer, who as a freshmen was already one of the team’s leading scorers and rebounders. Ashland also gets 5’10” senior Reece Kay back after he sustained a season-ending ankle injury. His quickness and athleticism will anchor the defense. Ashland will look to build around Reimer and Kay to become a more complete team. Head coach Garth Gardiner will use league play

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Attica Bulldogs

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

he Bulldogs may have lost three starters from their 1A, Division II championship team, including Devon Newberry, a 6’3” guard/forward who averaged 18.8 points a game, but Attica still has the talent to be a top team. “We have the ability to get after teams defensively with our athleticism,” said Danton Hilton, who starts his fifth year as head coach. “We will have a short bench this year so being smart in order to stay out of foul trouble will be big. Limiting our opponents’ second-chance opportunities will be big as well. “Offensively we will be an above average shooting team in all five spots. We will look to space the floor and attack with a 2-point guard system. We will need to find ‘our guy’ that we can go to in crunch time when we need a basket late in games.” The Bulldogs finished this past season with a 25-2 overall record and 9-0 in league for first place. Returning starters are senior Brady Ricke, 6’3”, 9.5 points a game, 4.2 rebounds; and sophomores Blake Harnden, 5’9”, 4 points, Masen McDaniel, 5’10”, 4.5 points and 3.9 rebounds, and Ezra Goodman, 6’1”, 1.8 points. Ricke averaged 20 points a game before Christmas while two starters recovered from injuries.

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Dighton Hornets

ighton returns two starters from its State championship team in 1A, Division II: seniors Sara Cramer, point guard, 15.9 points per game and 4.3 rebounds, and Jordan Speer, forward, 13.1 points and 8.2 rebounds. They will provide the leadership to help younger players adjust to their new roles on the team as underclassmen step up. It also helps that head coach Amy Felker has a proven track record of success. She said keys to her team’s success will be “defense, rebounding, forming a bond between teammates and believing in the team.”

Boys First-year head coach Ben Wilkens considers this season’s Hornets “solid on defense and rebounding.” “We will have to look for players to step up and score,” he added. Dighton finished the 2015-16 season with an overall record of 15-7. Returning starters are: seniors Tyler Lingg, 6’3”, 13.5 points per game and 9 rebounds, Dylan Foos, 6’0”, 6.1 points, and 3 rebounds and Lake Lewis, 5’10”, 7 points and 3.5 rebounds; and junior Logan Lingg, 6’2”, 6 points and 3.5 rebounds.

BeloitSt. John’s Blujays

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ven with the loss of several seniors to graduation this past spring, the Lady Blujays still have plenty of talent — and experience — on their bench. Returning starters are seniors Elizabeth Walter, 5’7”, 11.6 points per game and 3.8 rebounds, and Brenna Eilert, 5’9”, 15.8 points and 5.1 rebounds; and sophomore Kara Eilert, 5’10”, 3.1 points and 3.8 rebounds. Keith Kresin led his team to a firstplace finish in the Northern Plains League with a perfect 12-win season in 2015-16.

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 4

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Frankfort Wildcats

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he Wildcats come off the 2015-16 season a year older and wiser. “This team has been young for the past two seasons,” said Nick Anderson, who is in his second year as head coach. “We finally have some experience that should help us. This team has potential but needs to consistently play up to that potential.” Frankfort returns four seniors, Brendon Levi, Adam Kenworthy, Jedd Rose and Whalen Kokoruda. Levi was second team All-League in 2015-16, when the Wildcats posted a 7-16 season. He averaged 8.9 points per game. “He’s a very good point guard,” Anderson said. “Adam Kenworthy is a versatile player. I’m looking for him to be more consistent. Jedd Rose has good post skills; he can shoot from anywhere.” Girls This is Brian Ebert’s first season as head coach of the Lady Wildcats, but he is no stranger to team members. “I’m very excited to get the opportunity to coach this group. I have a lot of time invested in several of these players ... in junior high as well as summer ball,” he said. Frankfort went 13-11 in 2015-16. Four starters return: juniors Becca Adams, 5’4” guard, Kari Vaughn, 5’7” post, and Jessa Young, 5’8” forward; and sophomore Emilee Ebert, 6’0” forward. On both sides of the ball, Ebert said, “our play will be strong. We will have ball handlers, shooters, assist givers, penetrators. Along with that we will have versatile guard play, meaning speed, height and scoring ability.”

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his year will be a learning experience for the Jackrabbits. They will have a new coach, Josh Gooch, and a new style of play to learn. “The team will be learning a new system for the fourth year in a row ... We compete in a tough league that will hopefully prepare us for the post-season,” Gooch said. Greeley County finished the 2015-16 season with a 4-17 record. “We return some experience, but will still have a young roster,” Gooch said. “The returning starters didn’t start all season, but were in the line-up off and on throughout the year.” Gooch thinks his young team has potential. Returners include: sophomore Jose Chavez, senior Cruz Leon and junior Evan Crotinger. Sophomores Darian Ibarra, Sabestian Torres and Jaly Yanez also are expected to contribute. Girls The ability of the Lady Jackrabbits to play together is their strength, said Sherri Elder, who starts her second year as head coach. “Shooting the ball continues to be our weakness,” she added. Greeley County finished the 201516 season with an overall record of 4-17 and 1-7 in NWK League. Returning starters are: seniors Morgan Woelk, 5’3”, and Irelyn Elder, 5’4”; and junior Hannah Brandl, 5’10”. Other returning letter winners are: juniors Calla Ibarra, 5’8”, and Abby Berggren, 5’4”; and senior Jessica Mendoza, 5’4”. Elder said the players all will be “big assets” to this season’s team. The Lady Jackrabbits also have a bright future. “We also have a strong class of freshmen,” she said.

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fter two seasons under the direction of head coach Nolan Smith, the Natoma High School Tigers will have new leadership this year. Head coach Steve Custenborder is taking over, building on a program that finished 4-16 overall and 2-10 in the Northern Plains League last year. Despite the loss of seniors Dean Masters, 6’0” forward, and Joey Raat, 5’10” guard, the Tigers will depend on leadership from other senior starters Grady Dickerson, Tyler Lund, Austin Murphy, James Maupin and Taitem Zeigler.

Girls Experience will be an advantage for head coach Cody Dunlap’s Lady Tigers this year as several starters return. In her third year as head coach, Dunlap continues developing a program that can go head to head with other league teams. But the Lady Tigers must develop other shooters from the bench to score points. Gone is Regan Casey, a 5’4” shooting guard and powerhouse for the Lady Tigers. Casey led her team in scoring, shooting as many as 26 points in a single game. With Casey gone, players like junior Peyton Ostmeyer, a 6’0” center and another top-shooter for the Lady Tigers, will have the opportunity to step up and lead their team. Joining Ostmeyer are seniors Terran Homburg, a 5’6” power forward, and Hannnah Chambray, a 5’3” point guard. Last season, the Lady Tigers were 9-13 overall and 3-9 in the Northern Plains League.

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ogan returns two starters from a team that allowed only 41.8 points a game this past season, and finished 2nd in league with an 8-1 record, and 21-5 overall record. The Trojans will have to maintain their staunch defense to stay in the upper tier of their league, as they don’t have experienced perimeter shooters returning for the 2015-16 season. Returning starter and senior, Josh VanLaeys, at 6’4”, has the size and rebounding skills to provide second chance opportunities for the Trojans. That will be vital to their offense. Also returning is senior Kelson Kats, 6’1”.


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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

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Northern Otis-Bison Valley Cougars Huskies I

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he Huskies will have a young, undersized team this season, but four of those players are starters and four others are letter winners. Chuck Fessenden, who starts his 41st year at the school, said Northern Valley has good ball handlers and a couple of good shooters, who will help them be a good perimeter team that can play fast. If the Huskies can continue to make progress throughout the season they will be poised to have a shot at a league title in 2017-18, as most of this season’s starters will be back, and only two will graduate in May 2017. Returning are: Caden Kinderknecht, 6’ 0” junior, 14.1 points per game, 3.1 rebounds; and sophomores Riley Sides, 5’11”, 12.5 points and 2.2 rebounds, Caden Bach, 6’0”, 5.7 points and 3.7 rebounds and Nick Stutsman, 3.6 points and 2.6 rebounds. “Our lack of size could hurt us on the boards,” Fessenden said. “We will still have a very young team next year, but they do have some experience.”

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n his first year, Cougars Head Coach Curtis Little will rely on his returning players to help him lead this season’s team. Returning starters for the 2016-17 season are senior Kade Urban, a 6’0” guard, and sophomore Maitland Wiltse, a 6’4” forward. Other returning varsity players include Trevor Trapp, a 5’10” senior guard, and junior Clade Anderson, a 6’4” junior center. “Urban is a good leader and … a solid defender,” Little said. “Wiltse is a goodscorer, (and) Trapp is a steady ball-handler and defender.” While Little knows his team is tough defensively, he also realizes his players will have to find ways to put points on the board. “(We) will need to find guys to score,” Little said. During 2015-16, the Cougars finished the season with an overall record of 12-10, and finished seventh in the Central Prairie League, posting a 2-6 record. Girls Robert Trapp Sr. believes this could be the year for his team. In his second year as Lady Cougars head coach, Trapp knows all the right conditions exist for a winning season — strong senior leadership, a talented freshmen class with height, and starters who spent their summers conditioning in the gym. Returning starters include team leader Taylor Regan, a 5’11” player who averaged 20 points per game and 15 rebounds. Other starters returning to this year’s team are Caitlin Schilowsky, Madison Schneider and Lacey Mitchell. “Taylor Regan — a three-time, allstate competitor — will finally be able to play her position this year and not have to do everything,” Trapp said. “We are expecting to get help right away from freshmen Maddie Wiltse and Cristen Trapp to take some of the ballhandling pressure from Taylor.” Trapp has high expectations to improve on last season’s record of 10-12 overall and sixth in league play, posting a 2-6 record.

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he Lady Roosters ended the 2015-16 season with a 5-16 record. Kyle Fox, who is in his second year as head coach, returns all five starters with another year of experience to their credit. They are: seniors Savannah Desbien, 5’9”,l Madison Funk, 5’7”, Paige Keller, 5’7”, and Cameron Knipp, 5’7”, and Desiree Desaire, 5’6” junior. Desbien and Desaire are both All-League honorable mention players. Fox said his team’s challenge will be its lack of size. Boys The Roosters return three starters to fill out a limited roster. With only six or seven players on the roster, the upperclass leadership has a lot of responsibility with very little wiggle room for mistake if Palco looks to be an above .500 team or compete in its league. Returning starters are: senior Riley Nyp, 6’1”, 7.6 points per game and 6.6 rebounds, and juniors David Thompson, 6’0”, 10.5 points and 8.3 rebounds, and Garrett Handley, 6’1”, 7.6 points and 6.6 rebounds. Palco is coached by Ethan Kosjer, who is in his fourth year. The Roosters posted a 9-12 record during the 2015-16 season and 4-5 for a sixth-place finish in their Western Kansas Liberty League.

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estern Plains had a disappointing season in 2015-16, winning only one game in league competition and finishing 9th. This season, the Bobcats return three starters, including Jordan Sargent, who has started for two years and has been the team’s primary ball handler. Charles Packard, who is in his third year as head coach, said Western Plains will have to develop a faster, more chaotic style of play as its roster is undersized, and inexperienced. Aside from the three starters returning, the other four players on the roster haven’t had high school basketball experience coming into the season. The Bobcat’s season will hinge on the development and composure of those players as they find work into their roles on the team. “We will be young and short, but overall we should be improved as ballhandlers and as shooters,” Packard said. Sargent, a 5’6 senior, will be joined by James Rolo, 6’1” junior; and Logan Mauch,5’6” sophomore.

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Rural Vista Heat, Hope

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ane Hensley is in his first year as head coach for the Heat, and his first team will be a young one. Building a foundation this season will be fundamental to his next few seasons at Rural Vista. “With 10 freshmen, two sophomores, and two juniors, our expectations are to improve each game, and get better as the season progresses, as we gain experience,” Hensley said. The two upperclassmen Rural Vista returns were starters this past year, and that bodes well for developing the leadership the team will need to form a cohesive unit moving forward. “If we play well defensively, and make some shots we will see success,” Hensley said. Returning starters are juniors Hayley Weeks, 6’0” center; and Madison Kahnt, 5’8” guard. Boys

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Rural Vista could take a slight step back this season from a team that finished 2nd in league in 2015-16. The Heat will have strong guard play, but will have to improve in the post. Improving consistency in shooting will be important, too. The Heat return four starters, all seniors, and three lettermen. Returning starters are: seniors Trace Hostetter, 5’8”, Cade Stilwell, 6’0”, Mason

SylvanLucas Mustangs

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mily Carney looks forward to what this season will bring. “I look forward to watching the girls step up and take over their new roles,” said Carney, who starts her third year as head coach. “Under classmen will have to step up and make an impact.” Returning starters are: seniors Greta Wehrman, 5’1”, 4 points per game and 2 rebounds, and Cursstyn Jorgenson, 5’6”, 5 points and 5 rebounds; and junior Logan Batchman, 5’7”, 2.3 points and 5 rebounds. Also expected to contribute are: juniors Kerstin Decker, 5’7”, 8 points and 4 rebounds, and Cheyenne Meyer, 5’6”, 1 point and 2 rebounds. Carney said her team’s strengths will be experience and strong under classmen. The challenge will be to replace the scoring lost to graduation.

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erry King, who starts his 7th year at Tescott, returns four starters from this past season’s team. They are: seniors Hailey Pittman, 9 points per game and 4 rebounds, and Wendy Griffin, 4 points and 5 rebounds and sophomores Cassidy Peters, 2 points and 2 rebounds, and Karsyn Lee, 3 points and 2 rebounds. Tescott’s success this season will depend on team commitment, King said. Boys The Trojans kick off their 2016-17 basketball season Dec. 2 with a game against Lakeside-Downs. Tescott will go into the game with two returning starters, seniors Casey Brown, 5’5”, and Cameron Kurtz, 5’8”; and another letter winner, Logam Srna, 5’6” junior. Bill Scheef, who enters his first year as head coach, said his team is “young, inexperienced, small.” The Trojans finished the 2015-16 season with an overall record of 11-10.

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Boys The Mustangs were just on the cusp of a winning season this past Tara Agent Kubick year, finishing just under .500 with an 11-13 record. 14 6 E L in coln Aven u e,L in coln 785 -5 24 -4 292 Head coach Cody Flinn returns a solid nucleus from that team, with four starters and three other Academics • Arts • Athletics lettermen heading into the 2016Sylvan-Lucas Unified High School 17 season. Only one of those seven provides a complete educational returners is a senior, so it’s fair to experience and a safe, friendly assume that if the Mustangs can environment for your child! continue to progress as a team this (785) 526-7175 • Sylvan Grove, Kansas season, the future will be bright in 2017-18. S Sylvan-Lucas will need to work on ball handling and controlling Continued from Page 57 possessions as well as on-court speed to improve. his squad needs some production Returning starters are Kalieb Garcia, 5’11” senior; RJ Haberer, inside. Junior Kaylie Schaben and 6’1” junior; Dylan Streit, 6’3” senior Morgan Ritter saw a lot of junior; and Caiden Rivers, 5’10” minutes at forward for last year’s junior.

Girls

18-6 team, and junior guard Maggi Nieman is expected to get minutes in the backcourt this season.

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“We’re definitely going to have to get some big contributions from those three,” said Christensen, who also has high hopes for another freshman this season in 5-7 forward Mabel Lugo. Christensen hopes for help from other players, but also knows his starting back court is the key.


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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

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Girls The Lady Wildcats return a strong group from this past season, with experienced ball handlers and shooters to help set up their offense. Stephani Noone also returns after missing last season due to injury. Noone has valuable experience in the post, and will help develop some of the younger players. Returning starters are: seniors Hannah Pletcher and Cassidy Kriegh and junior Sydni Allen.

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heatland returns three starters from a team that went 10-1 in league this past season and 18-4 overall. In three years, head coach Brendan Ptacek has turned the Thunderhawks into a perennial WKLL contender, and they will look to repeat as league champions. Returning starters are: Jorge Esparza, 5’11” senior, 11.5 points per game and 3.6 rebounds; Cory Prewo, 5’10” senior, 6.4 points and 3 rebounds; and Chandler Ostmeyer, 6’2” junior, 16.9 points and 5.7 rebounds. They will be joined by Weston Lewis, 6’4” senior. Girls Could the Lady ‘Hawks be the team to beat this season? That’s the word from more than one coach in Wheatland’s league. Returning for her senior year is 5’5” guard Bailey Bixenman, a second team All-State pick by the Topeka Capital-Journal at the end of the 2015-16 season. She also landed on lists from Kansas coaches and the Wichita Eagle. Bixenman averaged 10.5 points a game.

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Girls The Lady Titans return four starters along with four other letter winners, but will need to improve on scoring and shooting to take a step forward from this past season’s 4-6 league record. “Strengths for the team would be the girls coming back with a lot of playing time,” said Kent Gfeller, who starts his 12th year at the school. Triplains-Brewster returns a strong ball handler and scorer in senior Taryn Stromel, who started every game during the 2015-16 season. The 5’8” junior averaged 5.9 points per game and 7.3 rebounds. Other returning starters are: senior Maddie Lamb, 5’9”, 4.8 points and 5.2 rebounds; and juniors Kobie Long, 5’4”, 6.2 points, and Kattie Hillery, 5’8”, 4.7 points and 3.5 rebounds. Seniors are Kylie Cheatum and Rose Smith also return.

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fter an impressive year in the WKLL, the Titans look to build on their success, finishing third in league while only having two losses. The only experienced returning starter for Triplains-Brewster is Tad Holm, a 6’2” senior who averaged 12.5 points per game and 6.8 rebounds. He will have to anchor the team with his leadership and allaround play for the Titans to be in contention for a league title. Other members of the senior class are Jaden Schmidt, 5’8”, and Hudson Stramel, 6’0”. The Titans will look to play fast and create turnovers to stay competitive and develop their less experienced players. “We will not have a lot of experience as far as varsity, but we have the potential to be a solid team,” said Michael Collett, who starts his fifth year as head coach.

rady Hammer, a 6’0” senior, will lead the Wildcats this season as a two-time all-State and all-league selection from a team that finished 23-3 overall and 7-0 in league last season for first place. The Wildcats also return two senior starters — Gabe Klinge, 6’2”, 10.7 points and 11.1 rebounds, and Levi Johnson, 5’11”, 13.2 points and 4.4 rebounds. Returning lettermen include seniors Sammy Squino, 5’7”, and Chisum Grund, 6’0”. The Wildcats will again be a favorite to win the Northwest Kansas League title again this year, and make a run at State. Head coach Larry O’Connor, who starts his 14th season, has turned Wallace-Sharon Springs into a perennial NWKL favorite, and State contender. He has no trouble going through the team’s list of strengths: team driven, great senior leadership and a good sopomore class that should give the Wildcats depth. It’s all a matter of gaining the exerience.

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hings are looking good for this season’s Lady Dragons. “We return a lot of experience from last year,” said Rod Seehafer, who has been at Wilson 40 years. “We play nine players every game, which will help us out this year We also return two of our top three scorers.” Wilson ended the 2015-16 season with a 15-13 record. Returning starters are: 5’7” juniors Riley Dietz, who averaged 8.7 points per game and 5.2 rebounds; and Katelyn Zelenka, 8.5 ppg and 3.1 rebounds; and Danielle Homeier, a 5‘1” senior who averaged 4 ppg. They will be joined by juniors Kendyl Zorn and Katrina Zorn and seniors Katelin Hoch and Anna Criswell. Boys

The Wilson Dragons return with some quality senior talent for the 2015-16 season with 6’1” Kyle Goldwater, 5’10” Ryan Lemons, 5’ 7” Uriah Steinike and Trey Fink a 5’7” guard. Goldwater is an all-around player that can shoot the three, hit a jump-shot and battle into the paint. Fink is quick on the floor as the team’s ball-handler and Lemons became a quality defending towards the end of last season. Steinike is also quick on the floor and an adept ball thief. Also returning will be floor leader and point guard Jayden Bess, a 6’ junior that is loaded with basketball talent. Bess sees the floor well and is comfortable taking shots from anywhere on the court.


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

CATCHING UP

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Holmes brothers: The tradition continues

Editor’s Note — In observance of the fifth anniversary of Kansas Hardwood, we catch up our readers with three former high school basketball standouts.

By MIKE COURSON Kansas Hardwood

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asketball just runs in some families. Ron Heller was a standout at Wichita State University and, later, a coach at Friends University. Derek Holmes, one of Heller’s star players at Friends, went on to marry Heller’s daughter, Tracey, a standout high school player in her own right. Together, the Holmes had two sons: Grant and Cooper. This year, after tremendously successful careers at Concordia High, the Holmes brothers continue their careers on opposite ends of the state. Grant graduated from Concordia in 2014, but not before becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,531 points.

His senior season, he averaged 21 points and eight rebounds a night. He was a fourtime all-state selection. After graduation, Grant moved on to Fort Hays State University where he redshirted last season, partly to grow into a college player and partly because the roster was filled with seniors. “When you’re a senior in high school you’re probably 17 or 18, and sometimes you’re playing 15-year-olds,” he said. “Now, when you’re a freshman in college, you’re 18 and sometimes you’re playing guys who are 22 or 23. There’s a big difference.” In 2014, when Grant was a senior and Cooper was a sophomore, the brothers led Concordia to a 19-6 record and fourthplace finish at the Class 4A, Division II State tournament. Entering that tournament, Grant was averaging 20.3 points a game and Cooper was already at 23.7 points a night. Cooper continued to score. The Panthers went just 11-9 after Grant’s

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graduation, and posted a 13-8 record for Cooper’s senior campaign last season, but Cooper continued to do his part. He averaged 19 points a game as a freshman, surpassed his brother as the school’s all-time leading scorer as a junior, and went on to finish with 2,191 career points to rank No. 14 all-time in Kansas. Only 18 high school players in Kansas have surpassed the 2,000-point mark. Ever the scorer in high school, Cooper is more than willing to change his game as needed to help out his new Washburn teammates. “The college game is way different than the high school game, especially as a freshman,” he said. “I just want to do whatever it takes to help the team, whether it’s diving on the floor, getting a rebound, or making an open shot.” The Ichabods began workouts at the end of August, giving Cooper plenty of time to See HOLMES, Page 64


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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 4

Holmes Continued from Page 63 adjust to the more athletic level of play. “It’s a totally different speed,” he said. “Everyone is way more athletic. I’m just really enjoying it so far, just going in and playing against the level of competition I get to play against every day.” Grant’s role, too, has changed at FHSU. The former high school standout has also made the team a priority. “In high school, I had the ball in my hands a lot and was kind of a creator,” he said. “Now, I’m more of an off-ball player and kind of a glue guy for our team.” Roughly three hours of I-70 separate the brothers now, but they chat virtually every day, whether it be about sports, school, or life in general. As of Oct. 15, with practices just getting underway, neither was sure what exactly his role would be in the upcoming

Grant Holmes controls the ball for Fort Hays State University. Brother Cooper is shown in the inset in his Washburn uniform.

season. As players on rival teams in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, the brothers do have a couple dates circled on their calendars: Washburn heads west to Fort Hays State on Dec. 7, and the Tigers head east to Topeka on Feb. 4. “I think we’re both excited,” Cooper said. “It’s going to be cool to have all the hard work pay off. Not a lot of kids get to play against their brother at the collegiate level so we’re pretty excited.” “I’m really looking forward to it,” said

Grant. “I can’t wait to play against him and compete against him. We’ve always kind of practiced, but it will be a whole different level.” Grant plans to major in marketing at FHSU, and Cooper plans to major in mass media while at Washburn.


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

Page 65

Benoit and KU teammates placed sunflowers and team hats at the memorial for the victims of the July 14 terrorist attack in Nice, France. (Photo courtesy of Kansas Athletics.)

Benoit plans to make most of her opportunity at Kansas By MIKE COURSON Kansas Hardwood

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t all began in Smith Center. After her standout days for the Lady Red, Sydney Benoit stayed in Kansas to attend Hutchinson Community College. Healed up from a pair of leg injuries, the red-shirt junior at the University of Kansas has now traveled as far as France and Switzerland to play basketball. “I’m really blessed and excited for this opportunity,” Benoit said. “I’m so excited to see what the future holds for me. It’s been awesome so far and I’m ready for the next two years.” Benoit was a three-sport athlete at Smith Center, excelling in volleyball, basketball, and track. On the hardwood, she earned Hays Daily News Northwest Player of the Year honors in 2013, and was a three-time all-Mid-Continent League first-team selection. She still holds the school record for steals in a season, and tied the Kansas Class 2A record for most free throws made in the state tournament.

Out of high school, Benoit traveled south to play for junior college powerhouse Hutchinson. In both her seasons at Hutch, the Lady Blue Dragons finished second in the nation with a combined 71-2 record. Benoit started every game her sophomore season before going down with a seasonending ACL tear. She made nearly half of her shots from the floor that season (45.7 percent), and averaged 5.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists a night. “It was a lot different,” Benoit said of the level of play in junior college. “I played with a lot of good girls at Hutch who went on to play elsewhere. That transition was different. I really enjoyed Hutch. In two years, I learned a lot there.” Benoit signed on to play at the University of Kansas but was sidelined with an ankle injury while rehabbing her knee. Nearly a year later, Benoit was part of the Lady Jayhawk foreign tour kicked off in August. “She’s much healthier,” said Brandon Schneider, head coach of the Lady Jayhawks. “She was able to participate fully in our foreign tour. She played in every game in

France. I thought it was a great opportunity for her to get back on the court and get some of the rust off following both the knee injury and getting her foot fixed last year.” The Jayhawks traveled to Paris on Aug. 9 for a 10-day tour that included four games in France and Switzerland. Kansas defeated the AMW All-Stars 77-71 in the first game of the trip. Perhaps more important, the girls were able to shop and see some of the famous tourist destinations. “The Eiffel Tower was really cool,” Benoit said. “We got to see it at night and I also went up in it. It was cloudy that day but it was really cool.” The group then traveled to Switzerland, staying near the beautiful Lake Geneva. On the way back through France, the team paid tribute to the victims of the Nice terrorist attack of July 14. The girls left behind sunflowers and team hats at the memorial. The Jayhawks closed the tour with a convincing 113-27 win against Nice Select. Benoit hit a shot before the halftime buzzer See BENOIT, Page 66


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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

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to put her squad ahead 63-15 at the break. The competition will pick up. The Jayhawks open the season with four home dates, including games against Fort Hays State University (Oct. 30) and Washburn University (Nov. 6). Kansas hits the road for the first time on Nov. 20 with a game at Memphis, then opens the Big 12 portion of the schedule at home against Oklahoma on Dec. 29. Benoit said her goal right now is simply to play her best and see how far that takes her. Coach Schneider is just pleased to have her healthy and back on the floor. “She’s an ultimate team player,” he said. “She’s somebody who understands her role and what she’s capable of contributing every day in practice to help improve our program and make other players better. She’s one of the players on the team who really identifies with and gets along with everybody. That’s really a unique trait.”

Hoxie

Continued from Page 36

Epp, who married a Hoxie girl and now lives here, said a bond has formed between the girls in the basketball program and the community. A good example was this past season’s game with Hill City, where the Lady Indians’ 107-game winning streak

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ended. Players stopped and acknowledged their fans before they left the gymnasium. “I feel like the emotion around town was relief — Now these girls can just go out and play basketball,” Epp said. “The town is behind their athletes 100 percent.”

Hoxie ended the 2016-17 season with a 23-3 record. Coach Cossman expects to do as well this year as he keeps one important goal in mind. “Our expectations are to continue the tradition we’ve had before,” he said. For Hoxie, that means a program second to none.


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 5

Page 67 877-621-2600

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Kansas Hardwood 2016  

Kansas Hardwood is the only regional high school basketball preview for Kansas covering over 100 teams in primarily central and western Kans...