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Volume 6 • 2017-18

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Kansas Hardwood Note to Readers

Welcome to Kansas Hardwood. Our regular readers may notice that the magazine looks different for the 2017-18 season. Instead of running short profiles on individual teams, we have compiled the teams by league to give fans a better understanding of what they can expect from not only their team, but others as well. In short, our goal is to place teams in the context of their leagues. Please let us know what you think. Meanwhile, enjoy this most recent effort. As always our appreciation goes to the players, coaches, parents and advertisers who make Kansas Hardwood possible. Linda Mowery-Denning Kansas Hardwood

Editors-Publishers

John Baetz Co-owner of Sixteen 60 Publishing Co., publisher of Kansas Pregame Football Magazine and the Lincoln Sentinel-Republican. Linda Mowery-Denning Publisher and co-owner with Morris Multimedia, Savannah, Ga., of the Ellsworth County Independent-Reporter and the Marquette Tribune. Sales: John Baetz and Tyler Gier Ad Design: Kayla Kvacik and Becky Rathbun

Questions and Comments kshardwoodmag@gmail.com or Kansas Hardwood P.O. Box 186 Lincoln, Ks. 67455

(785) 472-5085

On the Cover Seniors from the basketball teams of Salina Central and South high schools are shown in the new Salina Fieldhouse. Back row, from left, Ethan Kickhaefer, Central; Brady McAfee, South; Myah Ward, Central; Jack Atherton, Central; Elisa Backes, Central; Joey Wilson, South; and Ethan Spear, Central. Middle row, from left: Jacee Marcotte, South; Angie Hall, South; Ellie Cobb, Central; Sydnee Connell, South; and Sam Shaffer, Central. On the floor, from left: Allie Valdez and Regan Weatherd, both Salina South. Photo by Shirley Cox Schroeder.

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Contributors Mike Courson Mike Courson is the editor of the Ellinwood Leader and Hoisington Dispatch and sports editor at the Lyons News. He is a long-time contributor to Catch it Kansas.com. Courson has won numerous Kansas Press Association Awards, and was named 2014 Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association Media of the Year. He currently lives in Great Bend with his two cats. Brent Maycock Brent Maycock is an award-winning sportswriter for The Topeka CapitalJournal, joining the staff in 2000 after getting his career started at the Emporia Gazette. He has covered high school sports in Kansas since 1991 after graduating from the University of Kansas. Connor Nicholl Conor Nicholl has covered sports since 2003 and in Kansas since 2007. He has worked for a variety of publications, including Kansas Pregame/ Hardwood, Kpreps.com, and The Hays Daily News. He has covered high school sports his entire time in Kansas and also served as Fort Hays State University’s beat reporter for six years. Before he came to Kansas, Conor worked for MLB. com for two years. Kyle McCaskey Kyle McCaskey is a freelance journalist with nearly a decade of experience covering high school and college athletics in Kansas. McCaskey has received several awards for his sports coverage, including the Kansas State High School Activities Association’s Oscar Stauffer Sportswriter of the Year honor. Shirley Cox Schroeder Shirley Cox Schroeder moved to Ellsworth, Kan. from Richmond, Va. in 1987. She studied business and political science at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her love of photography began when she was a child and she carried that love with her to Kansas. Shirley specializes in school sports photography as it offers her the chance to experience the life and challenges of young athletes.

Other contributors — Mark McCoy and Jennifer McDaniel


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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Contents “Basketball is a beautiful game when the five players on the court play with one heartbeat.” Dean Smith Page 5

Page 30

Page 46

Page 8

Page 31

Page 48

Page 10

Page 33

Page 50

Page 15

Page 34

Page 52

Trey Sides Phillipsburg

Hi-Plains

Page 17

Page 35

Page 53

Haven Hamilton Stockton

Twin Valley and other extra teams

Page 19

Page 37

Page 55

Northwest Kansas

Ben Pyle McPherson

Page 23 North Central Activities Page 24

Page 38

Page 56

Tate Busse St. Francis

Nick Reimert Lindsborg

Page 41

Page 57

Page 44

Page 58

A Tale of TWO Schools Salina Welcome to Salina’s new downtown fieldhouse. Northern Plains League

Peyton Ostmeyer Natoma North Central League

Cydney Bergmann Concordia

Caleb Jordan Sacred Heart

Page 27 Heart of America

Mid-Continent

Kayla Vitztun TMP Conner Keith Hill City

Western Kansas Liberty Wheat State

Central Prairie

Central Plains girls

Western Athletic

Taylor Robertson McPherson Jessica Steffen Buhler


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Page 5

For the past 50 years, Salina has been a

A Tale of TWO Schools

M

BY JENNIFER McDANIEL

“Anytime you have two schools in one onths before basketball season well as 6A teams Derby, Wichitacommunity, you’re going to have a rivalHaysville Campus and Hutchinson. starts, student athletes from ry,” Salina South Head boys’ basketball Nearly 50,000 residents call Salina Salina’s two public high coach Jason Hooper, said. “There’s a home, making it the 10th-largest city in schools – Salina South and Salina sense of pride when you’re playing your Central — are already sweating it out in Kansas. The local school district is the crosstown rival, and I’ve seen it on sevthe weight room, or running drills in the 11th-largest in the state, boasting an enrollment last year of 7,396 students in eral sides, but it really has the same feel.” gym, in anticipation for the match-up From 1998-2015, Hooper served as grades kindergarten through 12. they’ve been waiting for since last seaoffensive coordinator and son. assistant coach for the And as each day pass"It’s a fun rivalry, and I think the town enjoys it." Cougars’ football team. He es, they know they’re also coached girls’ basketball one step closer to one of Don Weiser for seven years. Currently, the toughest games Salina Area Chamber of Commerce he’s in his fifth year as boys’ they’ll play all season. head coach. It’s been nearly 50 The two teams square off years since Salina High twice during the regular seaSchool split, creating a “It’s a fun rivalry, and I think the town son, once mid-season during the Salina crosstown rivalry between the Salina Invitational Tournament and could face enjoys it,” Don Weiser, president and South Cougars and the Salina Central each other again during sub-state. CEO for the Salina Chamber of Mustangs. Only about 2.5 miles separate the two similarly sized schools. Last Commerce, said. Weiser, a Kansas “It’s a great rivalry,” Hooper said. native, has been lived in Salina for 42 year, South had 17 more students than “They all know each other, so there years. Central, which had a student body of aren’t a lot of secrets when they get on While clinching a berth in the state about 1,022 students, according to the the field or court. We could potentially tournament is the goal, there’s nothing Kansas State High School Athletics play them up to four times in a season, better for these athletes and their fans Association. which certainly makes things interesting, than to win a game against the rival Both 5A schools, Central and South and gives it a deeper meaning. There’s a team. Reputations and bragging rights are part of the Division I Ark Valley tremendous amount of pride there. are at stake here, and that’s not taken Chisholm Trail League, which is made up of schools like Maize and Newton as lightly. See SALINA, Page 6

2017-18 Season: Salina Central boys Three starters return from the Mustangs 2016-17 team, which ended the season with a 20-3 record overall and a 1st place finish in league with 11 wins and 1 loss. Sam Shaffer, a 6’0” senior, averages 10.6 points per game; Ethan Speer, a 6’3” senior, averages 7.1 points; and Harper Williams, 6’2” junior, averages 7.2 points. Shaffer and Speer were named to the league’s second team and Williams earned an honorable mention. Other returning seniors are Ethan

Kickhoefer and Jack Atherton. “We are looking to have a pretty good year,” said head coach Doug Finch, who is starting his 14th year at Central. He ticked off a list of strengths that should serve the team well: speed, quickness, athletic, shooters on perimeter, good size, strength inside and good depth. This season’s first game will be at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at Goddard. Salina Central girls The Lady Mustangs have the foundation for

a good season. Elisa Backes, a 6’0” senior, averages 10 points per game and is considered by head coach Chris Fear to be “one of the best all-around players in our league. She will have a big season for us.” Selah Merkle, 5’9” junior, is an “excellent offensive player,” that Fear expects to have a breakout season. And Myah Ward, a 5’9” senior, is one of “the best three-point shooters in the state.” “We need to be good defensively and on the glass,” said Fear, who starts his second year at Central. “An area where we need to improve is handling pressure.”


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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Salina

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Continued from Page 5 Every time we play, one team is going to leave disappointed, and you hope it isn’t you.” Last season, Central decisively beat South 82-53 in its first match-up, but South closed the gap in its final two games, losing 58-41 in the Salina Invitational and 69-53 during regular season play in February. Salina Central High School head coach Doug Finch is in his 30th season as a head coach and 14th at Salina Central. He’s posted a career record of 422-213, leading his teams to state championships, SIT titles, and league championships in 2011, 2015 and 2017. But even with an impressive record, Finch knows anything can happen when Central and South face off. “From that standpoint, we take those games very seriously,” he said. “We want to be the best in town, and that starts right here. That’s key. It’s a pride factor. You circle the date on the calendar, and

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say, ‘Hey, let’s get after it and go.’ And if we win the game, at least for

tonight, we were the best in town.” Harold Bechard, who worked at the Salina Journal from 1974-2002 and served as sports editor from 1981-1992, knows first-hand about the competition that’s developed between the city’s two public high schools. Bechard doesn’t see the rivalry quite as intense in basketball as it is in football, simply because most of the games have been played in the former Bicentennial Center, which holds around 6,000 people. Even with a good crowd, the arena is usually just half-full. “Now, that doesn’t mean there isn’t

great importance placed on the games, because there is,” Bechard, who currently serves as editor of VYPE-Kansas, said. Usually one, and, sometimes, both teams play in the Salina Invitational Tournament championship game, and there have been times where the teams have played each other four times during a season. “Any time Central and South play each other, regardless of the sport, it’s a big deal to their respective fan bases,” Bechard said. Salina attorney Gary D. Denning moved to town during his ninth-grade year, but never really adopted what he called the North/South rivalry. Growing up in Manhattan, he considered neighboring Junction City an opponent. Denning served on the Salina-USD 305 School Board for 12 years. His wife currently teaches at Central, and his kids both attended school there. South opened during the 1970-71 school year. During that first year, the seniors chose whether they wanted to remain at Central. Most of the senior athletes stayed, Denning said, and See SALINA, Page 9

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Page 7

2017-18 Season:

Salina South boys Jason Hooper’s 2017-18 squad will be long on talent and short on experience. Elex Banks, a 6’5” junior post who averaged 8.2 points, is the only returning starter from the 2016-17 team. However, he will be joined by Joey Wilson, 6’1” senior guard, and Isaac Mitchell, 6’6” junior post. Both had major roles coming off the bench this past season. “Despite the inexperience, this team has young talented players,” Hooper said. “There are a lot of questions yet to be answered about this group. As the season progresses, it will be exciting to see what the identity of this group will be.” Also returning is Brady McAfee, 6’0” guard. Salina South girls This is the season head coach Ryan Stuart

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has looked forward to since he started the rebuilding of the Lady Cougars four years ago. “Eight of our top 10 girls will be upperclassmen — four returning starters and key reserves returning,” he said. “Our league is still very demanding, one of the best in the state year in and year out; however, this year’s squad should be the

most well-equipped we’ve had recently to tackle the grueling league schedule.” Key players will include seniors Sydnee Connell, 5’10” guard; Angie Hall, 5’11” center; Jacie Marcotte, 5’8” guard; Allie Valdez, 5’10” forward; and Regan Weatherd, 5’9” guard. Stuart said this season’s biggest challenge will be to increase point production. “Our biggest weakness the past few seasons is scoring the basketball,” Stuart said. “We were 4-0 last season when we reached the 40-point plateau. A majority of our offensive production came from the perimeter, and that is not a great formula for consistent scoring “The 2017-18 version of the Lady Cougars will not be as undersized as we have been in recent years, so I am hopeful that we will find ways to be better in the paint. We also plan to be much better in transition offense, utilizing another avenue toward increased scoring.”

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6 This photo, courtesy of Jeff Haines of Jeff Haines Photography, Salina, shows the new Salina Fieldhouse at night. The fieldhouse is located at 140 N. Fifth St. Information is available by calling (785) 833-2260.

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Salina Fieldhouse offers sports for all

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practices, camps and clinics in multiple sports including basketball, soccer, football, volleyball, kickball, baseball, softball, lacrosse, futsal, dodgeball, cheer, dance, golf and more. Local, regional and potentially national youth events, are expected to be a perfect fit for this venue. The fieldhouse has already seen several

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events. Central High School basketball coach Doug Finch organized a major MAYB tournament, the Salina “Downtown Showdown,� with more than 50 teams participating. The fieldhouse is under the authority of Salina Parks and Recreation. Parks and recreation events that are currently scattered throughout the community will transfer to the new fieldhouse. Those programs include indoor adult volleyball, adult 3 on 3 basketball, and a new high school 3 on 3 basketball program.


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Page 9

Salina

And while there’s an ongoing debate over which school reigns supreme, there’s no contest when it comes to top players. Both Denning and Bechard agree Nino Samuel was the greatest player to ever come out of the Salina Central basketball program. Samuel moved to Salina with his parents at the end of the winter semester in 1971, Bechard said. “He became one of the greatest highschool players in Kansas history,” he said.

have multiple high schools, is the town really big enough for two? Central won the state championship that Both Bechard and Denning agree it is. year. “Sure,” he said. “If cost were no fac“Central pretty well pounded the tor, we might have three so that more Cougars during that first year,” he said. kids could compete in sports, be class For the first two years, Denning said, officers, have the lead in a school play, the rivalry had a different flavor because smaller class sizes etc. Lawrence, the juniors and seniors at both schools Kan., held on as a huge one-school had been classmates at Salina High town for a lot of years, and they won School, which was eventually named a lot of state titles due to their size. Salina Central. But breaking into two “So, we were competing schools has been good for "Any time Central and South play each against former teammates their students despite all the other, regardless of the sport, it’s a big deal and good friends,” he said. talk about how their football to their respective fan bases." “It was a friendly rivalry, teams aren’t as good anyHarold Bechard but it was also more permore.” Salina sports writer sonal because we didn’t Despite years of playing want to lose to our former each other on neutral ground, teammates — bragging Hooper said he thinks that rights around town, you could eventually change. For “... signed with the University of Kansas know.” years, the teams have gone head-toand ended his college career at the forToday, Denning’s high school class head at the former Bicentennial Center. mer Marymount College in Salina.” joins South for its high-school reunions The venue, which is now called the In 1972, the senior, Denning said, since they were together as sophomores. Tony’s Pizza Events Center, served as averaged 32 points and 18 rebounds per “The rivalry was kind of interesting the ideal space selected because it was game. because there were two junior highs for large enough to handle the fans. But “He kept the domination of Central years in Salina — North and South,” he with recent improvements at both over South going for at least that second schools, Hooper thinks the games said. “And through ninth grade, North year,” he said. would play South, and there was a rivalcould eventually be played on school For Salina South, Bechard said, the ry started between them. Then, when grounds. greatest player would be Kelly Knight, you got to 10th grade, everyone was “Since both schools are undergoing who played in the late-1970s. Knight together, but there were still friendships construction, there’s talk about getting and rivalries from junior high school. For played four years at the University of these games relocated back into the my class, we were apart as ninth-graders, Kansas, wrapping up his college career schools,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surplaying in the NCAA Tournament for together as 10th- graders, and apart prised if that doesn’t happen in the again as 11th- and 12th-graders, making Larry Brown. next few years since both buildings are for an interesting mix of rivalry/friendWhile the state’s larger cities — most big enough now to better handle that ship.” many people.” more than double the size of Salina — Continued from Page A6

Team Extra

T

he Lady Indians return experience this season following a year that ended with an overall record of 14-10 and a 2nd place finish in the AVCTL Div. 4 League. “We return 10 players who played in the state tournament last year, and four of those played in state the year before,” said Ted Anderson, who is in his third year as head coach. “In a new job, coaches always point

to year three. Well, this is year three. Our kids have learned what our true practice rhythm is and understand how to prepare. If we can develop our bench, we could be a tough out.” Returning starters are: 5’6” senior guard Tyler Winter (5.2 ppg and 1.2 rebounds); 5’8” senior guard/forward Rachel Bergkamp (7.5 ppg. and 3.7 rebounds); 5’10” senior post Morgan Geist (4.7 PPG and 5.6 rebounds);

and 5’7” senior guard Sophie Easter (4.7 ppg, 1.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals). Bergkamp received first team all-league and state honors for her “dynamic” play; Winter and Geist were all-league honorable mentions. Also returning are: senior forward Bria Gutchenritter and juniors Macie Eck, Paiton Bruce, Jacy Anderson, Maggie Knoblauch and Morgan Bruna.


Page 10

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

SHIRLEY COX SCHROEDER/Kansas Hardwood

Sylvan-Lucas High School seniors are, front row, from left: Caiden Rivers, Darren Ammon, Morgan Kubick, Lucy Tate, Owen Krueger, RJ Haberer and Brody Schofield. Back row, from left, Dylan Streit, Cheyenne Meyer, Aleah Wehrmann and Logan Batchman.

2017-18 Season: Sylvan-Lucas girls

Craig Batchman is getting to know his players as he starts his first year as head coach of the Sylvan-Lucas Lady Mustangs. The team finished the 2016-17 season with an 8-14 record — 3-9 in the Northern Plains League for a 10th place finish. Senior players include Kerstin Decker, Logan Batchman, Cheyenne Meyer and Aleah Wehrman. Returning juniors are Taegen Walter, Aundrea Haberer, Dharma Couse and Hannah Wolting. Many of these girls were key members of a Lady Mustang volleyball team that finished 39-4 and third place at the state tournament.

Sylvan-Lucas boys

This could turn out to be a disappointing year for the Mustangs. Mark Spears’ team had expected Sylvan-Lucas to be one of the top teams in the league. After all, the Mustangs planned to return RJ Haberer and Dylan Streit, both All-League performers. Haberer, a 6’3” senior, averaged 17 points per game and 7 rebounds. Streit, a 6’4” senior, averaged 10.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. Then came an end-of-the-football season game against Wilson. Haberer was injured and it’s possible he may not play basketball.

“A terrible blow for RJ, our football team and our upcoming basketball season,” Spears said. That will put more responsibility on other members of a team that ended the 2016-17 season with an overall record of 15-6 and a league record of 9-3. Others returning seniors are Caiden Rivers, Dominic Montiel and Darren Ammon. Tyler Barrientes, a 5’9” junior who averaged 5.2 points per game, also returns. “Our strength is we have a lot of kids back with experience,” Spears said. “They work hard and expect good things to happen.” We need to continue to get better inside/outside balance on offense.”


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

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Page 12

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

NPL seeks more post season action

BY MIKE COURSON For Kansas Hardwood

N

ine of the 26 Northern Plains League basketball teams won at least 15 games last year yet the Osborne boys were the only representation come state tournament time. The 2017-18 squads are hoping to turn that around this winter.

Beloit-St. John’s girls The Lady Jays posted a 19-2 record last year to win the league title, but even that wasn’t enough to make it to Hays. With two first-team all-league selections gone to graduation and two all-leaguers back, Beloit-St. John’s may still be the team to beat this season. Brenna Eilert averaged 17 points and seven rebounds a game to earn second-team allstate honors. Elizabeth Walter was not far behind at 15 ppg and 6 rpg to earn first-team All-NPL honors. Logan Eilert is the only other Lady Jay to graduate. That means Keith Kresin will have most of his squad back. Junior Kara Eilert nearly averaged a double-double last year at 11.7 points and nine rebounds a night. Senior Avery Gates earned an all-league honorable mention after putting up seven points a night. Southern Cloud girls The Lady Warriors missed a trip to state by four points. Tyler Williams’ squad has made improvements over the past three seasons, climbing to 18-4 last year. With a total of four starters back, including three regulars, expectations may be their highest yet for the team. “We return a great deal of experience and the experience we return has won in numerous ways and knows how to overcome adversity in games and in a season,” Williams said. “That’s what makes them a tough squad to beat. There really isn’t one thing we are great at or one thing we are terrible at. We play team ball, we sacrifice good shots for great shots, and we defend like crazy. “Our goal is rather cliché — to outwork the opponent — but it really is what has made us successful. They have created a culture and they are proud of it and should be. They know they can play with anybody and also understand if they don’t put out the effort, they can lose to anybody.” Williams will have to find a new point guard with the graduation of Rayna Schmidt, a 4-year starter and second-team all stater last season. Schmidt finished a big career with more than 1,000 points and 200 steals. Junior Ashton Cooper and sophomore Makenna Comstock will attempt to fill those big shoes. The duo combined for 5.5 ppg last

Northern Plains • St. John’s - Beloit/Tipton • Chase • Downs - Lakeside • Kensington - Thunder Ridge • Lincoln • Mankato - Rock Hills • Southern Cloud • Natoma • Osborne • Pike Valley • Sylvan - Lucas Unified • Tescott • Wilson

Mark McCoy/Kansas Hardwood

Tescott and Wilson clash on the basketball court during the 2016-17 season.

season. “Ashton and Makenna have had work at the position and showed some great strides as summer moved on, so I think they will fill that spot well as they battle for that starting position as our one,” said Williams. “Whichever one is coming off the bench will be a spark when they come in, as they both were a season ago.” Five-foot-ten senior Sienna Gray (6.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg) returns to forward, and 5’5” junior Kaitlyn Morris (11.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.3 spg) returns at shooting guard after earning an allleague honorable mention last season. “I look for Sienna to have a big year,” Williams said. “She has flown under the radar and I think everyone is going to know her this year. She has size, is athletic and strong, and will be a presence in the post this season. Defensively, she’s one of the best post defend-

ers I’ve had. “Kaitlyn had a strong sophomore year, showing up on all-state lists as honorable mention. She’s a problem to match-up with because she can drain the jumpers, but can also score well off the dribble and in traffic. She is fearless taking the ball to the basket and recorded numerous ‘and 1’ opportunities by not backing down at the basket. Defensively, she has a knack at anticipating and gets some big steals for easy lay ins.” Jacey Fowler, a 5’11” senior, started about half the games last season at forward, averaging 3.9 ppg and 2.7 rpg. Five-foot-eight junior Logan Cool also started about half the games at forward, averaging 2.3 ppg and 3.1 rpg. “Logan and Jacey can both be dangerous as shooters and post players but have lacked consistency,” said Williams. “From what I saw this summer, I feel like this will be less of a problem this year as they both showed confidence in stroking jumpers and getting deep in the post and finding ways to score from the block.” Lakeside girls and boys The Lady Knights went 17-6 last season and return two all-league selections. Jessica LaRocque was one of three all-league selections for the squad last year. Senior Bay Lee Brummet averaged 10 points a night to earn second-team all-NPL honors, and speedy Rachel Miller averaged 8 points and eight rebounds a night last year a junior to earn third-team honors. Juniors Adrianna Bergmann (5.0 ppg) and Megan LaRocque (3.8 ppg) also return with a full slate of varsity experience. The boys finished this past season with an overall record of 11-11. Lost to graduation were starters 6’3” Austin Stroede (11.4 ppg and 6 rebounds) and 5’10” Dawson Johnson (11.2 ppg and 7.6 rebounds). Thunder Ridge girls The Lady Longhorns won 17 games last year but, like Lakeside, fell victim to a 20-win Stockton team in the sub-state bracket. Thunder Ridge graduated both of its all league selections in Kassie Bretton (first team) and Lakyn Pettijohn (second team).

Wilson girls The Lady Dragons also hit 15 wins last season, finishing the year at 15-8. Expectations should remain high as the squad returns all three of its all-league selections. Senior Riley Dietz earned See NORTHERN PLAINS, Page 13


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Page 13

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Northern Plains Continued from Page 12 second-team honors a year ago. Senior Katelyn Zelenka and junior Kaleigh Hanzlick were both honorable mentions. Pike Valley girls There is good news and bad news for a Lady Panther team that won nine games last season. The good news is the team lost just one senior. The bad news is that seniors was firstteam all-leaguer Rileigh Gardner, who averaged 14 points and five boards a game last year. Coach Chris Vignery does have back four players who

played in all 22 varsity contests last season. Senior Tiana Sothers leads the pack at 6.8 ppg and 4.8 rpg. Junior Taylor Gardner was right behind her at 6.8 ppg and 4.0 rpg. Senior Leslie Stenson and sophomore McKenna Reeves also return with plenty of varsity time. Lincoln boys The Lincoln boys finished 5-16 last year under new head coach Joe Biggs, and while the Leopards lost a couple of scorers from a year ago, they return a core of players with varsity experience. Seniors Colin Obermueller (6’1”, 5 ppg, 4 rpg), Sean Obermueller (5’11”, 5 ppg, 6 rpg), and Cody Behrens (6’2”, 2 ppg, 2 rpg) and junior Drew Biggs (6’1”, 6 ppg, 5 rpg) provide the Leopards with a group of seasoned veterans that should help Biggs field a more competitive team in the NPL this season. Lincoln girls

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Lincoln posted a 5-17 record last year after averaging just 30 points a game. Three graduating seniors accounted for 17 points a night. Senior Allison Crist returns as the leading scorer at 6.4 ppg, and her 4.6 rpg were second-best on the team last winter. Junior Mikayla Breneman averaged three points a night, and senior Mackenzie Lyne played in all 21 varsity games, scoring two points a night. Other teams Chase went 6-15 under Brent Clark last year. This season, Clark has to replace four-year player Taytem Patton, who paced the Lady Kats with 11.7 ppg last year. Junior Jasmine Weatherman was an impact player with 10.7 points and 9.4 rebounds a night. Senior Mackenzie Oberle scored five points a night, and sophomore Taylor Lattimer returns after a successful freshman season where she averaged six points a game.

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

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game. Osborne won seven games last year and returns one of its three all-league selections. Senior Olivia Engler was a thirdteam pick last winter. Honorable mentions Allison Grabast and Bretton Wolters have graduated. Sylvan-Lucas went 8-14 last year. Senior Kerstin Decker returns as a thirdteam all-league pick from last year. Tescott and Rock Hills finished at the bottom of the league last season. Tescott loses just two seniors, and Rock Hills also has most of its roster back after a winless 2016-17 campaign. Beloit-St. John’s boys The unbeaten Bluejays were ranked No. 1 heading into the postseason in March. Osborne delivered the first hit in the sub-state finals with a 73-61 upset. The hits kept coming in the offseason in the way of graduation: St. John’s loses its top-five scorers from last year’s 21-1 season. Davis Dubbert averaged 22.1 points and 9.6 rebounds a game in his final season to earn first-team all-state honors. Mason Eilert was an all-state honorable mention at nine points and eight boards a night. Two Jay seniors do return with varsity experience in all 22 games last season. Ty Brummer averaged three points a night, and Adam Bates put in 2.5 ppg. Junior Kail Dubbert averaged just under a point in 14 varsity appearances. Osborne boys The Bulldogs went toe-to-toe with St. John’s in two of the three meetings last year, winning the one that counted most. Osborne lost a 64-53 overtime battle to third-place finisher Burlingame in the

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first round of state, ending a successful season at 18-5. Jamie Wolters, back for a sixth season on the sideline, has three starters and plenty of varsity players back. “We lost a great senior class but bring back a good group of young players with varsity experience,” he said. Osborne loses three all-league selections in Cullen Grabast (first team), Justin Burch (second team), and Pierce Wolters (third team). Darnell Holloway, a 6-3 junior, earned an all-league honorable mention last year after averaging 9 points and five boards a night. He’s joined by returning starters senior Denton Schurr and junior Kade Miller, who combined for 5.5 ppg. Coach Walters has a nice sophomore class back with 5-9 Steele Wolters (4.5 ppg) and 6-0 Darrien Holloway (4 ppg) back in action. Junior Jordan Wherry returns with some size at 6-4, and senior Trenton Brummer is back for a final season. Pike Valley boys The Panthers won 15 games and finished third in the league before meeting eventual state champion Hanover in the sub-state finals. With two of the top players in the league back this winter, Pike Valley is expected to contend for a league championship and perhaps more. Gone is Mason Runft, who averaged 9 ppg before graduating last May. Back are seniors Anton Reeves and Heath White. Reeves was an all-state honorable mention after putting up 17 points a night.

He filled the stat sheet last season with four assists, four rebounds, and three steals a night. White earned an all-league honorable mention after posting 11 points and five boards a game. Also returning for the Panthers, junior Michael Flavin and seniors Davante Hammer and Lane Peters each played in all 22 varsity games last year. Peters led that trio with 5.0 ppg last season. Flavin and Hammer were close behind at 4.7 and 4.1 ppg, respectively. Wilson boys The Dragon boys won 13 games last year but lose a core group of seniors to graduation. Ryan Lemons was an allleague honorable mention after putting up nine points a night. Senior Jayden Bess returns as one of the top players in the league. A first-team all-league selection last winter, Bess averaged 12.3 points and 3.1 rebounds a game. Senior Collin Hoeffner averaged just under seven points a night last winter. Southern Cloud boys The Warriors won just six games last season but with most players back, Coach Larry Mall wants to improve on that in 2017-18. Mall has back virtually all his scoring as two seniors accounted for just 1.1 of the team’s 35.2 points a game. Leading the way are juniors Blake Gumm and Ryan Paillet at 7.6 and 7.2 ppg, respectively. Junior Kaury Stout averaged 6.8 ppg and his 4.7 rpg were second-best on the team. Senior Joe Cool paced the Warriors on the glass with six boards a night while averaging six points a game. Senior Lane Martin played in all 21 games and scored 4.4 ppg. Sophomore Jackson Burch averaged better than a point a game in his 18 varsity appearances last season.


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Page 15

Ostmeyer enjoys competition

By JENNIFER McDANIEL For Kansas Hardwood

W

hen Peyton Ostmeyer was about 10 years old, she decided to start playing basketball. It was a love for the game, she says, that got her started. Years later as a senior at Natoma High School, the 5-foot,11-inch center is still smitten — but for different reasons. “What I enjoy most about the game is the adrenaline rush I get before the game, and the competitiveness involved,” Ostmeyer said. But more than that, she’s learned lessons that will last her for the rest of her life. “I have learned that you can’t try to do it all by yourself; you must work as a team,” Ostmeyer said. During the 2016-2017 season, the Lady Tigers were forced to develop other shooters from the bench after losing shooting guard and 5’ 4” powerhouse Regan Casey to graduation. Ostmeyer, another top-shooter for team, seized the opportunity to step up and lead. Despite going 9-13 on the season, the Lady Tigers were led by Ostmeyer, who scored 218 points last season, averaging 10 points per game. In January, she had her highest-scoring game, scoring 22 points against Thunder Ridge. Overall, Ostmeyer averaged 10 rebounds per game, shooting 50 percent from the line and 63 percent from the field. After receiving all-league honorable mention honors her freshmen and sophomore years, Ostmeyer was named to the all-league second team, Prep Zone 1A all-state honorable mention, Wichita Eagle 1A all-state honorable mention and Sports in Kansas 1A-II second teams. As the upcoming season inches closer, Ostmeyer has hard at work in the off-season with regular workouts. “I worked in the weight room in the off-season, and I am staying active with the help of volleyball,” she said. “And I go to the gym at least twice a week to work on my shots and post moves.” As a player, the 5’11” Ostmeyer said her best assets are her ability to work well with her teammates and showing leadership on the court. But then there’s also her height. “I think that my height gives me an advantage because it is harder for teams to defend me when we’re on offense, and defensively, it can be an intimidating factor,” she said. Even though she’s taken on more responsibility within the last year, Ostmeyer knows that as a senior the team’s underclassmen will look to her for leadership. “As a senior this year, I will try to lead and motivate my team by setting the tone in practice, showing them the correct ways to do things, keeping them positive, and always being there if they need someone to talk to,” she said. Looking ahead to the upcoming season, Ostmeyer is confident the Lady Tigers will improve upon last year. “I am expecting my team to improve on things we lacked last year,” she said. “Our top-two scorers are returning, and we have underclassmen that are really stepping it up and filling the open holes.” Although Ostmeyer’s schedule is already full with volleyball and soon, girls’ basketball, she’s also involved in other extra-curricular activities at Natoma High School. Among those are Future Farmers of America, National Honor Society and serving as president of the Class of 2018. Ostmeyer is already looking ahead to life after graduation. While she’s already received some letters of interest, there have been no college visits so far. For now, Ostmeyer says she’s planning on attending a college or university, but remains undecided on a major.

COURTESY PHOTO

Natoma’s Peyton Ostmeyer eyes the basket during game this past season. Natoma girls overview The Lady Tigers won nine games a year ago and return their leading scorer in senior Peyton Ostmeyer, who earned secondteam all-league honors after averaging nearly a double-double at 9.9 points and 9.7 rebounds a night. Natoma struggled to find points last year, averaging just fewer than

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27 points a night. Senior Hannah Chambray returns after scoring seven points a game, and junior Audrey Buzzell averaged 3.5 points a night.


Page 16

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Courtesy Photo

Concordia’s Cydney Bergmann has fulfilled her early promise as a basketball player — and then some. See the story on the Lady Panther on Page 19.


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Page 17

Clay Center continues tradition of success

By Brent Maycock For Kansas Hardwood

I

t’s a real dilemma, but it’s a problem Jeff Edwards loves having as the coach of the Clay Center girls’ basketball team. When it comes time for postseason honors, Edwards firmly believes each of the past two years he’s had players who were All-State caliber. Trying to sell that fact to those who hand out such honors, well, that’s another story. “When you’re looking who to nominate for awards in the postseason, it’s pretty tough because not very many people want to put up an All-State girl who only averages 10 points a game,” Edwards said of the balance his Tiger teams have had the past two seasons. “But our numbers were pretty much 10 points all the way across with our starters. Our bigs averaged around six or seven rebounds and all the guards averaged around two or three assists. That’s just how we are.” And then without hesitation, he added: “But I love it. Go ahead and try to put a star around one of our players that she’s the one to stop. We’ve got four others who are capable of stepping up.” Clay Center’s offensive balance may not have produced some of the postseason recognition Edwards felt his players have deserved. But there’s no hiding the fact that it’s produced something even more important: Victories.

Clay Center’s winning ways A program which has a long-standing tradition of success, producing the likes of former Kansas State All-American and Hall of Famer and WNBA player Nicole Ohlde, has taken its winning ways to a new level since Edwards’ arrival three years ago. The Tigers captured the program’s first state title in 2015-16, winning the Class 4A Division II crown with a 21-4 mark, and followed up last year with a 20-3 season a year ago. With three starters and a few key reserves back this year, plus the addition of a talented incoming freshman class, Clay Center enters the 2017-18 as one of the favorites to capture the last 4A Division II crown. “I look forward to them competing for it,” Edwards said. “A lot of things have to fall in line to win a state title and obviously that’s our goal every season. But this summer was the best that we’ve had and winning the title two

Abilene (49-43) and Concordia (43-36). Though the Tigers bounced back in sub-state play and avenged the Concordia loss to get back to the state tournament, they were upset in the first round by Andale, 47-36 in overtime. “I leaned pretty heavily on six girls all year and we finally hit that wall at the end of the year,” Edwards said. “Fatigue set in a little bit with our bodies. We didn’t have as much success there at the end, but it was still a really good season and Andale wasn’t a slouch by any means.” The premature ending will have Clay Center plenty motivated to return to the top in 2017-18. Once again, there are some big holes to fill as graduation claimed point guard Allie Wright-Fredrick and guard-forward Lauren Lane. Lane led the Tigers in scoring with 10.4 points per game, while Wright-Fredrick averaged 9.4 points, 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals a contest.

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The 2016-17 Lady Irish of Chapman pose for group photo.

years ago just did so much for our program. “I think it’s definitely helped us out as we look to the future. Our eighth grade was undefeated, our JV only lost one or two games and our freshmen, which was a team who struggled through some of their junior high was successful last year too.” Replacing the front court After having to replace its entire frontcourt from the 2015-16 title team, Clay Center hit the ground running a year ago and appeared to be chugging right along in its title defense. Goodland transfer Hannah Ferguson helped fill the void inside and strong guard play and an even stronger defense allowed the Tigers to not miss a beat and continue the momentum gained from its title run. Clay Center won its first 18 games, including a title at the always-tough Hillsboro Trojan Classic, handling every challenge it faced. Just two games away from an undefeated regular season, the Tigers suddenly stumbled. The season ended with back-to-back losses to North Central Kansas League rivals

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Good combination returns But Edwards like the combination of players he has back. Ferguson was a impact addition a year ago, leading the Tigers in rebounding with 6.5 per game while also adding 10 points a contest. He calls senior guard-forward Sydney Callaway “the best athlete I’ve coached in any sport” and she averaged 8.6 points per game while also leading the Tigers in assists (67) and steals (59). Juniors Addy Mullin, Erin Hammel and Hailey Franson grew into solid contributors a year ago and will have bigger roles this year. The addition of a strong freshman class, including Edwards’ daughter, six-footer Clara, will add more depth and has allowed Edwards to deviate from his past philosophy. “We’re going to run a little different style and go a little more,” he said. “I’ve always been a half-court, methodical type of coach, but we’ve got a whole different kind of look. Our freshmen coming in are arguably one of the best I’ve seen athletic-wise. There are two or three who are capable of playing varsity minutes as freshmen and I don’t have that very often. “I don’t think very many people know us because of the players we’ve lost the past two years. But I think we’ve got the potential to

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Page 18

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6 her family to Florida. Her void will be huge as she led the league in rebounding a year ago with 8.5 boards per contest while also averaging 11.1 points per game. That leaves Bergmann shouldering the bulk of the offensive load as her supporting cast develops around her. No other returner averaged more than five points a game with junior Katlynn Miller’s 4.5 average tops among them.

Continued from Page 17 Three-way tie for league title Clay Center’s late-season slide led to a three-way tie for the NCKL title as the Tigers, Abilene and Concordia all finished with 8-2 league marks. There was a clear-cut top and bottom to the league a year ago as Marysville and Wamego each went 3-7 in league play and Chapman was winless. The league could have a more balanced look this year and figuring out which team will emerge as Clay Center’s top challenger is a bit of a guess as both Abilene and Concordia suffered serious losses in the offseason. Bergmann returns for Concordia Concordia returns arguably the best player in the league in senior Cydney Bergmann. The four-year starter led the league in scoring (15.3 ppg) and assists (3.5 apg) and was second in steals (2.7 spg) and sixth in rebounding (6.4 rpg) in helping Concordia to a 16-6 record overall. The Panthers played the bulk of last season with just one half of the Eshbaugh sisters as senior standout Jordan missed all but eight games recovering from a torn ACL suffered just before the start of volleyball season. This year, they’ll have to do without both as returning junior Mykah moved with

Abilene loses five starters Abilene, meanwhile, graduated all five starters off last year’s 16-7 Class 4A Division I state-qualifying team, including leading scorer McKenzie Funston (13.3 ppg) and leading rebounder Jessica Hayes (6.4 rpg). Junior Hannah Willey came on strong as a sophomore, scoring 9.5 points per game while hitting 39.3 percent of her 3-pointers, while sophomore Sydney Burton made 40.9 percent of her threes in a limited role off the bench. Marysville comes on strong Despite its league struggles, Marysville finished 10-12 overall and advanced to the Class 3A sub-state semifinals, coming on strong late in the season after a 2-8 start. The Bulldogs only graduated two seniors, including second-leading scorer and leading rebounder Kali Crome, but return a large bulk of the production that had the Bulldogs third in the league in scoring at 48.6 points

per game. Senior Sydney Pacha emerged as Marysville’s leading scorer a year ago at 9.7 points per game. Four other players who averaged at least 3.9 points per game also return and senior Alex Denner had a solid year at point guard with 3.1 assists per game, second in the league. Wamego works to rebuild Wamego enters its third year under Kevin Kinderknecht and has posted six wins in each of his first two seasons. The Red Raiders graduated leading scorer Tessa Seeberger (14 ppg) and has only one player back who averaged at least five points per game, senior Gwen Schwein (5.3 ppg). Chapman may be a surprise Even though Chapman was winless in league play a year ago, the Irish could emerge as the surprise team in the league this season with just about everyone back. Only one player graduated and a pair of sophomores — McKenna Kirkpatrick and Ashlynn Bledsoe — wound up leading the team in scoring as freshmen a year ago with Bledsoe putting in 10.9 points per game and Kirkpatrick right behind with 10 points a contest. Kirkpatrick also ranked third in the league in rebounding (6.9 rpg) and senior Brianna Loy led the league in steals (2.9 apg).

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Triple threat athlete

Page 19

Concordia’s Bergmann just gets better

BY BRENT MAYCOCK For Kansas Hardwood

I

t’s a story Michael Wahlmeier will never forget. Shortly after arriving at Concordia to take over as the girls’ basketball coach, a young player caught his eye during open gym sessions. Her skills were such that Wahlmeier, taking over a program coming off a 4-17 season, was encouraged about what the future might hold. “We were struggling and didn’t have the athletes at that time,” Wahlmeier said. “I told my assistant, ‘We’ve got this junior high girl coming who’s going to help us out in a year or two.’” The comment drew a quizzical look. “When she finally figured out who I was talking about, she said, ‘Coach, she’s a fifthgrader,’” Wahlmeier said. That fifth-grader was Cydney Bergmann and the talent Wahlmeier saw in 2011 has been fulfilled so far during her high school career. Bergmann enters her final season ranked No. 2 on Concordia’s career assist list (235), third in career steals (178) and seventh in career scoring (827 points). With 95 rebounds, Bergmann would move into the top 10 in career rebounding, making her the only player in Concordia history to rank top 10 in all four categories. “I would say she’s one of the best we’ve ever had up here,” Wahlmeier said. “She’s just so athletic and reminds me a lot of (former Washburn Rural standout) Erika Lane. She can do everything and do it all well. She’s a great kid and is aware of the team concept. It’s been such a blessing coaching her all these years.” Wahlmeier didn’t really even need to see Bergmann on the court to know she could develop into something special. The bloodlines were already there to give such an indication. Two of Bergmann’s older sisters went on to star in college in track — Christa was an AllAmerican thrower at Fort Hays State while Heather was a thrower on Kansas’ national championship team. Older brother Gabe has been a member of Kansas State’s powerlifting team. All were multi-sport standouts and Cydney has followed suit. Not only has she starred for C N B THE

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the Panther basketball team, averaging doublefigure scoring and at least 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2.4 steals each of her first three seasons, but she’s also shined in volleyball and track. Bergmann has helped lead Concordia to two straight runner-up finishes at the Class 4A Division II state volleyball tournament and is a three-time All-North Central Kansas League selection. Not only has she balanced all three sports, but she’s done it at a very high level. “It’s definitely been difficult, but I haven’t been on the journey alone,” Bergmann said. “I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates and my coaches for pushing me every day. What they expect of me just pushes me harder to do better so I have to give a lot of credit to them. “I really like going sport to sport because it’s a new atmosphere in each one and every sport’s different and that’s what I love about it. Track and volleyball have really helped me with my basketball abilities and the same with basketball helping me in volleyball and track. It’s just a nice balance and a lot of fun.” So, which is her favorite? “I wouldn’t really say I have a favorite because I’ve grown up playing all of them,” she said. “I did start basketball at an early age, so I’ve always had a love for that. Volleyball is right up there with it. And track’s been a huge part of my family for a while. I guess my favorite is just the sport I’m in at that time.” In basketball, Bergmann stepped in right away as a freshman and had the impact Wahlmeier felt she would, averaging 10.9 points, 5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 3.1 steals per game. She upped her scoring to 12 points per game as a sophomore and then 15.3 points per game as a junior, while also increasing her rebounding average and assist total. Stats aside, Bergmann said her best skills are her leadership and instincts. “When I was a freshman, I learned a lot from the seniors who passed that on to me about being a leader,” she said. “I feel like I see the court really well and know where other people are going to be and the ball is going to be before it happens. That helps me help others be the best they can be.”

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Wahlmeier agreed. “She does see the ball really well and defensively she can get a lot of steals off anticipation,” he said. “She’s got quick hands and gets a lot of deflections. Her ball-handlling skills are really good. She’s right-handed but everybody thinks she’s left because when she was little her mom told her if she wanted to be a point guard she had to dribble with her left hand. She worked on it so much that it’s just natural for her and she’s almost more comfortable with the ball in her left hand.” Concordia is coming off a 16-6 season that ended one game short of returning to the Class 4A Division II state tournament. The Panthers leaned heavily on Bergmann and sophomore Mykah Eshbaugh a year ago and with Eshbaugh transferring to Florida during the offseason, the burden of carrying the team will likely fall squarely on Bergmann’s shoulders. However, she doesn’t really see it that way. “I don’t necessarily feel extra pressure because I know I won’t be out on the court alone,” she said. “We’ve got other players who have worked really hard the last few years who will be there helping me out. It’s my responsibility to help the team and not try to do it all myself. It’s definitely a team thing for me and I want to do the best I can for their sake.” Bergmann still isn’t sure which sport will be best for her future. She’s gotten more looks in basketball so far, but another big volleyball season will garner her more attention in that sport as well. And who knows, she may just try to stay a multi-sport athlete in college as well. “I haven’t made a decision yet and I’m just keeping things open,” she said. “I want to have a variety of options to be able to look at what’s best for me. “I’ve definitely thought about (doing two sports). I’m not really interested in doing track in college, but definitely would do basketball and volleyball. Right now it’s really hard to make a decision. I love basketball, but being in volleyball season right now it just reminds me how much I love that sport too.”


Page 20

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

No coasting for the Bulldogs

By Brent Maycock For Kansas Hardwood

I

t was merely summer league action, but Scott Brown took the opportunity to mentally prepare his Marysville boys’ basketball team for what it will encounter during the 2017-18 high school season. It started with the team shirts, which had a nice big bull’s-eye on the back. And it continued with seeing how the Bulldogs’ opponents approached their games. “We played a couple teams this summer who jumped out on top of us and were pumping their fists like it was the Super Bowl — and it’s like 10-6 in front of less than 100 people,” Brown said. “Hopefully, to our guys it was an eyeopening experience. For us to have the success this coming year, we have to understand that we’re going to get everybody’s best game every single night because they know who we are now.” Who is Marysville? Simple. The Bulldogs are the reigning Class 3A state champions, rolling to the title last March in Hutchinson with a 45-37 win over Cheney in the championship game. The state title was the first for the program since 2003 and capped a 22-4 season. “It was a fantastic ride,” Brown said. With three of five starters back from last year’s championship team, including All-Class 3A first-team selection Gabe Pieschl, Marysville has the horses to defend its crown. As important as that is, Brown said his returning players have something even more important. Drive. Simply put, the Bulldogs are not putting things on cruise control, expecting another title to come easily. “The thing you hear coaches talk about all the time is, ‘It’s hard to win a championship; it’s even harder to repeat,’” Brown said. “Everybody’s head gets big and they stop working. But our guys have just shown a tremendous commitment to our summer workouts, weight-lifting and everything we’ve done. I couldn’t ask for a better attitude coming off a championship. “They’re way more mature and have handled this better than I would have at this age. Their work ethic is the reason

they got to a championship and it’s just continuing. It’s really nice to see.” Another key to Marysville’s title run, Brown insists, is the North Central Kansas League itself. While Marysville was able to hoist the 3A championship hardware at the end of last season, it won’t share the school trophy case with a league championship plaque. Tough league competition Instead, Abilene and Wamego shared the 2016-17 NCKL title, handing Marysville two of its four losses. Fellow NCKL foe Chapman also clipped the Bulldogs late in the season and the other loss came to Class 4A Division II state qualifier Rock Creek. “Last year, playing Wamego and Abilene, I was telling our guys, ‘These will be the toughest teams you play all year. If we can compete with these guys, we’ve got a chance to go win the whole thing,’” Brown said. “I love our league. You might come into the postseason with a few losses, but boy you’ve been tested and have played some great teams. We go 22-4 last year and I’ll trade that for when I was at Fowler and we went 25-1 and took second. We had not nearly a tough enough schedule all year long.” Graduation hit the league extremely hard, claiming four of the league’s topfive scorers a year ago. No teams were hit harder than last year’s co-champs, Abilene and Wamego. Wamego hard hit by graduation The Red Raiders rode the dynamic duo of Dillon Blain and Sean Nordberg to a 16-5 season which ended with a Class 4A Division I sub-state semifinal loss to Ottawa. Both are gone, however, after averaging 19.0 and 18.4 points per game, respectively. That leaves Wamego without a proven, go-to scorer for the first time in several years, but veteran coach Troy Hemphill routinely churns out winning teams. Senior Chase Dillon averaged 6.5 points per game in a complementary role and could develop into Wamego’s leading man, while twins Justin and Jayson Ebert also return after averaging 5.4 and 4.2 points per game, respectively.

Abilene found balance Abilene, meanwhile, possessed more of a balanced attack offensively with no player averaging more than 14.5 points per game but six players averaging at least 5.0 points per contest. The topthree scorers led by Ryan Wilson (14.1 ppg) have graduated, but senior Tucker Robinson is a strong piece for longtime coach Terry Taylor to build around. Robinson averaged 7.6 points and a team-high 7.0 rebounds per game last year. Fellow senior Noah Wildman is the only other returner from the Cowboys’ 21-4 team which finished third in Class 4A Division I, falling in the state semifinals to eventual champion Miege before beating Andover Central for third. Basketball after the Holmes brothers Concordia found life after the Holmes brothers to be a rebuilding process, going 7-15 after repeated trips to the Class 4A Division II state tournament. The Panthers did, however, reach the sub-state semifinals last year, falling to Smoky Valley, and look to build on the late success with most of their key players back. Junior Dyelan Reed wound up leading Concordia in scoring as a sophomore, averaging 10.8 points per game. The Panthers lost Ian Nordell and Matt James, but Garrett Lawrence (6.7 ppg), Corben Monzon (6.2 ppg) and Billy Bechard (5.1 ppg) return around Reed, giving the Panthers plenty of weapons to draw upon this year. The challenge of the Irish Chapman was upset by Concordia in sub-state play, but still posted a 9-12 mark and was extremely close to recording a winning season. Nine of the Irish’s losses were by 11 points or less including tight ones to Marysville (58-51), Wamego (56-50) and Abilene (63-58). Seven of the losses came to state-tournament teams. Replacing Brennan Harris will be a major challenge for the Irish after the departed standout led the team in scoring for three straight years, pouring in 19.5 points per game a year ago. Three other starters also graduated, leaving the See NORTH CENTRAL, Page 21


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Page 21

North Central Continued from Page 20 Irish in a bit of a rebuilding mode. Clay Center’s top player Last season was a rough one for Clay Center, which finished 3-18 and winless in league play. The Tigers do have one of the top players in the league in Anthony Atkinson-Enneking, who was second in the league in rebounding with 7.5 boards per game and also sixth in scoring at 12.3 points per game. Finding a secondary scorer to go with Atkinson-Enneking was a big offseason priority for the Tigers, who averaged just 43.7 points per game as a team a year ago and shot just 35.9 percent from the field. Marysville is a threat But the road to the league title this season should go through Marysville.

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exploded as a junior. Pieschl led the league in scoring at 21.0 points per game and raised it to 23.7 points per game during the state tournament. While he’s Marysville’s unquestioned star, any coach will tell you it takes a strong supporting cast and the Bulldogs should have that. Bryson Meinhardt provided an inside presence a year ago, averaging 7.5 points

and a team-high 6.6 rebounds per game, while Jack Blumer chipped in 5.8 points and team-high 2.8 assists. Even though graduation claimed steady starters Jayton Haggard and Adam Lindhorst, Brown sees the same kind of chemistry in this year’s team as he did in last year’s title squad. “You’ve got Gabe, who is a phenomenal player,” Brown said. “But if you watch him play, he may take one or two bad shots per game. He plays within the team aspect so well. And all the other guys accept their roles. All they care about is the team success. “That team mentality gets lost more and more these days because everything in our society is so individual. ‘What’s in it for me? What’s in it for my kid?’ We have a special group here where they could give a hoot about how many points they score on a given night. They just want to win.”

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Page 22

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Sacred Heart High School junior Caleb Jordan goes for the basket during a 2016-17 season game. See Page 24 for story.


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Page 23

Knights, Russell girls lookin’ good By the Kansas Hardwood Staff

E

arlier this year, Salina’s Sacred Heart boys ended their season by collecting the school’s first state title since 1981. They also became the first Salina basketball team — boys or girls — to win a championship since 1983. Could it happen again? Hey, it’s Kansas basketball. Anything is possible. For sure, the Knights are pre-season contenders for top honors in the North Central Activities Association League. This would be Sacred Heart’s fourth consecutive NCAA title if the prediction holds. But they must get past fellow league members Beloit, Ellsworth, Republic County, Minneapolis and Southeast of Saline. “Sacred Heart is still the team to beat with Ellsworth right behind them,” said Eric Swanson, head coach of the Russell Broncos. “Southeast of Saline and Beloit will be down a bit, but still very good. It will be a fight between Russell, Minneapolis and Republic County to see who can finish out of the cellar and maybe get a big win or two and climb into the top half of the league” Here are overviews: Sacred Heart boys In the 2015-16 season, the Knights won 25 straight games but fell to Jackson Heights in the state championship game. In 2016-17, Sacred Heart lost on opening night before winning 25 straight games again, culminating with the 2017 Class 2A boys basketball championship by a 59-51 score over topranked St. John-Hudson. Stratton Brown and Quinn Riordan, who were named to the NCAA first team, were lost to graduation. However, a third firstteam member, Caleb Jordan, a 5’10” senior, returns. He averaged 15 points a game and three rebounds. He will be joined by two other starters, Grant Herrenbruck, 6’3” senior (5 ppg and 3 rpg) and Trace Leners, 6’3” junior (7 ppg and 5 rpg). Leners was a league honorable mention as a sophomore. Other returning lettermen are: seniors Cole Elmore and Blake Palen and juniors Charlie Skidmore and Ben Delreal. “Guard Caleb Jordan returns as a three-year starter with tons of experience and leadership. Juniors Trace Leners and Charlie Skidmore look to improve on a solid sophomore campaign,” said Pat Martin, who is in his 11th

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Mark McCoy/Kansas Hardwood

The Beloit Lady Trojans scramble for the ball during a game against Ellsworth.

year at Sacred Heart. “Watch out for seniors Grant Herrenbruck and Cole Elmore, as they are hungry to increase their contributions to the team.” Martin said size could be a challenge, forcing players to focus more intently on rebounding. “We are looking to steadily build upon our uptemp transition style of ball,” he said. “This senior class has been together for some time so good chemistry, speed and toughness will be a plus.” Sacred Heart girls The Lady Knights return four starters and

six letter winners from a team that finished the 2016-17 season with an overall record of 3-19 and a league record of 1-11, putting Sacred Heart in 7th place. Arnold Schmidtberger, who is in his 10th season as head coach, said experience and leadership will be strengths, along with the return of the team’s three top four scorers. Included are seniors Catherine Marak, 5’6” forward (4.7 ppg and 5.2 rpg), Haylie Rodriguez, 5’4” forward (1.8 ppg and 2 rpg), and Anna Ivey, 5’10” center (5.9 ppg and 5.1 rpg). They will be joined by two 5’6” sophomore guards, Ally Cochran (5.4 ppg and 9 rpg) and Amber Palen (1.5 ppg and 3.6 rpg). Schmidtberger said the Lady Knights have a difficult schedule with teams such as Central Plains, TMP, Russell, Beloit and Ellsworth on their schedule. Ellsworth boys The Bearcats will be paced this season by seniors Jordan Base, 6’0”, who averaged 10.7 points per game and 3.4 rebounds, and 6’3” Remington Cravens, who averaged 10.1 ppg and 6.1 rebounds. They will share the court with 6’0” juniors Bransen Schulte and Grant Gwinner and 5’10” seniors Jaxson Windholz and Chris Fitzgerald. Ellsworth finished fourth in league play this past season at 7-5 and an overall record of 14-8. “We have a good group of returning players. Both Base and Cravens are proven scorers,” said Trevor Kuhlman, who is in his fourth year as head coach. “Even when they aren’t making shots, they find ways to impact the game. Both are leaders and will set the tone for our season. Kuhlman said his team’s major strength is its chemistry. “We have experience returning and some younger players that played important minutes last season. We will need to make shots and be solid defensively to be in games,” he said. Ellsworth girls The Lady ‘Cats finished the 2016-17 season with an overall record of 16-6 and a league record of 9-3, putting Ellsworth in third place. Four starters will return from that team. “We are returning a nice core of varsity players,” said Ken Carvens, who is in his 16th year at Ellsworth. This season’s Lady ‘Cats will be

See NCAA, Page 25


Page 24

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Sacred Heart’s Jordan — Stayin’ on Top year, and Stratton Brown averaged 13 points a night before moving on to Creighton to play tennis. “He’s going to be more of a creator this year,” said Sacred Heart coach Pat Martin. “He can finish at any time. He’ll be the guy we go to at the end of a game or the end of a quarter. He wants to play at the next level. In order to do that, he’ll need a little bit more of a point guard mentality. I expect that out of him. If he makes everyone around him better like he did last year, he’s got a great chance.” Jordan has long been a scorer, averaging 12 points a night as a sophomore and six points a game as a freshman. But in each of his first three years, he’s had at least one other scorer on the court. Jordan will be one of a handful of returners this year, but the only one who averaged more than seven points a night last winter. Though Martin said Jordan could average 25 points a night, the goal this year is to make scorers out of teammates. “I’m definitely going to have to step up my leadership skills a lot and not only make

By MIKE COURSON For Kansas Hardwood

S

taying hungry. That will be the name of the game for Sacred Heart junior Caleb Jordan in the 2017-18 season. A threeyear starter and four-year varsity player for the Knights, Jordan was the leading scorer on last year’s team that won the Class 2A title. In his final season, Jordan is playing for another title and an opportunity to continue his career in college. Sacred Heart has featured one of the premiere teams in Kansas in recent years with a 70-4 record over the last three seasons. The Knights lost a perfect season and the championship with a loss to Jackson Heights in the 2A finale in 2016. Last March, Sacred Heart downed St. John 59-51 to finish the season as champions at 25-1. After averaging just over 15 points a game last season, Jordan will be the main threat for the Knights this season. Quinn Riordan scored 14.3 points a game as a senior last

myself better but make my teammates better and try to be a good role model on the court,” Jordan said. The senior has put in the work in the offseason. This summer he played on Will Spradling’s SSA Elite team. The former Kansas State point guard put his team against other top talents in tournaments in Lawrence and Kansas City. “You definitely see a lot bigger, better, and stronger kids from around the nation,” said Jordan. “It really does put the whole basketball at the next level in perspective.” Jordan has yet to commit to a college, so the upcoming season will serve as a final showcase. More importantly, Jordan has the opportunity to graduate as a two-time state champion for a Sacred Heart team that enters the season riding a 25-game win streak. “I think we have a pretty good chance of making it pretty far this year,” he said. “It would mean a lot if we could win the championship game. It would definitely be an amazing feeling.”

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

NCAA

Continued form Page 23

led by All-State Honorable Mention senior Kolby Davis, 5’9”, 16.8 points per game and 6 rebounds. Other returning starters are 5’4 seniors Jenna Haase (5.1 ppg) and Paige Talbott (7.4 ppg) and 5’9” senior Jeanae Brungardt (2.3 ppg). “The other three returning starters should bring positive leadership and experience to the floor every day,” Cravens said. Also returning are Sydney Wilson, 5’5” junior; and sophomores Lakyn Tenbrink, 5’8”, and Jaide Talbott, 5’6”. “Players will need to be prepared to defend post players with the overall lack of height on this year’s roster. The team will have to battle against an improved league schedule and challenge each team on game night. Finally, as with each year, we must remain healthy.” Republic County girls The Lady ‘Buffs hope to continue the success they’ve achieved in recent year; however, the loss of five seniors who led Republic County during the 2-16-17 season will offer a challenge coach Colton Grove hopes his team can meet. “The Lady ‘Buffs will return no starters and three lettermen from a year ago,” said Grove, who is in his first year as head coach. “With many new faces battling for minutes, the Buffs will look to try and duplicate the recent success within the program.” Republic County finished the 2016-17 season with an overall record of 12-10 and a league recocrd of 7-4. The Lady ‘Buffs lost in the second round of sub-state to Washington County. Returning letter winners are: 5’5” sophomore forward Alexis Hansen and senior guards Jaycee Blazek, 5’5” and Lynnae Benyshek, 5’6. Grove said his team is scheduled to play in the Hillsboro Trojan Classic, which includes perennial 3A powerhouse teams from Holcomb, Hesston and Riley County and Clay Center from 4A. “The strong schedule will prepare the Lady ‘Buffs for the end of the season,” he said. Republic County boys The ‘Buffs return four players with experience and a determination to play with more confidence and leadership. Senior guards McKenzie Cromwell, 5’11”, and Deon Dyke, 5’8”, and senior forward Nick Allsman, 5’10”, return as starters from this past season. Other seniors on the roster are Noah Springer, 6’3” forward; Carl Brunner, 5’10” guard; and Logan Waite, 5’11”

Page 25

forward. Clay Mettlen, who is in his 6th year as SAME NEW TION head coach, said FACES & SERV LOCA & ICE OK LO seniors have played together for six years and have the ability to carry the team at different times. “Our strengths are in our athleticism and our ability to defend all over the court, especially on the perimeter,” INVESTMENT PLANNING • RISK MANAGEMENT • COLLEGE FUNDING Mettlen said. “We RETIREMENT SAVINGS • DISTRIBUTION PLANNING have a group of strong rebounders for their size who excel at different types of defenses. pathway-financial.com “Our weaknesses are that we someJohn Webb ~ Kelli Webb ~ Jordan Webb ~ Eddie Balluch times struggle to pathway@ofgfinancial.com score, but this group has gotten progres120 S. Santa Fe Ave., Salina, KS 67401 sively better in that P: 785-820-8161 area over their careers Toll Free: 888-756-6670 and we believe we will find people to step up and lead us in that department.” Previously Webb & Associates Republic County finished this past seaSecurities offered through OFG Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC son with an overall record of 7-14, losing football injury last season; in the first round of sub-state. Brooks Nichols, 6’2” senior, who is playing “We need to make sure that our strengths basketball after wrestling the past three seaare able to compensate for our weaknesses sons; and Ness City transfer Tyler Whipple, and maintain a defensive focus for entire 5’10” junior. games and have the confidence to take advanThe Broncos finished last season with an tage of our offensive opportunities,” said overall record of 5-16 and 2-10 in the Mettlen, who coached at Central Plains NCAA. before he arrived in Belleville. “Our team will be small, but quick and “We also have to be mentally and physical- athletic,” Swanson said. “We hope to use that ly tough to compensate for our lack of size, on defense to create scoring opportunities ... and make sure that we are fundamentally “We lost a lot inside with the loss of Travis sound in everything we do.” Ochs and Matt Buhrle. We will have size, but not a lot of experience inside.” Russell Boys The Broncos will face competition at pracRussell girls tice as well as on the court against oppoCoach Frank Schulte continued his nents. Head coach Eric Swanson expects to impressive run as Bronco coach with a have about 17 players competing for varsity 19-4 record, 10-2 in NCAA play last time. season. Schulte has turned around the Returning players that started at some long struggling program in the last eight point during the 2016-17 season include: years, including a Class 3A Final Four 5’9” junior Austin Price (13.4 ppg and 5.7 appearance in ’12-13. Before then, rpg), Kyle Farmer, 5’11” senior (6.1 ppg and Russell hadn’t made state since ’74 for 2.9 rpg), Koby Decker, 5’9” senior (3.1 ppg and 1.5 rpg), and Glenn Law, 5’11” junior the only other appearance in school (3.4 ppg and 2.7 rpg). annals. Last winter, Russell lost to TMP Add to the mix Jacob Kraus, 6’4” senior; Brandon Fowler, 5’11” junior who suffered a See NCAA, Page 26

Good Luck to all area teams


Page 26

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

NCAA Continued from Page 25 in sub-state, an eventual back-to-back Class 3A Final Four finisher. The Broncos return its top two players with junior Tiffany Dortland and senior Jaclyn Schulte. Senior center Lauren Myers is back, too, from a squad that had a four-win improvement. Dortland is in her second year at Russell after she transferred from Victoria following a superb freshman year with the Knights. Southeast of Saline boys Jeff Wells, who starts his fourth year as head coach of the Trojans, returns one starter from the 2016-17 team, which finished the season with a 20-6 record and tied for second in league with an 8-4 record. Hunter White, a 6’0” senior, averaged 10.3 points per game and 5.5 rebounds a game. “Hunter White had an outstanding end to the 2016-17 season playing his best basketball in the state tournament,” Wells said. “He was our second leading scorer in postseason play and our leading rebounder. He will be a focal point for our offense this season in the post. His athleticism allows him to play much bigger than he is. “He is an explosive athlete to the rim and in the open floor.” White will be joined by seniors Grant Tillberg, Damon Douglas, Jake Huffaker and Gareth Pettijohn and junior Nick Montgomery. “We will need to find shooters to complement our ability to dribble drive and use Hunter White in the post,” Wells said. “All six kids returning have varsity experience to varying levels. They will need to take on more responsibility with the losses we had from a strong senior class. Understanding roles and executions will be key to our success. We will be undersized but have some good athletes who can play bigger than they are. Defense will need to be outstanding as we may struggle offensively, especially from the perimeter.” Southeast of Saline girls Shauna Smith, who is in her second year as head coach, expects fans of the Lady Trojans to notice improvements in this year’s team. “Last season was a learning and rebuilding

MARK McCOY/Kansas Hardwood

Russell’s Lady Bronocs are pre-season favorites to win league. process,” she said. “We are excited to begin this season with a good summer and off-season under our belts. Success will be measured by small steps and improvement on a day-to-day, week-to-week and game-by-game basis. Scoring came difficult last season, but with experience of the offense, expectations are that we will be able to generate more open shots.” Returning starters are seniors Karis Calahan, 5’7” guard (6.4 ppg and 3.5 rpg) and Emma Fear, 5’9” guard/forward (1 ppg and 1.2 rpg). They will be joined by returning players Morgan Kaniper, 5’5” junior; Molly Chitty, 5’9” junior; and Keely Orr, 5’8” sophomore. “Karis Calahan and Emma Fear provide experience as returning seniors, and both will be relied on to provide more scoring than a year ago,” Smith said. “Junior Molly Chitty, who played valuable minutes last season, will be relied upon to be an inside presence both offensively and defensively. Junior Morgan Kaniper and Sophomore Keely Orr will also provide experience after seeing significant minutes last season.” The Lady Trojans finished the 2016-17 season with an overall record of 4-16. Minneapolis girls The Lady Lions return two starters, Faythe Joel Benson, CPA Mary Benson, CPA

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Korinek, 5’11” senior (6.3 ppg and 6.9 rpg) and Karisma Vignery, 5’4” junior (7.8 ppg and 3.2 rpg). “We will have a nice inside-outside combo with Faythe and Karisma,” said Bryan Weatherman, who starts his 10th year at Minneapolis. “Both players worked and expanded their games over the summer. I am looking for both of them to step up and have really good years.” Other returning letter winners are senior Courtney Walker and sophomores Zoie Shupe and Kersti Nelson. “We are going from being a tall team to a short, quick team. I think this will help us as we will be able to defend a little better and put pressure on our opponents,” Weatherman said. “One weakness we will have is the lack of size coming off of the bench.” The Lady Lions finished the 2016-17 season with an overall record of 5-16 and a league finish of 2-10. Minneapolis boys Minneapolis boys return their only allleague player in senior TreVaughn Thomas, an honorable mention selection, for a 5-17 season. It marked a two-win decrease from a 7-14 year in 2015-16.

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S

terling’s run at a state championship last year was hampered by a pair of season-ending injuries before the season even started. Top-tobottom, the Black Bear boys may return the best squad in the Heart of America League for the 2017-18 season, but several of the league’s best players from a year ago are back to make each night in the league an interesting one.

Sterling boys Last year’s Black Bear team was on the short list of possible 3A title contenders heading into the season. The loss of returning juniors Kenan Comley and Blake Richter hindered those lofty expectations but Sterling still won 13 games, including a late-season win against one of the classification’s best in Hesston. Head coach Derek Schneider, who won a Class 2A title at the school in 2012, will have most of that team back in 2017-18. Missing will be four-year player and first-team all-leaguer Kyler Comley, but Schneider will have back his starting point guard in Kenan Comley, as well as Richter and senior Lucas Briar, one of the top players in the Heart of America League last season. Berean Academy boys The Warriors won a league title but just missed a trip to state by three points with a sub-state championship loss to Sedan. Berean did lose three seniors, including first-team All-HOA selection Ben Herrman and honorable mention Micah Wiebe. Remington boys Matt Regier’s Broncos finished last season with a winning record at 12-10, but the 2017-18 campaign could be an uphill climb with just two starters back.

Heart of America • Bennington • Berean Academy • Ell-Saline, Brookville • Hutchinson Trinity • Inman • Remington • Sterling

“We will undergo some major changes from last year’s team, but I expect us to be competitive within the HOA,” Regier said. “We have several players who will be taking on much larger roles or playing varsity for the first time, and their success will determine how we do as a team.” Garet Johnson won the Class 3A shot put last spring. Before that, he was Remington’s big force on the court, earning all-state honors after averaging 17 points and six rebounds a night. Five other seniors who combined for about 21 points a night are also gone. “We will miss the physicality of last year’s seniors, but our team will be more skilled and better shooters,” said Regier. “We will play faster this year, and will look to use our skill and versatility to get open looks. These tweaks to our system should fit our players better, and they are already excited about the style of play we worked on during the summer.” Senior Kyle Thiessen led the team with 15 3-pointers last year. He aver-

aged five points and five boards a night. Junior Jadihn Martin played in all 22 games as a sophomore, averaging three points and three assists a night. Junior Brayden Marciano played in 19 varsity contests and averaged three points a night. Inman boys The Teutons were a factor in the league standings with 16 wins year ago. Inman does lose Lucas Barlow, an all-HOA honorable mention last year, but the Teutons get back juniors Payton Froese and Mason Thiessen. Froese earned first-team all-league honors a year ago, and Thiessen was a second-team selection. Bennington boys With 14 wins last season, the Bulldogs were one of the top teams in the HOA. Losing two scorers to graduation will be a detriment to the 201718 squad. Zach Reed averaged just under 14 points and seven rebounds a game last year, and Avery Kidd averaged 12.6 pp and 4.4 rpg. Seniors J.J. Allen and Ryan Stanley played in all 22 varsity games last year. Allen was an all-league honorable mention after averaging 10.6 points and 4.7 rebounds a game. Senior Devin Feil scored nearly nine points a game. Moundridge boys Anthony Otte was a big contributed for the Wildcats over the last few seasons. Last year, his 13 points a night were a big reason Moundridge won 12 games. Otte is gone, but Moundridge does return one of the league’s top players in Noah Eichelberger, who earned first-team all-league honors last year after averaging 14.2 points and 4.3 rebounds a night. Other schools Hutchinson Trinity finished with a See HOA, Page 28


Page 28

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

HOA Continued form Page 27 top-two players in senior Connor Remar and junior Kaleb Hammeke. Remar averaged 13 points and seven rebounds a night. Hammeke finished at 9.7 points and 5.4 rebounds a game. The Celtics Remar averaged 13 points and seven rebounds a night. Hammeke finished at 9.7 points and 5.4 rebounds a game. The Celtics also have back juniors Alex Hammersmith and Jack Neal, and senior Mac Pritchett. Sedgwick, Marion, and Ell-Saline occupied three of the bottom four spots in the league last winter. Sedgwick returns all-league first teamer Neal Beaver for his senior season. Marion gets back senior Zach Stuchlik, an allleague honorable mention last year. Ell-Saline returns senior Mason Farrell, an all-HOA honorable mention. The school had yet to announce a head boys’ basketball coach as of Aug. 22. Berean Academy girls The Lady Warriors won the league and advanced to the Class 2 State Championships last March before making an early exit to the eventual fourth-place finishers from Valley Falls. Berean did lose some key seniors, including all-leaguer Amanda Harder, but senior Ashtyn Wiebe does return after earning third-team all-state honors. Moundridge girls Always a basketball town, the Lady Cats finished third in the league last year and came up one win shy of the state tournament. Brian Holloway returns two starters but loses four seniors who accounted for 25 points a game last winter. “We will be young and inexperienced,” Holloway said. “With only two starters back, and two more that saw some spot playing time, this could be a reloading year.” Five-foot-nine senior Bethany Stucky returns as a two-time all-league selection and an all-state honorable mention last year after averaging 13 points and seven rebounds a night. Senior guard Kassidy Kaufman averaged seven points, six rebounds, and two steals a game last season. Remington girls

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The Lady Broncs have been one of the premiere teams in the league over the past few seasons. The good news for other teams is Kelsey Hinz has finally graduated. The allstater averaged a double-double at 18.4 points and 10.7 rebounds a night last year. The bad news for other teams is Hinz is about the only loss from a team that went 17-5. Senior Sage Westerfield was an all-league first-team selection after averaging just under 11 points eight boards a game last season. Sophomore Emily Laham made a big splash in her freshman season with eight points and six assists a game. That effort earned her secondteam all-league honors. Sterling girls Jill Rowland’s Lady Black Bears were one of the top teams in Class 2A and 3A over the past four years before losing guard Kylah Comley to graduation last year. The loss hurt as Sterling fell to fourth place in its new league. Rowland again loses two of her top-three scorers in graduates Maddie Thrasher (8.6 ppg) and Lindsay Gilmore (7.1 ppg). Four-year player Taya Wilson, a state champion hurdler, returns as the team’s leading scorer at 15 points a night last year. Sterling also gets returning contributors senior Camille Schweizer, junior Grace Rowland, and sophomore Kinzie Comley. Marion girls The Lady Warriors won 15 games last year and expectations will be even higher this win-

ter with four starters back. “We had a solid season last year and return a good group of seniors,” said coach Kelly Robson. “With good leadership from the seniors, we hope to compete well each night.” Senior Kourtney Hansen was a first-team all-league player last year after averaging 14.5 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and four steals a night. Seniors Alli Molleker and Sam Richmond combined for just under 11 points a night last season, and senior Courtney Herzet scored about three points a game. Molleker was also big on the glass at 4.2 rebounds a game. Robson also expects things from junior guard Corrina Crabb this winter. “She will bring quickness and good ball-handling skills,” he said. Sedgwick girls Sedgwick is another 15-win team that returns four starters from a year ago. In all, ninth-year coach Aaron Stucky has eight varsity athletes back. “We had a great year last year and we have a lot of returners,” he said. “However, we won’t sneak up on anyone this year. We played poorly in sub-state last year. Our goal is to have some post-season success.” Senior Macie McGinn and sophomore Grace Thompson each earned second-team all-HOA honors last year. Senior Sydney Hilliard was an all-league honorable mention. Other schools Bennington won just two games last year.

The good news for coach TJ Trout is most of his scorers are back. Sophomore Chloe Stanley and senior Tacey Kaiser split 14 points a night. Seniors Alexis Watson and Samantha Swearingen are not far behind at 6.3 and 5.4 points a game, respectively. Hutch Trinity, Ell-Saline, and Inman occupied the other three bottom spots in the league standings a year ago. The Lady Celtics have back junior Olivia Shank, an all-league second-team pick. Ell-Saline loses its two allleague picks from last year in Sydney Omli and Kadi Relph. Inman returns two of its top players in junior Macy DeWitt and senior MaKayla Michael, both all-league honorable mentions last season.


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Page 29

MARK McCOY/Kansas Hardwood

TMP’s Kayla Vitztum, in blue, takes control of the ball during a game against Great Bend. See story on Kayla on Page 31.


Page 30

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

This could be their year

By CONOR NICHOLL For Kansas Hardwood

S

tockton girls ended a long drought with a 20-4 record and a trip to the Class 1A, Division I state tournament. It marked the Tigers’ first appearance since 1999. Phillipsburg boys haven’t made state since 1973 and look to end the skid this year behind an experienced group. Coach Keith Sides, a Northern Valley graduate, has been at Phillipsburg since he graduated from college. “We haven’t qualified for state since before I was born,” Sides said. Under Sides, Phillipsburg has lost in the sub-state title game three times, including to rival Norton last winter. The Panthers had a 12-point lead and lost to the Bluejays, 53-47. “Hopefully this is our year,” Sides said. In Mid-Continent League play, though, both will need to get through TMP to capture a regular season crown. The Monarch girls have reached the Class 3A Final Four the last two seasons and rolled through the conference since changing leagues starting in 2014. Stockton is 0-5 versus the Monarch girls since the ’14-15 season. TMP defeated the Tigers for the league tournament crown last winter. Phillipsburg is 1-3 since ’14-15 versus TMP boys. Stockton coach Alexa Rogers enjoys playing the Monarchs because it prepares the Tigers for the postseason. “When you are going up against (TMP) at the time, it might be frustrating and you are telling yourself ‘Why are they in our league?,” Rogers said. “A lot of people, that’s kind of the talk of ‘They are too big and why are we playing them? They should be in a different league,’ and all that. “But to me a team like TMP, you might get two losses out of it, but at the same sense, in my eyes, you are almost getting a game, because you are getting a team that is going to challenge you in every aspect of the game,” she added. TMP boys The Monarch boys captured the MCL regular season title last winter. Phillipsburg won the league tournament on a last-second shot by junior point guard Trey Sides against Norton. Phillipsburg finished 18-5, 7-2 in league play. TMP boys went 12-9, but 8-1 in league. Monarch coach Joe Hertel, who has served as Monarch head coach since the mid-80s, brings back seniors Creighton Renz (second team all-league) and David McFarland (honorable mention).

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Phillipsburg Panthers surround a player during 2016-17 game. “TMP has got to be put up there at the top of the favorites,” coach Sides said. “They’ve got everybody back, too, and got some good ball players, so I think them and us could be the top two, but you never know. There are some surprises sometimes.” TMP girls TMP girls’ coach Rose McFarland graduated multiple key players, but senior Kayla Vitztum returns after she earned Hays Daily News Player of the Year and first team allstate honors. A three-sport standout and Newman University volleyball commit, she collected 14 points and 6.5 rebounds for a squad that went 24-2, 11-0 in league play. “They are going to press you,” Rogers said. “They are going to play man-to-man. They are going to play zone. They are a well-rounded team. Their coach is a very good coach, and she has them playing to their caliber that they are capable of all year long as well.” Stockton girls Stockton girls returned five seniors, led by Haven Hamilton, Madalyn Billinger and Delayne Colburn, Shay Wente and Chloe Scott. Sophomore Tatum Hamilton and Shaylin Griffin should be in key roles. “We have a really good shot of making it

back again,” Rogers said of state. “Now that they know what it takes and once you get there what you are up against. A lot of firsts that we haven’t had in Stockton for almost 20 years, and it makes a big difference.” Sophomore Jill Stephens, the team’s second-leading scorer behind Hamilton, moved to Colby when her dad, former Stockton boys’ coach Tom Stephens, took a new job. Hamilton averaged 16 points and 6.5 rebounds a game, while Stephens delivered 11 points a contest. Kyle Fox, formerly at Palco, took over the Tiger boys (9-12). Phillipsburg boys and girls Phillipsburg, with no seniors last winter, returns its key core, led by Trey Sides. He delivered 16.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 3.7 steals. Senior Trey Thompson averaged 11.7 points, and senior Chris VanKooten had 8.7 points and 7.1 rebounds. Freshman Ty Sides, Trey’s brother and Keith’s son, could factor into the rotation, too. The Phillipsburg girls collected one victory. “These guys have been playing two, three years together at the varsity level,” coach Sides said. Norton boys and girls Norton was 21-3, 8-1 and lost in the first round of the Class 3A state tournament for the second straight season. Bluejay senior Jace Ruder, a North Carolina football commit, has confirmed he will graduate in December and go to Chapel Hill. Ruder led the Bluejays with 12.3 points and 8.2 rebounds. Including Ruder, Norton does not return a single player who averaged more than one point a game last year. The Bluejay girls went 13-8 for coach George Rossi. Junior Taryn Kuhn is the only one of the top four scorers back after he averaged seven points and 5.9 rebounds a game. Plainville girls Plainville girls delivered an eight-win improvement to 11-10 in the second season under coach Kate Bremerman (Lehman), a former NCAA Division II Player of the Year at Fort Hays. Freshman point guard Aubree Dewey, known for her consistent energy, averaged 16.1 points, 4.4 assists and 3.3 steals. Dewey often played two quarters of junior varsity and then virtually all of the varsity contest. “She just loves the game, and when a player loves the game, I will play them,” Bremerman said.

See MID-CONTINENT, Page 32


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Page 31

Reaching for State — again

By Mike Courson

A

s a three-sport varsity athlete at Thomas More Prep, senior Kayla Vitztum has accomplished a lot in her prep career. There’s one thing she has not done: won a state basketball title. The Lady Monarchs have come close with third-place finishes in 2016 and 2017. Vitztum and fellow senior Aubrey Koenigsman have just one shot left at the championship. “Coming in with a new team, other teams might not know what to expect with all the new girls,” Vitztum said. “I definitely think we can get back and get in the top-two.” Heading into her fourth basketball season at TMP, Vitztum has seen some ups and downs. Her freshman season, the Lady Monarchs were ranked No. 3 in Class 4A, Div. II heading into the postseason but never reached the state tournament. TMP dropped down to Class 3A for Vitztum’s sophomore season. She would eventually earn second-team allstate honors after leading the Lady Monarchs with 14.5 points a night and finishing second on the squad with seven rebounds a game. TMP won 19-straight games that year before falling in the state semifinals. The Lady Monarchs rebounded with a comefrom-behind win against Sterling to secure the third-place trophy. Last year, TMP lost its second game

of the year to a Manhattan team that would go on to win the Class 6A title. The Lady Monarchs won their next 22 games before falling to Cheney at state. The girls again rebounded, this time beating Nemaha Central in the thirdplace game to finish the season at 24-2. Vitztum was a first-team all-state selection. During those runs, TMP has not shied from the competition. Last season, the Lady Monarchs beat the likes of Olathe North, Abilene, and Great Bend — all larger schools. “It just shows us we can play with those bigger schools and we can beat anyone if we just put our minds to it, no matter if they’re 5A, 6A, or 3A,” Vitztum said. Changes are coming for the 2017-18 season. TMP loses a handful of seniors and Vitztum and Koenigsman must take on new leadership roles. “It’s going to be a lot different because the leadership was usually very spread out,” said Vitztum. “With Aubrey and I as the only returners, we really have to step up a lot and show the other girls we’re just as good and we can get back to state. We’re not hopeless just because we lost a few people.” As the leading scorer from two years ago and one of the leading scorers from last year, Vitztum is ready to do even more for her team this winter. “I’ll definitely be taking more outside shots

than I used to and be stronger on the inside, maybe going at the basket harder than I already do,” she said. The ability is there. Vitztum has earned all-state honors in all three of her varsity ventures. She’s played varsity volleyball for all four years at TMP, earning all-state honors her sophomore and junior years. The Lady Monarchs qualified for state in 2016 but did not advance out of pool play with losses to Hesston and Silver Lake, the two teams who went on to play for the title. Vitztum has also been a three-year varsity soccer player in the spring, earning all-state honors as a junior last season. TMP played for the Class 4-3-21A state championship but lost a 1-0 match to Class 4A’s Bishop Miege. “It really helps me stay in shape and keeps me prepared for going up and down the court,” Vitztum said. “It helps keep me in that competitive mindset of wanting to win and do well.” Heading into her senior season, Vitztum took some of the pressure off herself by verbally committing to play volleyball at Newman University next year. “I have a really big passion for it,” she said. “I’ve loved it ever since I started it when I was little. My freshman year, I kind of knew that’s what I wanted to do.” Only time will tell what the Lady Monarchs are capable of in the 2017-18 season. TMP opens the season in the Hays City Shootout in December.

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Mid-Continent Continued from Page 30 Her sister, senior Maeson, tallied 9.2 points and 5.4 rebounds. A big change came on defense. Bremerman used Fort Hays’ defense her first season. Last year, she changed the look. Instead of denying the ball, Plainville played off the ball and help side often, which allowed the Cardinals to read more and collect steals. “We play well together,” Aubree, a second team all-league pick, said. “A lot of us have been playing together for a really long time.” Plainville boys The Plainville boys have been a solid program with coach Chris Drees, formerly a TMP graduate, Monarch assistant and Palco head coach. Plainville went 14-8, 6-3 on an experienced team that returned its entire roster last winter. This year, the Cardinals return senior Hayden Gillum, who averaged 9.1 points and 5.6 rebounds. Sophomore Jared Casey could have a breakout year after he tallied 7.5 points and 2.9 rebounds.

Ellis boys Ellis, with coach Brandon Maska, graduated Easton Smith, who averaged 20 points and seven rebounds a contest. The Railers (15-9, 4-5 MCL) return senior forward Ryan Herl and senior guard Joseph Eck. Ellis girls The Railer girls, led by Perry Mick, finished 7-14, 2-7. Senior forward Kaylyn Foster, a key contributor even as a freshman, will lead the team, after second team allleague honors. Senior Cassie Waldschmidt is a four-year starter at point guard. Foster suffered injury in volleyball this fall and was in a boot at the start of October. Hill City girls Hill City, paced by four-year starting point guard Conner Keith, finished 17-7, 7-2 in league. Keith averaged 17.2 points, and, like Hamilton has already cleared 1,000 career points. She has a school mark 285 steals and has led HC to three straight state tournaments. Senior Carrie Kennedy collected honorable mention all-conference with 5.9 points and 9.3 rebounds. Senior

Lauren Jones averaged 10.5 points. All of HC’s points came from non-seniors. Hill City boys HC boys coach Keith Riley, on the bench for the Ringnecks since the ‘60s, paced his team to an 11-11 record, 5-4 in league. He graduated point guard Zech Wilson (20 points, 13 rebounds). Senior Garrett Handley led with 8.4 points and 3.7 rebounds. Smith Center girls and boys Smith Center girls, traditionally a strong program with coach Nick Linn, slipped to 7-16. Sophomore Bree Freiling was the team’s top player with honorable mention all-MCL. The Redmen finished 7-15, while senior Brett Meyer collected 13.5 points and 10.3 rebounds a game. WaKeeney-Trego WaKeeney-Trego, which had three freshmen as its top four scorers, went 5-15 with one league win. Sophomore Adell Riedel

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Page 33

Hill City’s Keith plays tall

By Jennifer McDaniel

says she has a good feeling about the Ringnecks’ upcoming season. “We will have all of our team returning this year,” she said. “We t 5-foot, 5-inches tall, Hill also have a good group of freshmen City High School senior who will give us more depth comConner Keith is a bona fide ing off the bench. We have been to threat on the basketball court. state every year, and my goal has At point guard, the powerhouse is been to make it all four years. We known for being quick and elusive, will have a tough sub-state, and will sneaking past taller defenders, have to play well to get there again throwing them off their game. this year.” In a sport where height is often To be successful, Keith knows it considered an advantage, Keith shattakes hard work and commitment. ters the misconception, showing This summer, she already started that speed and skill are more crucial Photo Courtesy of DMW Photography + Design, Plainville laying the groundwork for another than size. “My height, or lack of height, can Conner Keith ends her high school basketball successful season with daily workcareer this season at Hill City. outs, and drills focusing on ball-hanbe a disadvantage at times, but my dling and shooting. She also played teammates are always there to help,” in several Mid America Youth she said. “It does allow me to get a cent of her free throws. lot of steals that I don’t think I would Keith continued racking up honors last Basketball tournaments this summer with her Hill City teammates and her get if I was taller. I feel like I am quicker season, including bringing her career summer team, the Twin Lakes Stars. than a lot of bigger players, which gives points total to 1,005. She was also Keith also plays volleyball for Hill City me an advantage.” named her school’s all-time leader in and competes in powerlifting. Last year, Keith started playing basketball at the steals with 285 for her career. She also age of 8. At the time, she was gearing up led Hill City to the state tournament for she received Mid-Continent League All-League Honorable Mention honors for the local Elks Hoop Shoot competia third straight year, where the for volleyball, and was runner-up in the tion, and her dad took her to the gym to Ringnecks lost 57-46 to Meade, which Class 2A State Powerlifting championpractice free throws. Later, as a thirdfinished third in Class 2A. ship. grader, she played as a substitute in a few Keith not only had a 51 percent field As a senior, Keith hopes to inspire of her sister Kayla’s local rec commission goal percentage last season, but hit 34 younger players, while leading her more basketball games. percent of her shots from 3-point range. experienced teammates. But it was while watching her older In a win against Trego last January, she “I will try to motivate my team every sister, Kelsey, play during high school scored 35 points, including six 3-pointday in practice and in every game,” she ers. Keith did it again in a February and college years that Keith became said. “I have been the point guard since game against Golden Plain, scoring six inspired. more 3s, and bringing her total to 66 for we started playing in fourth grade, and “I wanted to be like her,” she said. the season. so my team does a good job of following Keith began working harder, honing With another successful season ended, my lead. I love being the leader and her skills so maybe someday she could the accolades began rolling in for Keith, being the court general.” play at the same level. including being named to the MidAlthough she’s already received several Years of practice eventually led to Continent League, Hays Daily All-Area offers from colleges and universities, high-school ball, where she earned playTeam and Kansas Sports first teams, and Keith remains undecided on which ing time as a freshman. Even during her the Topeka Capital-Journal, Wichita school she’ll attend following graduation. first year of high school, Keith was And while she isn’t sure about her colalready making her mark at point guard. Eagle and Kansas Basketball Coaches Association’s second teams. She was also lege major, Keith is certain about one During the 2016-2017 season, the recognized as the Hill City Player of the thing. junior averaged 17.2 points, 3.4 assists Year by MaxPreps website. “I want to continue my basketball and 3.4 steals per game for the As she starts her senior year, Keith career,” she said. Ringnecks. At the line, she made 74 per-

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Sides welcomes brother to court

By CONOR NICHOLL For Kansas Hardwood

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eith Sides graduated from Almena-Northern Valley High School and then attended Kansas State. After college, he took a job at Phillipsburg. Sides’ wife, Robin, graduated from Wabaunsee and played volleyball at Hutchinson Community College. Keith and Robin have three children: Trey, a junior, freshman Ty, and Taryn, currently in junior high. Keith still remains at Phillipsburg where he is the junior high school football coach, head boys’ basketball coach and golf coach. Robin is the head junior high volleyball and girls’ basketball coach. Keith, the head boys’ coach for more than 15 years, will have both of his sons on the same high school team for the first time this winter. However, he has coached the boys and the current crop of high schoolers for many years at the younger ranks. “Feel like you have more than one son, you have 10 or 12 of them,” he said. Trey Sides was generally the tallest one in his class but has played point guard since third grade. “Put a lot of hours in,” coach Sides said. “You go from practicing after school with the high school kids to practicing with the younger ones in the evenings, and then on weekends going to play tournaments. A lot of time but well worth it.” In 2015-16, the group went 9-11 and had just one senior, Kameron Tweedy. He played in just five contests before suffering an injury. Sides easily paced the squad with 14.8 points a game. “If it was another coach, I don’t know if I’d be that comfortable,” Trey said. Last year, Phillipsburg improved to 18-5 and won the Mid-Continent League tournament title against rival Norton on a last-second shot from Trey Sides. For the season, Phillipsburg had all except four points from non-seniors. In the sub-state title game, the Panthers had a 12-point lead versus the senior-laden Bluejays in and lost, 53-47. All five defeats came by six points or fewer. “Having a 12-point lead and then Norton turning it up and us turning it over, I kind of felt like our inexperience

kind of finally showed up in that game,” coach Sides said. This winter, Trey Sides is now a three-year starter, along with a host of other multi-year starters/veterans with seniors Trey Thompson, Chris Van Kooten, Jordan Ford, Jack Pakkebier, Braden Juenemann, Jacey Kellerman and juniors Nathan Moon, Treylan Courtesy Photo Gross and Kasen Phillipsburg’s Trey Sides dribbles around a defender from Keeten. Sides again led Oakley. An injury sustained late in the football season could the Panthers with sideline Trey for at least a portion of the basketball season. 16.9 points and with figure eights. paced the squad “Just the whole aspect of dribbling with 3.7 steals and 3.4 assists. He was really helps the game out,” Trey said. second with 6.4 rebounds. Thompson When Trey entered high school, he averaged 11.7 points, while VanKooten took over as the starting quarterback for delivered 8.7 points and a Panther-best the varsity team in early 2015. That fall, 7.1 rebounds. Phillipsburg has not made he helped Phillipsburg win the Class state since 1973. 2-1A state title, the first state football “Put in the work that following year, and we kind of expected more from our- championship in school history. Sides is selves actually,” Trey said. “We were kind widely believed to be the first freshman quarterback to win an 11-man state title of disappointed we ended up losing that sub-state final, but it is what it is, and we in Kansas annals. “Really put a spark in this community, will be ready to go this year.” and I think basketball would do the The Sides’ children have played sports same if we got there this year,” he said. all their lives, and Trey still recalls his Sides expected to be the starting point younger brother trying to beat him on guard in basketball as a freshman after 1-on-1. Their dad stressed ballhandling he competed against some of the older from a young age. Panthers in junior high. He is known for “That is just so important to being a a cool demeanor and staying steady. good ball player,” coach Sides said. “Being a great ball handler like him Coach Sides said Trey has “idolized” really makes it seem like he is calm out Stephen Curry and has done many of there,” coach Sides said. “He knows the same drills the Golden State Warriors’ MVP uses. Since he was seven what’s going on. He knows what I was expecting when he was young, so he to eight years old, Trey incorporated knows what to expect for now.” multiple two-basketball drills, including “Guys who panic, they tend to make more mistakes,” Trey added. Last January, Phillipsburg trailed 950 State St Norton, then ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, Phillipsburg by seven entering the fourth quarter in 785-543-2139 Delivery available 4:30-8:45pm

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

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Hamilton feels at home on court By CONOR NICHOLL For Kansas Hardwood

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orward Haven Hamilton immediately started as a freshman for Stockton in the 2014-15 season. Hamilton opened her career with four points versus Hill City. She averaged just over seven points a contest through the year’s first four games. “It was honestly terrifying,” Hamilton said. “I was so nervous, and I didn’t really think I was that good at basketball when I started. I was just kind of like a tall girl, so that was basically why I thought I was playing, so I just tried to do my best to stay away most of the time.” At the Mid-Continent League midseason tournament, Hamilton collected 21 points and eventually exceeded 20 points in five of the last 10 contests. That included 34 points in a 79-52 win against WaKeeney-Trego on Feb. 10, a performance that “helped me gain a lot of confidence.” She eventually finished with 14.2 points a game to earn first team all-league honors and helped the Tigers reach the sub-state title. “I wasn’t nervous anymore, and I wasn’t afraid to shoot, and I wasn’t afraid to make mistakes, and so it was a really big mental game,” Hamilton said. The 5-foot-10 Hamilton has continued her scoring in the last two years, despite severe internal illness as a sophomore. She has exceeded 1,000 career points, just one of seven MCL girls to reach the milestone. Stockton, a long-struggling program, has improved significantly with Hamilton and a veteran senior class. Alexa Rogers, a 2004 SHS graduate, is in her fifth year as head coach and eighth on staff. Stockton posted 5-16, 13-9, 11-11 and 20-4 marks in the last four winters. Last year, Stockton reached the Class 1A, Division I state tournament, its first state appearance since 1999. The Tigers had just 10 players; Hamilton called the team “almost the closest” squad she’d ever played on. “Anybody could step on the floor with this team and be successful, because they want to be there, they want to work hard, they work hard for each other, they work hard for me,” Rogers said. “They make my job look very easy.” Rogers and Hamilton believed Stockton had some nerves and shell-shocked emotions at state against traditional power Olpe, the eventual state runner-up. Stockton fell down 9-0 early and never led but outscored the Eagles by one point the rest of the game. “We got more comfortable, and if we had not dug a hole in the beginning, I think we could have done really good and beat Olpe,” Hamilton said.

Stockton graduated just one senior, Emily Conyac, and lost sophomore Jill Stephens, the second-leading scorer at 12 points a contest. Stephens’ dad, Tom, was the Tiger boys’ coach and took a job in Colby. Hamilton, who averaged 18 points and five rebounds in ’16-17, is joined by seniors Chloe Scott, Delayne Colburn, Madalyn Billinger and Shayanne Wente. Sophomore Shaelyn Griffin scored 15 points off the bench at state. Sophomore Tatum Hamilton, Haven’s only sibling, is a key reserve. Stockton looks to reach state and upend TMP, a back-to-back Class 3A Final Four team, in the conference. “We have a really good shot of making it back again, and now they know what it takes,” Rogers said. Hamilton, a standout in volleyball, loves both sports. She has received interest from Division II and junior college schools, namely Cloud County, and had a Wichita State University coach contact her this summer.

She started getting involved with dance and little kids’ sports at four and still participates on the Tiger dance/cheer teams. “I wasn’t that good starting out in basketball or volleyball, but through the years I have done a lot of MAYB tournaments, club tournaments, AAU tournaments, and I think that has really helped,” Hamilton said. She learned from her aunt, Susan, a longtime coach. Susan Hamilton (Schneider) tallied 1,607 career points for the Tigers and graduated in 1979. Still the Tigers’ all-time leading scorer, she coached for more than 30 years with Stockton, including serving as varsity assistant all four seasons in Rogers’ high school years. Rogers, who has great respect for Susan, still remembers her staying 15 to 20 minutes after practice to work on her shot, ball handling and other skills. Susan coached her nieces in junior high. “She honestly taught me everything I knew growing up,” Haven said. “I remember if I have ever had a problem with doing a certain thing in basketball, she would work to help me fix it for a whole summer. I remember back when I was in elementary school, I didn’t know how to do jump shots, so she just kept practicing and practicing with me until I got it.” After the standout freshman year, Hamilton first started getting very ill after sub-state volleyball as a sophomore. She didn’t feel herself until sub-state basketball. Hamilton had no energy and needed a lot of medicine. She tried to get all of her homework done during school, so she could go home and fall asleep. “It was honestly not very fun,” Hamilton said. “It was everything I could just to make it through practice everyday, but through that, Alexa Rogers was there for me, the whole team was there for me. The amount of support they showed for me was unreal, and they really helped me push through that season.” Hamilton never wanted to stop playing, but on the toughest days, she just had to watch practice. She had a surgical procedure in Hays in Jan. 2016 and missed just one contest. She tallied 17.7 points a game as the Tigers lost in the sub-state title game to Thunder Ridge. Rogers labeled the season “rough” and said it “built a lot of character” for last winter as Stockton learned to play to without its best player “It actually helped us along the way more than what they actually realized,” she said. Stockton lost to TMP by 24 on Jan. 21 in the league tournament championship game. For several weeks before the Feb. 17 rematch,

Photo courtesy Stockton Sentinel

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Courtesy Photo

Former Duke player/ESPN analyist Jay Bilas is shown with St. Francis player Tate Busse at Bilas’ skills camp. See story on Page 38.


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

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They play to win in the NWKL

By Jennifer McDaniel For Kansas Hardwood

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sk coaches in the Northwest Kansas League to describe the level of competition they face throughout basketball season, and over and over they talk about how their players face stiff match-ups, tough athletes and solid teams from top to bottom. Add to that, they’re going head-to-head with seasoned coaches who consistently lead teams to multiple state championships. But it’s those hard-fought battles during basketball season, that not only makes their league one of the strongest in the state, but prepares them for state championship play. But out here, the competition isn’t the only thing that’s tough. The league includes Atwood-Rawlins County, Dighton, Hoxie, Oberlin-Decatur, Quinter, Sharon Springs-Wallace County, St. Francis and Tribune-Greeley County — western Kansas farming communities planted in the farthest reaches of the state. Often facing brutal winters and blistering summers, these counties are some of the least-populated in the state. But there’s no isolation here. Instead, there’s a strong sense of community that’s reflected in the number of fans who pack their local high-school gyms — especially on Friday nights. During the 2016-2017 season, teams like Hoxie’s boys’ and girls’ teams led the league, but it was Wallace County’s boys’ team, led by long-time head coach Larry O’Connor, who took the Class 1A-Division II state championship. Other teams making strong finishes last season included Dighton boys’ and girls’ teams along with St. Francis. Hoxie prepares for another season Boys The Hoxie boys finished the season 19-5 overall and 7-0 in league play, winning the sub-state championship and placing fourth in the Class 2A state tournament. In his fourth year, head coach Jake Moss, has the luxury of his entire roster returning for another year. Returning starters include seniors Easton Slipke, 5’9”, 17.1 points per game and 4.4 rebounds, and Latham Schwarz, 5’8”, 12.6 points and 3.6 rebounds, and juniors Jarrod Dible, 5’11”, 11.1 points and 8 rebounds, Sean Robben, 6’5”, 7.0 points and 5.7 rebounds, and Logan Weimer, 5’8”, 8.9 points and 4.9 rebounds. “Many of these guys have been playing varsity since they were freshmen,” Moss said. “They all put in the work this summer to improve themselves, and they are a great

Northwest Kansas • Rawlins County-Atwood • Dighton • Hoxie • Greeley County-Tribune • Quinter • Wallace County-Sharon Springs

Photo of Atwood Lady Buffs courtesy of Rawlins County Square Deal.

bunch to coach.” “We are a real streaky shooting team, which can be good and bad. We have the ability to create some mismatches with our size on offense. Defensively, we have to be able to guard bigger teams. When we focus on making stops defensively, we have proven we can do it — just has to be on a more-consistent basis.” Despite the confidence in knowing his winning team returns this season, he also knows the league schools also have their own collection of talent. “The league graduated a lot of talented seniors,” Moss said. “St. Francis has one of the top players in the league and a solid group of underclassmen who can step in and play at a high level. Atwood returns two allleague players who are a tough guard/post combo. Sharon Springs always has a good team and are the defending 1A-Division II state champions. Dighton will have some of the bigger physical posts in our league.” Girls Last season, the Indians finished 19-3 overall and 9-0 in league play. Returning seniors Lilly Schamberger, 5’9”, and Rebekah Castle, 5’11”, are expected to lead the Lady Indians. Both players were named to the AllNWKL Girls’ Basketball Team last year.

Schamberger was named to the first team, while Castle received third-team honors. First-year head coach Jared Dowell replaces Todd Cossman, who stepped in last season, replacing long-time coach Shelly Hoyt, who took Hoxie to multiple state titles and a state record for most consecutive wins. Dighton eyes improvement Girls In her 16th year, head coach Amy Felker hopes to lead her Lady Hornets to a winning season, but knows it won’t be easy. Last season, the Hornets were 21-3 overall and 6-1 in league play, finishing second in the league and qualifying for state. Returning starters this season include juniors Emily Sheppard, who averaged 2.4 points per game and 2.8 rebounds; Kenadee O’Brien, who chipped in 1.7 points per game and 3.8 rebounds; and Gentry Shapland, who put up 1.3 points and 2.3 rebounds. Other players returning this season will be sophomore Ella Roberts and senior Mallory Dowell. “We lost 66 percent of our scoring from a year ago, and so the new girls will have to step up and want to become scorers,” Felker said. “Our goal is to improve every practice and every game.” While her players are committed to working hard, Felker knows they’ll have to work even harder to make up the height differential. Based on her roster, her starting players have an average height of 5’5”. “The girls have heart, and are hard workers,” Felker said. “These girls know the system, but will take on different roles ... we will have to work even harder that other teams on defense and rebounding.” Looking ahead to the season, Felker predicts Hoxie and Quinter finishing at the top, followed by a tight race among Dighton, Rawlins County, St. Francis and Wallace County. Boys In his second year as head coach, Ben Wilkens will have to look at his players to step up and lead. Gone are players Tyler Lingg, Dylan Foos and Lake Lewis, who helped lead the team to a 15-7 season and 8-1 in district play. The team also was the sub-state runner-up. Senior Logan Lingg, 6’2”, returns this year. Lingg received all-league honorable mention honors last season. St. Francis Despite losing players to graduation, head coach Cory Busse is ready for a new season.

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Busse eyes all-time scoring record By Mike Courson For Kansas Hardwood

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ate Busse had a big junior year in St. Francis. As a wide receiver, Busse helped the Indian football team to a state runner-up finish in November. He was the leading scorer on the Indian basketball team that finished fourth at state. And last spring, Busse was part of two state champion relay teams on the track. His senior season could be even bigger. Last season, Busse became the fifth player in St. Francis High history to reach the 1,000-point mark. Heading into his final season for the Indians, he’s likely to set a new school record for career points before Christmas break. “It’s obviously cool to get that but I don’t really care,” Busse said. “It’s as long as we’re winning games.” Last year, St. Francis won 22 games and qualified for state for the first time in 20 years. The Indians entered the Class 1A, Div. I state tournament as the No. 3 seed, promptly beating South Barber before falling to eventual champion Hanover in the semifinals. St. Francis just missed out on some hardware, losing a 59-56 double-overtime battle to Burlingame in the consolation finals. With Busse, two other seniors, and a handful of younger players back, the goal is to make it back to state in 2018. “I think we can be just as good this year,” Busse said. “We have some pretty good younger kids coming up.” Busse does a little of everything on the court. Last year he paced the Indians at 19.7 points, 4 assists, and 2.7 steals a night.

Busse also happens to be one of the best shooters in Kansas. He made 81 percent of his 66 free throw attempts last season, and made 46 percent of his 3-point tries on 80-of-175 shooting. “I’m probably more known for my 3-point shooting but I like to do it all,” he said. Doing it all will come in handy for the senior leader on the squad this year. Tate’s father, Cory Busse, is entering his third season as coach of the Indians. With Brock Waters (14.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg) gone to graduation, Cory will look to Tate and others to fill some big shoes. “I think Tate’s going to have to pick up his game,” Cory said. “When you look at team stats, there were eight games in the season where he played 15 or fewer minutes because we had a big margin. His stats were good – we don’t really care about that, we care about the wins and losses – but he put really good numbers up and he did it without getting to play full games. “I think Tate’s ability to pick his production up is definitely there. He’s a great passer. He got double-teamed all the time last year. Teams knew if they could hold him down it’s definitely harder for us to win. I think he’s going to have to pick his production up in all aspects of the game, and I think he’s going to have to figure out where the double-team is coming from and find that kid. He is a great leader on the court. He makes everyone around him better, and I know he will continue to do that because that’s just how he plays.” Tate stayed busy over the summer. In June, he attended the Jay Bilas Skills Camp in Oklahoma City. Bilas, a former player and assistant coach at Duke and current ESPN analyst, was joined by Paul Biancardi, ESPN’s

national recruiting director for boy’s high school basketball, and approximately 20 college coaches. “The Bilas camp was a great experience for him,” Cory said. “He did really well there. He got to go against some really good kids and did well against them. I think the knock on kids coming from a small town is they may have trouble competing outside a smaller venue. That’s not the case at all with Tate. It doesn’t matter who he’s playing against, he plays really well. He showed that at the Bilas camp.” Some 70 players attended the camp and all participated in the King of the Court 1-on-1 tournament. Tate defeated Rondel Walker for the championship. Walker, just a sophomore in Oklahoma City, already has offers from the likes of Oklahoma State University. “It was exciting to watch that,” said Cory. “Tate would beat a kid and they’d bring another on and they just kept going. That was a lot of fun.” Later in the summer, Tate helped at the Ron Baker Basketball Camp in Garden City. Baker, the former Scott City and Wichita State standout and current New York Knick, has also followed some of Tate’s success on social media. At the camp, Tate was able to scrimmage with some Shocker players. All the work is setting Tate up for a big senior season. It started in the fall on the gridiron, and coach/dad hopes everything pays off this winter on the basketball court. “Athletically, Tate has Div. I talent,” Cory said. “It’s just whether he gets a chance. He’s about 6-2 and hopefully he’ll grow a little bit more. If he gets a chance, he’ll make a believer out of a coach. It’s just doing everything right until he does.”

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Northwest

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up and lead to keep the Wildcats’ winning tradition alive. Last season, the Wildcats captured the Last year, the Indians finished 22-4 overall, Class 1A-II state title with a 69-54 win over taking first place in the league tournament Hartford. The championship, which was the and second in regular season play. team’s second in three seasons, also resulted Returning starters this season include in O’Connor being recognized as the Boys’ seniors, Dalton Straub and Tate Busse, both Coach of the Year by the Hays Daily News. 6’2”, and Brady Dinkel, a 6’2” sophomore. Last season, the Wildcats went 20-6 overOther returning players include seniors Jake all, and 5-3 in league play, tying for third Faulkender, Jordan Raby, KC Krien, Tayton place. Weeter, Draven Houtman and Connor Keller. This year, returning starters, senior Carlin “We lost some really good athletes to gradSpringsteel and junior Trever Medina, will be uation, but we have some good kids coming joined by senior Seth Johnson, and juniors, up,” Busse said. “We will just see who wants Andrew Noone, Trevor Fischer, Luke Johnson, to work hard to fill the spots. Dalton Straub Esteban Rodriguez, Lanndon Bowles and Josh has the ability to be a really good player Daily. inside. He can rebound well and he has great “Carlin is one of the best defensive players feet. He should be a big contributor inside I’ve coached,” O’Connor said. “He guarded for us. three of the best 1A “Brady is a good, allDivision II player at state around ball player. If he can “Our league is a tough one. Hoxie, Wallace County and Rawlins and held them to half their get a little more aggressive and forceful with the ball, he County will all be good again. There isn’t a team in the league averages. Trever Medina will be a tough match-up for you can look past, even the teams that don’t have a ton of kids will be one of the top players in 1A this season. He’s a lot of teams. have really good coaches. Quinter is a good example. Coach a very skilled defensive “Tate has the chance to be player.” Crist is a state champion coach, and he always has his team very good again. He was first Although his team is team all-state last season and playing really well so we will have a tough league schedule.” made up of deep, athletic was named to the first five shooters, O’Connor said Cory Busse state tournament team, and his players will need to St. Francis Boys’ Coach does everything really well. step up and lead. He also He needs to get more has several returning playaggressive with the ball. He ers with little varsity expeis a great outside shooter. Johnson, Weeter and Bandel also took on big rience. But O’Connor knows those skills will He shot 46 percent from three last year with have to develop for his team to be successful. roles at a young age, and they have adapted more makes than anyone else in the state. “The NWKL is one of the best leagues in well to the higher level of competition.” “All three of these kids will need to pick up the state for our size,” he said. “Without play“Laten, Dinkel and Sundstrom bring a lot their intensity a little bit each game and be to our team. They lead by example on and off ing our league schedule last year, we would the leaders on the floor. We have some really not have won state.” the court.” good kids to fill spots, we just need them to O’Connor sees Hoxie taking the league Zweygardt said her Lady Indians worked get after it. There are some very good athtitle, followed by St. Francis, Atwoodhard this summer, competing in a few tourletes in our lower classes, and we gained a Rawlins Co., Dighton, Sharon Springs, naments and focusing on skill development, new player this year in senior Wyatt Hackler. all in preparation to face off against teams Quinter, Tribune and Oberlin. He is a very quick kid and a competitor; we league teams like Quinter. are glad to have him. The freshmen class has Girls “Our first game is against Quinter on Dec. some really good ball players in it. We will The Lady Wildcats return senior starter 1,” she said. “We lost to Quinter in the subsee how they step up, but I expect some of Sydni Allen this season after finishing 2016state finals. It was a great game, and both them to really contribute as the season goes 17 with a 11-8 record and 3-4 overall. This teams competed well — we just came out on.” short. Being as we didn’t have any seniors last year’s team will be led by head coach Alicia While Busse sees his team being strong in Collett. year, our girls knew what we needed to work outside shooting and rebounding, he knows on the first day we got in the gym this sumthere’s a learning curve for some players inex- mer. One of our top rebounders and defenRawlins County — Atwood perienced at playing at the varsity level. In his second year as head coach, Ryan sive players from the 2016-2017 season “Our league is a tough one,” he said. injured her knee during track. We are hoping Marvin has experienced players to help lead “Hoxie, Wallace County and Rawlins County she will be back with us for majority of the his team this season. Returning starters will all be good again. There isn’t a team in include seniors Braden Leitner, 5’5”, Nick season.” the league you can look past, even the teams Withington, 6’1”, and Jorge Chacon, 5’9”. that don’t have a ton of kids have really good Rawlins County finished the 2016-17 seaWallace County — coaches. Quinter is a good example. Coach son with a record of 8-13 overall, and 3-6 in Sharon Springs Crist is a state champion coach, and he league play. Fresh off a state championship win last always has his team playing really well so we season, Wildcats head coach Larry O’Connor will have a tough league schedule.” will rely on his team of young players to step See NORTHWEST, Page 40

Continued from Page 37

Girls As she goes into the 2017-2018 season, head coach ShayLinn Zweygardt is focused on continuing to build on a program that was 12-11 overall last season and 4-5 in league play. Returning starters include seniors Hanna Bracelin, 5’10”, Reagan Beims, 5’10”, sophomores Taighe Weeter, 5’7”, and Karly Bandel, 5’5”, and junior Lauren Johnson, 5’8”. Other returning players include seniors Emileigh Dinkel, Zoe Sundstrom and Jylian Laten, junior Lindsey Johnson and sophomore Hannah Zimbal. “Bracelin and Beims have been starting since they were sophomores, and we look to them for leadership on and off the court,” Zweygardt said. “They have really helped develop the program the past few years.


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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Northwest Continued from Page 39 Girls The Lady Buffaloes return veteran players this season, including senior starters Natalie Hawkins, 5’10”, and Amy Crouse, 5’6”. Under head coach Brad Pfortmiller, the Lady Buffaloes finished the 2016-2017 season with a 9-13 record and 2-5 in district play. Quinter Long-time head coach John Crist knows he faces a tough league this season, and is looking to his younger players to step up their game to play effectively at the varsity level. In his 25 years at Quinter, he’s logged a 381173 record, and a career record of 400-196. During the 2016-17 season, the Bulldogs were 8-13 overall, and 2-5 in district play, finishing sixth in the league. Returning starters include 6’4” junior Conner Havlas and Luke Kaiser, a 5’10” senior. Last season, Havlas averaged 14.3 point per game and 7.9 rebounds. Kaiser also chipped in 4.6 points per game and 4.2 rebounds. Other players returning this season are Kosen Ostmeyer, a 6’0” sophomore, Gordon Wolf, a 5’8” junior, and Abram Caasi, 5’8” senior. “Conner Havlas is our leading-scorer from last year,” Crist said. “I am expecting him to be our leader on both ends of the floor. Luke Kaiser, a senior guard, will be our best defender and provide great leadership for us.” With the Bulldogs being low on numbers this year, Crist says it will be important for the team to remain healthy going into a tough league schedule. “The NWKL will be very strong again,” he said. “Last year, we had Sharon Springs win IA-Division II, St. Francis finished fourth in 1A-Division I, and Hoxie finished fourth in 2A. All those teams will be very good again. The league is very strong from top to bottom. I think Hoxie is the team to beat - all of their players return from last year.” Girls In his fourth season, head coach Matt Havlas will again lead the Lady Bulldogs this season, building on the work he’s done the last three

Hamilton

Continued from Page 35

Stockton used some of practice time to work against TMP sets. The Tigers played the Monarchs again and fell by six, a defeat that propelled Stockton into the postseason.

years to turn the program around. When he took over the program, the Lady Bulldogs had a winless record. That soon changed. After stacking up more wins in recent years,

the team went 15-9 overall last season and 5-4 in league play.

The Lady Bulldogs reached the state championship last season with a 44-36 victory over St. Francis in the Class 1A-Division I sub-state championship game. It was the first time since 2007 the team reached state. However, the Bulldogs lost on the first day of championship play to Centralia, the defending Class 1A-Division I champions. Returning starters include seniors Kylie Crist, Rebekah Kitch and Peyton Havlas. Greeley County-Tribune Head coach Josh Gooch goes into the 20172018 season knowing he’ll have his entire starting lineup returning this year. Gooch finished his first season as the Jackrabbits head coach with an overall record of 6-16 and 1-6 in league play. Returning starters include senior Evan Crotinger and junior Jose Chavez. Other team veterans include juniors Sebastian Torres, Jaly Yanez and Thatcher Lackey who will also contribute. “With no seniors last year, we return everybody from last year’s squad,” Gooch said. “Last year was a learning curve for all of us, and at the end of the year, we started coming together. We’ll have great leadership with everyone returning.” While the Jackrabbits will rely on their post play, Gooch said his team found an effective offensive game, helping them play more cohesively toward the end of the season. The team will keep working on its outside shooting game, he said, noting his players challenged themselves in the gym during the summer. Our league is tough,” he said. “St. Francis got fourth in 1A-Division I, and Hoxie got fourth in 2A. Wallace County won 1A-Division II. Hoxie didn’t lose much, so they will be tough. St. Francis returns the league MVP, and Wallace County returns one starter.”

Hamilton earned all-state honors for the second straight year and surpassed 1,000 points, a mark she played little attention to until Dighton standout duo of Sara Cramer and Jordan Speer went over the milestone in the same game. Hamilton sat down with her parents and real-

Girls In his first year as head coach, Justin Sherer will be relying on his veterans this season to not just put points on the board, but guide and mentor his younger players. Last season, the Jackrabbits went 5-16 overall and 2-8 in league play. Returning starters include seniors Hannah Brandl and Caela Ibarra and sophomore Mattie Brandl. Last season, Hannah Brandl scored 16 points per game and 12 rebounds, while Ibarra contributed seven points per game and seven rebounds. Other returning players include senior Abby Berggren, junior Brittney Luebbers and sophomores Lauren Crotinger and Kamryn Youmans. “We are looking for our seniors to lead us this year and are expecting great things from them,” Sherer said. “We look for them to not only lead us in points and rebounding, but also in other aspects of the game as well, such as leadership, effort and attitude. We have a solid group of underclassmen, and I look for them to take a big step forward in filling the holes left by last year’s seniors.” Sherer said his team must improve on both sides of the ball, adding his players will need to focus on playing consistently. “We play in a really competitive league,” he said. “I look for Dighton, Hoxie and Quinter to be good this year like they have been in the past. Rawlins County, Wallace County, and St. Francis are all good teams. Decatur Community took big strides last year, I thought, and play tough. We really can’t afford to take a game off. We have to be ready to play every night.” Oberlin-Decatur Community Last season, the Red Devils finished with an overall record of 2-19 and were 0-7 in league play under Travis Williams, former head coach. This year, head coach Tim Breth has returned to coach the team, which includes returning 5’11” senior Kole Breth, a 5’11” senior. Girls Head coach Brandon Gehring hopes to improve on last season, which saw the Red Devils finish 5-15 overall and 1-7 in league play.

ized she was close. On Feb. 21, she cleared 1,000 in a 66-37 road win against Phillipsburg. Stockton defeated TR, 72-49, in the sub-state title game for the Tigers’ best season in 18 years. “They took it to a whole new level,” Rogers said.


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Page 41

And the success goes on

By CONOR NICHOLL For Kansas Hardwood

T

he Western Kansas Liberty League, headlined by Golden Plains, Wheatland-Grinnell and Logan in the last several years, has produced state-caliber teams at both 1A classifications. The WKLL’s success should again continue this winter. Parker Christensen has built the RexfordGolden Plains’ girls basketball program into a consistent winner. Christensen has spent 22 seasons with the Bulldogs and had assistant Steve Shaw for the past 12. Christensen is 298-254 overall, including a 20-5 record and fourth-place showing in Class 1A, Division II last year. GP has made the state tournament consecutive winters and four times in the last five seasons, including a runner-up. Christensen returns four players who had key roles. Junior guard KayCee Miller averaged 14 points, six rebounds, five steals and three assists a contest. Senior center Kaylie Schaben delivered five points and seven rebounds. Senior guard Maggi Nieman delivered five points, two steals and two assists a game. The Bulldog boys struggled to a threewin season in ’16-17. “Our goals will be to improve each day and be playing our best ball toward the end of the season and make it back to the state tournament,” Christensen said. “We will have to develop our younger players, especially a strong in-coming freshman class. We could have more depth than we have had for several seasons, may be able to go nine deep. As always, we need to stay healthy and injury free and most importantly, have FUN.” Wheatland-Grinnell girls took Class 1A, Division II state runner-up behind coach Cheryl Martin. W-G had a large group of seniors and an excellent defense under Martin, who also led the Thunderhawks to a final four showing three years ago. W-G permitted under 39 points a contest last winter and went 58-14 in the past three seasons. Seniors Lanae Goetz and Zoe Schultz averaged 8.3 points and 7.1 points per contest, respectively. Each averaged more than two steals a game for a squad that tallied 19.8 steals a game, best in Kansas, according to MaxPreps. The W-G boys achieved a 14-10 record and state berth in ’16-17. Will Bixenman, a former Thunderhawk standout and assistant coach, takes over for Brendan Ptacek this winter. The Thunderhawks have reached state two times in the past three seasons and earned league tournament runner-up in ’1617.

Western Kansas Liberty • Almena - Northern Valley • Bird City - Cheylin • Tri-Plains Brewster • Wheatland • Logan • Palco • Rexford - Golden Plains • Western Plains

Senior Chandler Ostmeyer is one of Kansas’ top small-school players. Last year, Ostmeyer came back from a knee injury and delivered 14.6 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore point guard Kyler Haffner and junior guard Zach Gillespie combined for more than nine points a contest. W-G graduated three seniors who combined for more than 33 points per game. “Getting better everyday and staying healthy are keys to achieving our goals,” Bixenman said. “Championships are won at practice. Our everyday goal is to win at practice. To do that, we have to be competitive, be relentless, and our ultimate goal will take care of itself. The ultimate goal is to return to Dodge City and make a run in the tournament. If we can stay healthy, we have a great shot at meeting that goal.” Logan boys Logan boys went to state two years ago and earned a final four trip, its first state appearance since 1997. That season, Logan set the school record for fewest points allowed per game. Last year, the Trojans finished 15-7. Logan graduated forward Josh Van Laeys. He averaged 17.1 points and 13.3 rebounds under coach Mark Wildeman. He

pulled down 17 defensive rebounds in a Dec. 6 contest and broke a school mark that had stood since 1969. Seniors Riley Allen, Lane Stapleton and Colton Greving return after they averaged 7.1, 7.1 and 4.1 points per game, respectively. Allen finished second to Van Laeys with 6.7 rebounds. Girls The Logan girls (12-10) graduated standout Karlee Braun. She led the team with 12 points, 6.1 rebounds, four steals and 2.6 assists a contest. However, the Trojans return 67 percent of their scoring, headlined by senior Ryann Kats, for third-year coach Logan Waters. She finished second to Braun with 7.8 points, two assists and 1.4 steals. Kats finished third with 5.2 rebounds behind senior Lexi Hilburn (6.7 points, six rebounds). Cheylin The Cougar boys went 7-14 with coach Kody Tegtmeier. Carter Porubsky graduated after he averaged 16.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.4 steals a game, all team-bests. Senior Erik Perez delivered seven points and 2.7 rebounds a contest. Max Keltz, who has served more than 25 years in various coaching roles with Cheylin, led the Cougar girls to a 6-16 mark on a young squad that returns 83 percent of its scoring this season. Cheylin paced Kansas with eight blocks a game. Senior 6’0” center Rachel Keltz, the coach’s daughter, averaged 12.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and 4.7 blocks. Junior 5-10 forward Jesie Frisbie delivered 11.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. All four Keltz children — Caleb, Joshua and Elizabeth the older three — produced outstanding careers with Cheylin. Northern Valley Northern Valley junior Paige Baird is one of state’s top three-sport athletes, regardless of classification. She helped NV finish 12-10 and 11-10 the last two winters, the first winning records for the program since ’09-10. She averaged 18.3 points and 2.1 steals, both team-highs, and tacked on 4.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists. All 900 points return for the Huskies. Senior Chaylee Lowry delivered 10.2 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. Boys The Husky boys, under longtime coach Chuck Fessenden, delivered an 18-4 season that averaged 64 points a contest. NV

See LIBERTY, Page 42


Page 42

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Holcomb regroups with same goals By CONOR NICHOLL For Kansas Hardwood

H

olcomb enjoyed a bevy of talent en route to a 24-1 season and Class 4A, Division II championship last winter, one of several historical seasons for GWAC schools. The Longhorns held off rival Scott City, 65-51, in sub-state. At the state tournament, the Longhorns defeated Smoky Valley, 65-45, and then beat Topeka Hayden, 73-69, in overtime in the semifinals. In the championship, the Longhorns cruised by Pratt, 60-45. Conner VanCleave, an all-stater in three sports and a Kansas baseball signee, had 31 points and 15 rebounds in the title. He opened the game on a personal 10-0 run. Holcomb earned its fourth state basketball crown and second in three years. This season, seventh-year coach Chad Novack has to replace many of the key pieces. He is 120-22 in his Longhorn career. The state title was his 200th career victory to go along with 87 losses in 15 years. Senior guard Trey Gilbert is back, along with 6’9” senior center Kobe Dickson for a team that also captured the midseason Dodge City Tournament of Champions as the smallest school. Holcomb defeated Newton, Shawnee Mission South and Derby to win the prestigious tournament. Holcomb went 10-0 in league and has been to state

Great Western Activities • Colby • Goodland • Holcomb • Hugoton • Scott City • Ulysses

three of the past four seasons. The Longhorns have long enjoyed prolific offenses, including 61.4 points per game last winter. Gilbert averaged 10.9 points, second to VanCleave, who tallied 18.8 points and 13.9 rebounds. Dickson had 9.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. VanCleave, Brandon Stegman (seven points a game) and Michael Roth (5.6 points per contest) were the only seniors.

“Our team goals are the same as every year,” Novack said. “We want to improve each and every day on and off the court, win league, win sub-state, and win state. Our success will depend on our team’s ability to work hard every possession every single day whether we are in practice or a game.” The Holcomb girls went 9-14 with coach Nathan Novack. Senior Eboni Sapien averaged 10.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.4 steals and 2.9 assists a contest. Sophomores Darien Mader and Madison Ruda finished as the third- and fourth-leading scorers with 5.1 and 3.9 points a contest, respectively. Hugoton girls graduated Miss Kansas basketball Katy Heger, all-stater Amy Scott and had its coach Andy Gillen leave to take the Caney Valley boys’ program. Gillen led the Eagles to two 4A-II state championships, including a 26-0 mark last winter. Gillen finished 107-14 as Hugoton’s coach in five years. Heger signed with Washburn, Scott at Seward County Community College and Sydney​Hein at Oklahoma Baptist. Lead assistant Jeff Ramsey remains on staff for a squad that returns all-state point guard Dallie Hoskinson. She averaged 13.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.5 steals and 4.2 assists — the latter three numbers all leading the team. Hugoton, which averaged 67

See GREAT WESTERN, Page 43

Liberty Continued from Page 42 returns it top five scorers, headlined by junior Riley Sides. He collected a team-high 18.6 points, 4.9 assists and 2.5 steals a game. NV lost, 74-73 in two overtimes to Wheatland-Grinnell in the sub-state championship game. The Huskies had defeated W-G by 27 and 11 earlier in the winter. Triplains-Brewster Kent Gfeller has built a solid program with the Titan girls. Triplains-Brewster finished 10-10. After winning just eight games combined from 2010-12, Gfeller took over the program and posted a 65-42 mark. The top three scorers return. Senior Maia Carter led with 11.7 points and 6.9 rebounds. Senior Taryn Stramel delivered 10.7 points and 10.4 rebounds. Senior Katie Hillery contributed 9.1

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Boys The Titan boys, with coach Michael S Hwy 40 • Winona, KS Collett, 785-846-7473 reached the sub-state title game the last four seasons. How-ever, T-B has lost each occasion, including to St. Francis last winter. The 13-8 Titans graduated 60 percent of its scoring. Senior Jacob Benham was third with 7.2

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points and led with 3.2 assists. Palco Palco, with coach Robert Weber, finished 7-13. Senior David Thompson led with 16.8 points and 9.5 rebounds for a roster that had just seven players. The Rooster girls went 8-13 under Kyle Fox, who took the Stockton boys’ basketball position. Palco listed just 12 girls on the team and returns its second-leading scorer Desi Desaire. She tallied 10.7 points a contest and led with 3.7 steals. Weskan Weskan boys finished 8-13 under coach Jason Young. The Coyotes bring back its top two scorers with seniors Bailey McQuillan (14.5 points/game) and Dallas Seader (11.8 points/ contest). The Coyote girls finished 11-10.


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Page 43

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points a game, ranked in the top-100 nationally in scoring, three-pointers and assists, according to MaxPreps. Emmanuel Adigun, who coached the Pratt girls’ basketball team the last four years, takes over for Hugoton. Scott City girls had a standout season under first-year coach Sara McCormick, a standout in high school and college at Cheney, Independence Community College and most notably Emporia State. McCormick coached at several high schools, including a 101-21 record and two top-three state showings at Garden Plain. McCormick has turned around a Scott City girls’ basketball program that had long struggled. In her first year, the Beavers finished 7-14. Last winter, SC went 14-11 and went to state for the first time in school history. Scott City defeated rival Holcomb, 45-42, in the sub-

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Page 44

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

The Heat is on in Wheat State By MIKE COURSEN For Kansas Hardwood

A

sub-state thriller in Goessel last March set the stage for a good rivalry in the upcoming season. Goessel went 9-0 in league play, including a 36-35 win against Rural Vista. Rural Vista had the final say with a comeback win in that sub-state championship to advance to the state tournament. With key players back for both schools, the 2017-18 season is shaping up to be an exciting one in the WSL. Goessel girls The Lady Bluebirds climbed all the way to No. 5 in the 1A, Div. I ranks and made a 9-0 run through league competition, but it still wasn’t enough to land Goessel a spot at state last season. Losing just two seniors, Goessel will again be a favorite for a league title in 2017-18. Olivia Duerksen and Jennifer Meysing each played in all 22 games last year but combined for just 9.3 points a night. The Hiebert cousins are expected to be among the league’s best this winter. Senior Eden Hiebert led the team with 14.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.9 steals, and 2.9 assists a night a year ago. Senior Brittney Hiebert averaged 13 points per game. The Hieberts and coach Ryan Hoopes will have plenty of experience around them. Four other seniors played in all 22 games last season, and three juniors also saw action in every varsity contest last year. Rural Vista girls Rural Vista won 18 games and made it all the way to state last year. The Lady Heat did it largely with underclassmen. With four starters back, expectations are through the roof for second-year coach Kane Hensley. “We are hoping to improve on our 18-6 overall and 7-1 league record from last year and compete for a league title,” he said. Hensley was poised for an even better roster before senior Kimberly Okinedo transferred. She averaged six points and four rebounds a night last year. Madison Kahnt scored just two points a night but played in all 23 games her senior year. “Losing both our bigs (Madison and Kimberly) will take away a lot of our size,” Hensley said. “Overall we will have a lot of experience and athleticism. We return a lot of girls off of our state team last year and also gain some incoming freshmen that went undefeated their seventh and eighth grade years of junior high basketball.” Leading the returners is all-state junior Lauren Campuzano, who averaged just under 15 points, seven rebounds, and two steals a night last season.

Wheat State • Canton-Galva • Herington • Rural Vista • Little River • Solomon • Wakefield

Sophomore Hannah Riedy filled the stat sheet as a freshman, earning first-team all-league honors with 8.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.5 steals, and 2.5 assists a game. Sophomore Holly Brockmeier also had a big freshman year with 6.8 points and 8.5 rebounds a night last season. Junior Jessyka Barten brings several tools to the floor, and junior Jordyn Sanford played in all 23 games for the Heat last season. Hensley said playing at state last year will put a target on his team’s back. “We will need to show up every single night with our ‘A game,’” he said. “Playing in such a tough league we will not be able to take any nights off.” Centre girls Last winter, the Lady Cougars missed state for the first time in four seasons. Alan Stahlecker has two returners back from his squad that posted a 12-10 record last season. That means some new girls will see action in 2017-18. “We will only have 10-11 girls this year, five of which will be freshmen,” he said. “We do have a little inside presence with some of our seniors, but overall we are pretty small. We will strongly depend on Kate Basore and Kelsey Hett to step up their scoring and lead the team in all aspects of the game.” The senior Basore earned first-team all league honors and was an all-state honorable mention after averaging 9.3 points and 7.8 rebounds a night. She had four double-dou-

bles a year ago. Hett, just a sophomore, filled the stat sheet with 8.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.5 steals, and 2.2 assists a night. Those two must step up to fill a void left by leading scorer Shelby Panratz, who averaged seven points a night over her career and earned first-team All WSL honors twice. Summer Espinoza was a two-year starter who averaged nearly five points and six rebounds a night over her career. “Our overall size may alter some of our defensive strategies,” Stahlecker said. “The small numbers and limited depth will require us to stay healthy and limit our foul trouble.” Solomon girls Patrick Harmon is ready to try a new league. Harmon will be coaching girls’ basketball for the first time in his career. He coached the freshman boys at Shawnee Mission West last year and takes over for Justin Coup. The Lady Gorillas won just seven games last year but Harmon will have most of that team back. Brooke Homman and Carley Rohleder were among the leading scorers last year but have graduated, and this year’s roster features no seniors. Harmon expects junior Kayla Webb to be a difference maker at the point guard position. Juniors Haley Tiernan and Madelyn Stuart will serve as outside threats, and junior Dara Robertson will be a big threat inside. Little River girls Once a basketball powerhouse, the Lady Redskins had fallen on tough times in recent years. Last year’s eight wins nearly doubled the win total from the previous two seasons. Little River has plenty of reason to remain optimistic with virtually all of last year’s roster back. Senior Melanie Renken nearly averaged a double-double last year at 11.8 points and 8.6 rebounds a night. Sophomore Emma McBride was second on the team with seven points a game, and sophomore Isabelle Eberle was fourth on the team with just over four points a contest. In all, the Lady Redskins have eight players back with significant varsity experience. Other teams Herington, Elyria Christian, and Canton Galva all hovered around the .500 mark last season. Canton-Galva loses one all-league player in Kelly Nightingale, but returns another in sophomore Emma Ruddle.

See WHEAT STATE, Page 45


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Herington loses all-league first teamer Jordyn Schrader and honorable mention Haylee Weeks. Elyria has back both of its all-league honorable mentions in seniors Melea Redenbaugh and Bailey Unruh. Wakefield and Peabody-Burns combined for just four wins last year. Wakefield senior Gabi Nelms could be an impact player this season. Peabody graduated four seniors from its onewin team. Solomon boys The reigning league champs return one of the top players in the league but lose three big pieces from a team that went unbeaten against WSL opponents last season. Noah Swarts earned all-league honors after finishing second on the team in scoring. Jacob Burdine and Nathan Webb were also key contributors for the Gorillas a year ago. Back is junior Braden Nelson, one of the top rebounders and scorers in the league. Senior Jacob Harmon also returns after earning an allleague honorable mention a year ago. Rural Vista boys The Heat may have bowed out of the 1A, Div. II state tournament in the first round, but Rural Vista gave state champion Hanover its best game of the tournament. This winter could be a rebuilding season as nine seniors from the team that finished at 16-7 overall have graduated. Seppe Van Hulten and Cade Stillwell will be the biggest absences. The duo earned all-league honors after combining for 21.4 points and nearly 11 rebounds a night. Leading the returners will be senior Dawson Worrell, who played in all 23 games as a junior, averaging seven points and three rebounds a game. Senior Eli Fleming played in all 23 games and junior Josh Sandow played in 16 games. Both averaged about two points a game.

Elyria Christian Specializing in small businesses boys The Benson Accounting Eagles 1929 S. Ohio Office: (785)827-3157 missed Salina, KS 67401 Fax: (785)827-3159 jmbensoncpa@yahoo.com the state tournaRE H A B ILITA TIO N & ment by SPO RTS M E D IC IN E a single 5 11 N E 10th St•A bilen e,K S game last 785 -263-6664 year but M E M O RIA L H E A LTH still had a nice SYSTE M season with 15 wins. With five starters back, including a pair of all-league first teamers, expectations will again be high in 2017-18. “We have a great group of young men, and I believe they are beginning to understand that high level basketball is not something that happens overnight,” said second-year coach Zach Goodrich. “It is a process, and I believe our season holds great opportunities but we have to trust the process of improving in practice and competing every possession.” Six-foot-five senior Tyler Thiessen earned first-team All-WSL honors after averaging 15 points and eight rebounds a game last year. Junior Aidan Fields was another first-team selection with his 12 points and seven boards a night. Six-foot-three junior Caleb Froese brings back nine points and four rebounds a game from last season. Goodrich lost four seniors who brought leadership to each game and practice, but he’s ready for a new group of players to step up and make an impact. “Our freshmen class has strong potential,” he said. “I believe they can come in and vie for playing time if they work hard. We are blessed to return a core group from last year so there is not too many changes from last season.” Joel Benson, CPA Mary Benson, CPA

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

RE H A B ILITA TIO N & SPO RTS M E D IC IN E 5 11 N E 10th St•A bilen e,K S 785 -263-6664

M E M O RIA L H E A LTH SYSTE M

The Bombers just missed a winning season last winter at 10-11. The squad returns one of the league’s best senior Nathan Jackson, an allleague first teamer who averaged 11 points and nearly eight rebounds a game. Junior Skylur Merrit is also back after averaging 7.2 points and 3.7 boards a night. Senior Noah Gent played in all 21 games a year ago and averaged six points a game. Canton-Galva boys The Eagles expect to be much improved on perimeter shooting this season. They also expect to be quicker and more athletic defensively. The challenge will be size. “We don’t have a player over 6’0” tall in our top six. We will have to play bigger than our size if we want to compete in the WSL,” said Shane Duncan, who is in his 6th year as head coach. Returning starters are: Nick Pearson, 5’11” sophomore; Dylan Wood, 5’10” senior; and Jonah Sargent, 5’9” senior. Dawson Minson, 5’11” senior, also will be expected to contribute. “Our success will be dependent on how quickly we get the underclassmen acclimated to the speed of varsity competition. We had a nice turnout for summer workouts and summer league, so I’m excited to see how that transitions into the season,” Duncan said.

Other teams Centre finished second in the league last year but loses all-league first teamer Dylan Deines. The Cougars will have back another first teamer in senior Cole Srajer. Little River just missed a trip to the state tournament by two points but the Redskins still finished with a winning season. This season, the squad will be without All-WSL first teamer Clay Zeller. Herington and Peabody-Burns finished at the bottom of the league standings a year ago, and both lose their lone all-league player.


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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Central Prairie is a powerhouse

MIKE COURSON For Kansas Hardwood

W

ith schools like Central Plains and St. John, the Central Prairie League is a well-establish basketball power in the Class 2A and 1A ranks. In recent years, teams from Ness City, Ellinwood, Otis-Bison, LaCrosse and Kinsley have added to the league’s winning tradition. Several teams return with high ambitions this winter. Central Plains girls The numbers speak for themselves: fourstraight Class 2A state championships, 57-straight wins, and a 103-1 record over the past four seasons. The Lady Oilers will go

down as one of the most dominant teams in state history. “Success will depend on us continuing to 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,” said coach Pat Stiles, who has a 123-4 record in five years with the team. “We will be extremely young and inexperienced but will continue to improve as the year goes.” Last season the Lady Oilers had to contend with the loss of two all-state caliber players. The squad only ran the table at 26-0. The 2017-18 squad also deals with some key losses but does return one of the state’s top point guards in Emily Ryan. “Emily is probably one of the best players in the state,” Stiles said. “Very long defender,

sees the floor well and has an uncanny way of getting to the rim.” Junior guard Avery Hurley (5-3) returns as a starter. Six-foot senior Julie Donecker, sophomore Rachel Lamatsch (5-2), and junior Rylee Cunningham (5-10) all return with significant playing time. They will see a lot more action this winter with the graduation of all-state players Janae Ryan, Cassidy Crites, and Kylee Kasselman. Otis-Bison girls The Lady Cougars pulled out a third-place finish at the Class 1A, Div. II State Tournament in March. Success this year will depend on the ability to replace four-year player and first-team all-stater Taylor Regan.

See CENTRAL PRAIRIE, Page 47

MARK McCOY/Kansas Hardwood

The 2017 Lady Oiler graduates with their championship rings — From left, Kylie Kasselman, Cassidy Crites, Kylee Hipp and Janae Ryan. Not pictured is Kirsten Gunder and Chelsey Bieberle. See story on Page 48.


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Central Prairie

Continued from Page 46

It will be a tall task as Regan averaged 25 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and five steals a night her senior season. Robert Trapp Sr. will also be without returning starters Alex Schneider and Caitlyn Schilowsky. He will have back a pair of talented sophomores in Cristen Trapp at guard and six-footer Maddie Wiltse inside. The Lady Cougars posted a 10-12 record two years ago and went 21-5 last season with two of those losses coming to against state champions Central Plains and Waverly. Kinsley girls The Lady Coyotes made big waves in 2016 as the only team to beat Ellinwood during the regular season. The girls made a state appearance that season and finished the season at 16-8. Last year, the team returned some key members but fell short of expectations at 12-9 overall. Now Jamie Castaneda has some big shoes to fill. Gisel Holguin was a multi-year starter, and Scout Frame was one of the top rebounders in the state, earning first-team all-state honors after averaging a double-double last season. Castaneda did have plenty of young players on last year’s squad. Junior Rylee Gleason and sophomore Josena Frame lead the pack of returners this winter. Ellinwood girls After its historic 2014-15 season — the Lady Eagles are the only team to beat Central Plains in the last four years — Ellinwood won just three games in Andrew Cherry’s first year. Last season, Cherry’s squad opened the season at 0-10 before winning eight of its last 12 games, including a sub-state game against ranked Kiowa County. He is hoping to carry that momentum into this season. “We are very fortunate to have a group of freshman girls that are very excited about playing basketball,” Cherry said. “These girls have had a lot of experience on the court and with winning. With that group of kids that are coming mixed with my four returners from last year, I am hoping that we get really competitive in practice and start to push each other. With us being very young we will have to learn to battle every game and learn on the run. “I think we have a group of girls that are looking forward to the challenge and I know I am. I am very excited to have this group of girls to work with this season.” Cherry loses his two of his top-three scor-

ers in Allison Panning and Brittney Beck to graduation. Leading the returners is post Maddy Ward, who averaged 10 points and Central Prairie two rebounds a game last season. Sophomores Kaitlyn Panning and Kennedy Harrington saw varsity action all season, as did•junior Lauren Central PlainsPetz. Freshman Mya Maxwell is already making a splash for the • Ellinwood team, and Ashtin Klepper is provvolleyball ing•toNess be aCity standout on the cross country course. • Otis-Bison “I think this group of young girls will • St.aJohn change lot of- Hudson what we do,” Cherry said. “We will•have to find something that they feel Victoria comfortable with that will still challenge • La them asCrosse a whole.” St. John girls Once the league power, coach Danny Smith’s Lady Tigers may be scrambling for numbers this winter. The squad posted an 11-11 record last season and loses leading scorer Bailey Burns, an all-state honorable mention in 2A. Smith does have back Tara Nelson, a 5’10” senior who averaged 15.5 points and six rebounds a night. “We will also return several other starters Mark McCoy/Kansas Hardwood on this inexperienced team,” Smith said. “We Victoria’s Lady Knights protectas far aren’t young, but we are inexperienced as basketball knowledge goes. I had a core the ball during a 2016-17 game. group of girls spend a lot of time in the weight room and on the court this summer working to get better. I’m encouraged by their desire to improve. “One area of concern is simply our depth. We might have as few as eight or nine girls on our roster. This really limits what you can do during practice every day and influences what you may or may not be able to run. We won’t lack for effort, but we must stay healthy. I’m interested to see what these girls can do.”

Other teams Macksville just missed a winning season last year at 10-11. Coach Chet Skinner loses one of the league’s top multi-year players in Sophie Filbert, who averaged 13 points and three rebounds a night last season. The Lady Stangs graduated nearly 13 more points a night in Olivia Vosburgh and Emma Stimatze. Senior Lyset Ibarra averaged 5.3 ppg last season, and junior Jenna Russell played in all 21 games, averaging three points a night. LaCrosse won 15 games in the 2015-16 season but fell off to 10-13 last year. This winter could still be a difficult climb without graduates Olivia Baus and Erica Gilbert on

Page 47

the court. Baus was an all-state honorable mention a year ago. Ness City finished last year at 5-16 and loses two of its top scorers in Alexis Clarke and Jaycie Richardson. Senior Baylee Holecek returns with plenty of varsity experience, as does junior Tianna Epperson. Defections devastated the Victoria basketball program last year. Second-year coach Kristen Huser took over a team of mostly freshmen last year. With most of those players back this winter, the future is looking brighter for the Squires. St. John boys With state titles in 2013, 2014, and 2015, and a second-place finish last year, Clint Kinnamon’s Tigers have been one of the state’s top powers in recent years. St. John loses five multi-year players but Kinnamon expects another “dogfight” with Central Plains for league supremacy. “We do return several guys that played a lot of minutes in varsity games the last two and three years,” Kinnamon said. “We have a team full of guys that really like each other and will share the ball.” Gone are four-year players Cole Kinnamon and Jorge Calleros. Kinnamon earned firstteam all-state honors last season, and Calleros was an honorable mention. Triston Long and Alexis Valenzuela were also multiyear contributors for the Tigers. Those four seniors led the Tigers to a 95-6 record in their prep careers. Six-foot-four senior Chase Fisher returns as an all-state honorable mention after averaging 13 points and four rebounds a game last year. Senior Quincy Smith will take on a bigger role at point after averaging four points, three boards, and three assists a night last season. Kinnamon has a handful of varsity letter winners back. Sophomore Tanner Hanner brings some height at 6-7. He played in 21 games last year and averaged four points a night. Junior Eddy Calleros scored four points a night, and six-foot-three senior Braden Witt will have an increased role this winter. Central Plains boys Right along with St. John, the Oilers have been the league’s other consistent state power over the past four seasons. When the teams missed each other in sub-state in 2015, they went on to play a competitive 49-45 battle for the Class 2A championship. Central Plains finished third in 2016.

See CENTRAL PRAIRIE, Page 49


Page 48

Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Ringing in a championship

BY Mark mccoy Kansas Hardwood

T

he summer Solstice of 2017 ( June 21) was a special day for the Lady Oilers of Central Plains, as the girls returned to the Oilerdome to pick up their Kansas 2A State basketball championship rings. The Lady Oilers began a tradition of purchasing championship rings with their first State basketball title in the 2013-14 season. For CPHS graduates Cassidy Crites, Kylee Kasselman and Janae Ryan, it was their fourth consecutive basketball ring gathering, as the Lady O’s have dominated the 2A bracket since the 2013-14 school year, winning four consecutive State 2A titles; three perfect undefeated seasons and a 103-1 compiled four-year record. The current Lady Oiler winning streak is at 64-0. Central Prairie League rival and secondranked 2A Ellinwood was the last team to defeat the Lady O’s with a 66-58 victory Feb. 27, 2015, in the final league game of the season at Ellinwood. An angry Lady O team got revenge in the finals of the sub-State tournament, rolling to a commanding 42-23 halftime lead and quashing the Lady Eagles hopes of attending the Big Dance in Manhattan with a final score of 72-54. In addition to their four basketball rings, Crites and Kasselman each have a 2015 2A State championship volleyball ring. The Lady O’s placed second in the 2016 2A State Volleyball tournament. But wait, there’s more. Floor leader and point guard Janae Ryan owns a total of six championship rings, including her two 3A-2A-1A State champion doubles team tennis rings. Janae Ryan and her partner, Keeley Hipp, won the 2015 and

2016 doubles championships and were undefeated in 2016 — an almost unheard of athletic feat in the second toughest tennis bracket in the state. Like Crites and Kasselman, Hipp also owns five title rings. She joined the basketball team as a sophomore and worked into a starting position her senior year. Chelsey Bieberle, yet another 2017 graduate, started in the 2015-16 season and earned a total of three State championship basketball rings and a volleyball championship ring. A rare foot injury sidelined her for most of the 2016 volleyball and 2016-17 basketball season, but she returned to the court and saw plenty of action in the 2017 State basketball tournament. And there’s more. Lady Oiler Kirsten Gunder, who watched from the sidelines as a cheerleader in 2014 and 2015, abandoned her pom-poms and joined the team in the 2015-16 season and became a top bench player, earning two State championship rings. That’s a total of 27 State championship rings held between six girls. It has to be some sort of a record, from a team that seems to be prone to setting records. Although the six graduates had a lot of help from 2016 graduates Reagan Phelan and Taylor Rolfs — considered to be the top two girls basketball players in their division (if not the entire state) and 2017 freshman phenomenon Emily Ryan (sister of Janae), it was this core group of girls that allowed Phelan, Rolfs and Emily Ryan to shine during their respective seasons. “They are an unselfish group of girls,” said head coach Pat Stiles. “Their goal is always for the team, not individual accomplishments. They have done a great job of accepting that philosophy and then teaching it to the younger players as they come up. I’m very proud of them and it’s been a blessing to

coach them.” “Our senior class is super close,” said Janae Ryan, who started all four years. “And the younger girls saw this as they came into the program. I think that helped us establish our teamwork ethic as we went along. It’s been an honor to represent Central Plains for the past four years. It’s been a good run.” With four State championship trophies in the showcase, the Lady O’s consider Bramlage Coliseum at Kansas State University in Manhattan their “other” home court. Central Plains has gone undefeated at both the Oilerdome and at Bramlage for the past four seasons. “It was really fun. I really like the atmosphere in Manhattan,” Kasselman said. “We always came ready to play, which made it fun at the State tournament.” Kasselman was thrown into the fire as a freshman in the 2014 quarterfinal game when senior starter Brianna Holmes blew out a knee. “It’s pretty crazy to have four championship basketball rings,” said Crites, who made the starting squad early in her sophomore season. “Not everyone can even make it to the State tournament, let alone collect four rings. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment knowing that we won four basketball and a one volleyball title.” “I plan to wear a different ring every day at college,” Hipp joked. “The first tennis ring was the one I was most surprised about winning. We’d never won that title in the history of the tennis program so it was pretty impressive.” The girls quickly credit Stiles for their success for the past four seasons. “Coach Stiles is the best coach in the state, quite honestly,” Ryan said. “He always knows what to say to us and what to run. He respects us and we, of course, respect him. I think it is that mutual street of respect that makes him such a good coach.”

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Central Prairie Continued from Page 47 team all-state honors last season, and Calleros was an honorable mention. Triston Long and Alexis Valenzuela were also multi-year contributors for the Tigers. Those four seniors led the Tigers to a 95-6 record in their prep careers. Six-foot-four senior Chase Fisher returns as an all-state honorable mention after averaging 13 points and four rebounds a game last year. Senior Quincy Smith will take on a bigger role at point after averaging four points, three boards, and three assists a night last season. Kinnamon has a handful of varsity letter winners back. Sophomore Tanner Hanner brings some height at 6-7. He played in 21 games last year and averaged four points a night. Junior Eddy Calleros scored four points a night, and sixfoot-three senior Braden Witt will have an increased role this winter. Central Plains boys Right along with St. John, the Oilers have been the league’s other consistent state power over the past four seasons. When the teams missed each other in sub-state in 2015, they went on to play a competitive 49-45 battle for the Class 2A championship. Central Plains finished third in 2016. Last season, Brett Rolf ’s squad went 8-1 in league to finish behind St. John. The Oilers went 17-6 overall but should be one of Class 2A’s premiere teams once again with four starters back. “We return a very talented nucleus of players,” Rolfs said. “Brett Liebl and Alex Barton will be a great one-two punch in the paint for us. Devin Ryan and Alex Hickel will provide great stability to our backcourt.” At 6-2, the junior Liebl was a force inside last year with 15.6 points and 6.8 rebounds a night. Barton, 6-3, averaged 11.8 points and 6.5 boards a game. Rolfs also has a pair of top-tier guards in Hickel and Ryan. Hickel averaged 14.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists a night last season. Ryan is part of clan of brothers and sisters that have had tremendous success on the court. He averaged 9.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 4.2 assists a year ago. Last year, Central Plains picked up Myles Menges after the football season. At 6’3”, Menges will likely see more time this year after scoring four points a night last season. Ness City boys

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The Eagles are the other CPL team to climb to No. 1 in the Class 2A ranks over the last three seasons. Ness City took a 21-2 record to state in March before making an early exit. Big changes are coming for the Eagles. Brandt Rogers takes over the program after coaching two years at South Central. Rogers will be without all-staters Chandler Stiawalt and Devin Brown, and fellow graduate Peyton Fellhoelter. But Rogers will still have three starters back in seniors John Pfannenstiel and Christian Scheopner, and junior Andres Rios. With a handful of other juniors and seniors with experience returning, Rogers expects consistency on both sides of the ball and wants to hold opponents under 50 points each night out. He’s also pushing his kids to excel in the classroom. Otis-Bison boys The Cougars advanced to the Class 1A, Div. II state tournament last year, losing a first-round 49-46 overtime heartbreaker to the eventual runners-up from Hartford. Otis-Bison finished the season at 16-8. Curtis Litte has most of that squad back this winter. The biggest absence will be Kade Urban, who averaged 11 points and five rebounds last year. Six-foot-four junior Maitland Wiltse returns as one of the top players in Div. II after averaging 15.6 points and 9.6 rebounds a game last season. Senior Clade Anderson put up eight points and seven rebounds a night last year, and junior Anton Foust, who took over quarterbacking duties for the Cougar football team, returns after scoring six points and grabbing four boards a nigh last winter. Senior Blake Bahr and junior Luke Higgason also played in virtually every varsity contest last season. Macksville boys The Mustang boys went 15-7 and finished fourth in the league behind the three powerhouses last winter. “With all of our losses to ranked teams last season, we hope those tough teams have prepared us for this season and that experience will benefit us,” said Jeff Kuckelman, back for a 15th season in the sideline at MHS. “We again face several strong opponents this season but hope that we can beat some of those quality opponents this year. Our kids had a good summer and got better as we attended team camp at Oklahoma State and beat several quality teams there. With three returning starters and

help from some players that got better on JV, we are hoping for a strong season.” The ‘Stangs will be without two of its topthree scorers from a year ago. Diego Delgadillo averaged just under 15 points and Brigdon Russell averaged 11 points a night. Senior Jacob Rein returns as one of the top athletes in the league after averaging 14.5 points and four rebounds a game last season. Junior Karson Waters averaged 9.5 ppg last season and senior Kreed Parr scored four points a night. If Macksville’s returners can replace the scoring of Delgadillo and Russell, the Mustangs will again be among the league powers in 201617. “We hope last season’s close losses as well as this year’s quality opponents will help us advance in the postseason,” Kuckelman said. Ellinwood boys Transfers hurt the 2015-16 Eagles. Another transfer and graduation will hit Derek Joiner’s squad even harder for the 206-17 season. Four year-player Tyson Martinez graduated, and sophomore Peyton Duvall transferred after playing in 20 varsity games last year. “Our program is in complete reset mode,” Joiner said. “We’ll have several unproven varsity players playing on our team due to many of our departures who chose to go play football at other high schools. “I see it as a great opportunity to reestablish our values necessary to have a program with long-term success.” Martinez averaged 14 points a night for an Eagle team that went 6-16 last year. Eric Jones played in 18 varsity games as a senior, and Duvall averaged 5.4 points and 3.5 rebounds a night. Senior Nathan Monday returns with a couple years of varsity experience. He averaged 10 points and six boards a night last winter. Junior Zack Jacobs averaged seven points a night, and junior Joel Kasselman put up six points and five boards a night. “Nathan Monday, Zack and Joel bring back the most amount of varsity experience,” said Joiner. “After that, we will be searching for young players who are eager to fill in new roles.” Other teams LaCrosse won nine games last year but loses a solid group of seniors. Senior Brett Herrman returns for his final campaign after putting up big numbers in each of the last two seasons. Victoria and Kinsley combined for just four wins last winter. Dylan Dronberger has back virtually his entire squad from last year. Senior Cooper Pfannenstiel returns as a leading scorer, and juniors Caden Oberle, Cooper Windholz, and Tyler Knoles also have the ability to score.


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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

State trips on league agenda BY MIKE COURSON For Kansas Hardwood

J

ust one of the 10 Western Athletic Conference basketball teams made it to state last year. The Garden City boys took an 11-11 record to Wichita before making a quick exit to eventual 6A champion Blue Valley Northwest in round one. A couple new faces around the league can hope to change that for the 2017-18 season. Liberal boys Scott Hinkle’s squad seemed destined for a run at state. The Redskins were sitting at 18-2 before falling to Bishop Carroll in the first round of sub-state. Hinkle is gone and Ryan Petty moves to the head coaching job. Petty was an assistant at Liberal for three years and also has experience at Gardner-Edgerton and Lansing. Petty will have his hands full in 2016-17. The two-time reigning WAC champions lost 10 seniors to graduation, and senior Cameron Riley, who averaged just two minutes a game last year, is the lone returner. “We will have four players on our roster that have every suited up a varsity game,” Petty said. “We will have six seniors on our roster but only one of them have played any varsity time at all.” Cade Hinkle, Kylan Thomas, and Deladris Green all averaged more than 10 points a game last year. All are gone to graduation. Riley played in 16 of the 21 games and averaged 1.4 points a night. “Cameron will be our leader,” Petty said. “He is the only guy who has any varsity experience at all for us. “Senior Tristen Bigham will play big minutes for us. Senior Ethan Hatcher will also see a lot of time for us.” Petty does have a talented group of sophomores that have a chance to see varsity time this year. That group includes Lee Hatcher, Hunter Hatcher, Braxton Hyde, and Syris Dunlap. Garden City boys The Buffaloes started last season at 0-6 before winning 11 of their next 16 games heading into the state tournament. Losing just two seniors from that 11-12 squad, coach Jacy Holloway could make a run back to state later this winter. Zac Carlin and Griffin Brunson played in all 23 games for the Buffs last year, combining for 15 points and 5.5 points a night. Holloway will have his leading scorer back in senior Garrett Doll, who averaged 12 points

Western Athletic • Great Bend • Hays • Dodge City • Garden City • Liberal

and 4.3 rebounds a night last season. Doll can score a variety of ways. He made 68 of his 89 free throw tries, and shot 40 percent from inside the arc and 27 percent from 3-point land. Senior Demarcus Elliott returns after scoring 5.5 points a night, and junior Jarrod Springston averaged 5.1 points a game last season. Juniors Evan Allen-Mader and Tye Davis also made nice contributions as sophomores. Springston and Davis excel from beyond the arc. Hays boys Hays opened the season at 6-0 and climbed all the way to No. 2 in the Class 4A, Div. I ranks before Christmas break last season. Things went downhill from there as the Indians had to contend with the loss of standout guard Ethan Nunnery to an injury. The Indians may have still been good enough to advance out of some sub-states, but not a tough bracket featuring ranked teams from McPherson and Buhler. Hays lost in overtime to Buhler in round-one of the postseason to end the year at 13-8. Gone for the Indians this season will be big man Shane Berens and scoring threat Claiborne Kyles. Back on the sideline for a 33rd season at Hays is Rick Keltner, the school’s all-time win leader. Keltner enters the season with 430 wins at Hays and 514 career wins. The previous eight coaches before Keltner’s takeover in 1984 amassed just 296 wins dating back to 1956.

The 5-10 Nunnery returns to the point with a healthy leg. Nunnery is joined by 6-3 senior Cole Murphy (6 ppg last season), who shot 40 percent from behind the arc. Junior Tradgon McCrae filled in when Nunnery went down last season, shooting 40 percent from 3-point land and averaging six points and four assists a night. “He started when Ethan got hurt and showed signs of brilliance,” Keltner said. “We need him to score more for us to be successful.” The Indians will have decent size with Peyton Kieffer and Kyler Koenke, both at 6-3. Six-foot-one senior Dylan Schmidtberger returns as a solid defender. “Our goal is to ‘win the day’ every day in practice and games,” Keltner said. “We will work hard to represent Hays High, our community and families well. If we play with passion, have great body language — play together, play hard and smart — we will have a lot of fun.” Dodge City boys Dodge City will have a new head coach for the first time in 30 years. Dennis Hamilton leaves the school with a 418-251 record. Tony Starnes takes over the program with 28 years of experience in Texas. Twice he led his teams to the national scoring title. Starnes will have some nice weapons back. Hunter Heath earned second-team All-WAC honors after averaging 14.1 points and 6.2 rebounds a night. Junior Noah Sowers averaged 8.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Gone to graduation is Christopher Baker, who averaged nine points a night for the Red Demons last year. Great Bend boys Tim Brooks made the move to Great Bend from Manhattan last year. His Panthers struggled to a 7-14 record, and just two starters return for the 2017-18 campaign. Senior Kody Crosby was an inside-outside threat for the Panthers. The four-year player finished his career with more 1,000 points. Guard Jacob Murray has also graduated, continuing his football career at Fort Hays State University. Brooks will have a couple options to replace Murray at guard. Junior Koy Brack took over for Murray as quarterback of the football team, and senior Ty Esfeld will also look to step into a bigger varsity role this season.

See WESTERN, Page 51


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Western Athletic Continued from Page 50 Liberal girls The Lady Redskins lost a tough battle to Great Bend on the road last February but avenged that loss at home two weeks later to secure their first league title in nine years. Thirdyear coach Carter Kruger returns some nice talent from a team that finished at 17-5. “We bring back a very young yet still experienced team this year,” he said. “Our expectations are to compete at a very high level and hopefully build on a solid foundation laid last year. We want to end our season in Topeka.” Senior Jada Mickens will be tough to replace inside after averaging 11.7 points and 9.1 rebounds a game last winter. Laci Rush also graduated after playing in all 22 games. “We lost three seniors who all played key roles, but especially in the paint offensively and defensively,” Kruger said. “We are not replacing them with the same size and athleticism inside, so we will play a style that is a bit more spread out and fast paced.” Sophomore Machia Mullens averaged 8.8 points and 5.5 boards a game last season. Senior Ali Lucero averaged 5.9 points a night, and sophomores Katie Horyna and Audrey Gilmore each played in all 22 games last season, combining for better than seven points a night. Hays girls

Sides

Continued from Page 34

the league tournament championship at WaKeeney-Trego High School. “Keep our composure,” Trey said after the game. “We knew that it was going to get loud in here. We couldn’t allow them to make runs.” The Panthers cut the deficit to one point with 6.4 seconds left and inbounded the ball under Norton’s basket. The Bluejays’ defense was designed to keep Sides from receiving the pass. Phillipsburg passed to Thompson. Sides

After some lean years, the Lady Indians posted a 12-10 record last winter and missed the state tournament by just one win. Expectations will remain high as Kirk Maska returns three starters from a year ago. “With hard work we should be better this season,” he said. “We have five juniors with two years of varsity playing time. We should have 10 to 12 girls fighting for playing time.” Junior Savannah Schneider will be one of the top players in the league this year. She made a big splash in her sophomore campaign with 11.4 points and four rebounds a night to earn second-team all-league honors. Junior Jaycee Dale averaged 6.5 points and four rebounds a night, junior Kallie Leiker averaged 5.7 points, four rebounds, and three assists, and game, and Maska will have back defensive standout Mattie Hutchison, a junior who averaged 4.8 points and 3.6 boards a game last season. Great Bend girls The Lady Panthers are usually in the mix for a league title. Carrie Minton returns one of the top players in the league in senior Carley Brack, but five regular players have graduated from a team that went 11-10 last season.

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state tournament. Losing four seniors may not help the win total in the 2017-18 season. “We lost a lot of seniors so we will be a young team,” said second-year coach Matt Pfeifer. “Any time you lose experience it is tough, but it is exciting knowing that you have young talent on the team and it’s kind of a blank slate.” Abbie Dart and Lexi Hogan graduated after successful careers at GCHS. Dart, a four-year player for the basketball team, will play softball in college, and Hogan will play volleyball at Hutchinson Community College. Dart averaged 10 points a night last year, and graduate Alyssa Long averaged six points a game. Senior Josie Calzonetti is back after averaging 10 points and six boards a night. She earned second-team all-league honors last year. Seniors Kensi Peitz and Beth Guymon each averaged three points a game last year, and senior Annie Gerber scored two points a night. “I expect for us to be a competitive team that plays hard and is strong defensively,” Pfeifer said. “We have a tough schedule that should prepare us well for sub-state.”

Garden City girls The Lady Buffaloes won just six games last year but still came up just one win shy of the

Dodge City girls Tia Bradshaw had been a mainstay around the league for several seasons. She graduated last May after earning first-team all-league honors on the basketball court. Ezinne Okoro and Chidera Okoro return as two of the top players in the league.

quickly got loose, and Thompson found him. Sides banked in a jumper for a 51-50 victory. Norton had beaten Phillipsburg by five points just eight days before. “We just lost him,” Norton coach Doug Reusink said. “Really (the defense) did what it was supposed to. We just needed to do a better job of once it got to somebody else, keeping him from getting the ball. It wasn’t like it was an easy shot.” The Panthers eventually lost the regular season title to TMP with a two-point loss on Feb. 10. Phillipsburg had defeated the Monarchs by 14 on Jan. 20. Phillipsburg took a three-point defeat to Lexington (Neb.) on Feb. 16 before the tough substate defeat.

In addition to the returners, the Panthers should receive more support from 6’5” sophomore Austin Miller. He averaged 1.7 points and 2.2 rebounds in just nine contests. In second grade, Ty played on Trey’s fourth grade team. The two were on the squad until Trey reached junior high. Ty, like Trey, has ran the offense. “Excited to see what he can do for us,” coach Sides said. This summer, Ty went to a camp in Kearney, Neb. and competed well against juniors and seniors. Trey said having his brother “makes me more comfortable” on the court because of their connection. “It will be really fun this year,” Trey said.


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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Meade banks on younger players

team-high 8.2 rebounds). The Larks have been 16-7 the last two winters. Hi-Plains On the boys’ side, Aaron Dardis took over the Meade program last year. Dardis notably eade girls’ basketball ended an era. • Cimarron led the Hoxie boys to its best run in school Coach Craig Batchman, the Buffs’ annals. Dardis first left for Sublette and then coach since 2009-10, moved east • Johnson-Stanton County went east before he came to Meade. Dardis and took over the Sylvan-Lucas girls’ basket• Lakin went 152-71 with the Indians, including a ball team. Batchman’s wife is from Sylvan, 24-2 squad and Class 1A, Division I runner• Meade and he is from central Kansas. Batchman up in ’14. Dardis led Hoxie to four state built one of the best Class 2A programs with • Sublette appearances, including a third-place showing. 20-5, 21-4, 22-2, and 23-3 the last four years. Meade had much different personnel Additionally, Meade graduated standout under Dardis than in previous seasons with point guard Jaylin Stapleton. She had interest Austin Lewis. The Buffs finished 25-1, 24-1, from multiple Kansas KCAC and junior col20-4, 13-8 and 16-6 with Lewis. leges and received a look from Fort Hays Dardis led Meade to an 11-11 mark. The State, a top-25 Division II team the last sevBuffs’ top-three scorers averaged between eral years. Stapleton ultimately signed with 10.3 and 10.9 points a contest. One of the Barton County Community College. three return with senior Martin Iglesias with The 5’6” Stapleton averaged 21.5 points, 10.5 points a game. He finished second with 3.8 steals and 2.2 assists a contest, which all 4.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.8 steals. led Meade. The top-four scorers were all Meade was much smaller than in recent seaseniors. sons with just one player above 6-2. Meade had just one junior who saw time “I told people before the season when they with Jenna Papay, who averaged 2.4 points asked about the team, I said, ‘Well, we are and 4.2 rebounds. Junior Shiane Wondra going to look different than any Meade team averaged 4.6 points and 5.8 rebounds, secand Lakin, Southwestern Heights and has in many, many years,’” Dardis said last ond-most on the team. Wichita County struggled to 5-16 marks. winter. “Because traditionally just a lot of The Buffs finished No. 90 nationally in The Stanton County girls, led by coach size, the 6-8 post for almost decades, and we free throws, according to MaxPreps. Meade Trevor Siebert, finished 7-14. Sophomore don’t have that. We don’t have the size and sunk 390 of 592 foul shots. Stapleton, Rylie Cook led the team with 10.3 points a athleticism as them, but we have got some known for her hard-nosed, aggressive play, contest and was second with five rebounds. guys that will fight, and we do have quicksunk 194 of 259 free throws. Seniors Grecia Caro (2.9 points, 3.6 ness.” She was No. 30 nationally in free throws. rebounds) and Meleny Jacome (1.8 points, Stanton County boys have a first-year In her career, Stapleton averaged at least 12.7 2.6 rebounds) return. Sophomores Chloe coach with Shane Traughber. The Trojans points per contest in every season. She tallied Chenoweth (1.8 points, 4.5 rebounds) and return all five starters with two seniors: 5-11 1,532 career points, including 413 on 593 Caelyn Cook are back, too. Alexis Molina and 5-8 Edgar Garcia. Three free throw shooting. “We will be extremely young this year, as juniors are in the starting lineup with Creed Meade defeated Hill City, 57-46, in the I’m expecting 3-4 freshmen to get playing Puyear, Francisco Corrales and Victor Molina. first round of the Class 2A state tournament time this year,” Siebert said. Puyear averaged 14.6 points and 6.9 and then eventually finished third after a Cimarron has been a consistent winner rebounds. Molina had 10.1 points and 5.2 48-47 loss against Alma-Wabaunsee and a under veteran coach David Ediger. Since ’07assists. Three key lettermen return with Jalen 51-40 win versus Valley Falls. 08, Cimarron has posted at least 12 wins In 2016, Meade lost to Hill City in the every season, including a pair of state runner- Tucker (5.2 points, 4.2 rebounds) and Erik Pantoja and junior Michael Aleman. first round of the state tournament, 74-69, in ups. Senior Taylor Jantz returns after earned All but six points came from non-seniors overtime. In ’15, Meade also took third with Class 3A all-state honorable mention. last year. a semifinal loss to Central Plains. In ’14, Sublette has junior Mia Kells (11.4 points, “We’ve got a talented team that Meade was fourth with a semifiMEADE HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL is driven to have a good year,” nal defeat to Central Plains. Traughber said. “We just need to Tyler Flavin had moved to get a little bit better everyday, and Meade after a longtime run as focus on process, not goals. If we Wheatland-Grinnell’s football do that and play together, we will coach and girls’ basketball coach. have a shot to do some damage Flavin led W-G to a final four come the end of the year.” showing as the No. 8 seed in ’08 On the boys’ side, and posted four straight non-losSouthwestern Heights went 13-8 ing seasons to end his run, includoverall and 7-1 in league to share ing 14-8 in ’13-14, his last season. the title with Cimarron (13-9). Meade won the league crown SWH returns senior Raul over Cimarron (17-6, 7-1). Alvarado. He averaged 9.8 points, Sublette finished third at 16-7, Athletic Excellence: 4.2 rebounds and a team-high 2.7 6-2. Syracuse (13-8, 5-3) and FALL • WINTER • SPRING Elkhart (15-7, 4-4) each had solid Brought to you by the Meade Booster Club See HI-PLAINS, Page 53 years. Stanton County was 7-14

By CONOR NICHOLL For Kansas Hardwood

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

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Twin Valley Hanover, Blue Rapids-Valley Heights, Washington Blue Rapids-Valley Heights Senior forward Kayla Smith, a second team all-state Class 2A pick, leads the Mustangs for coach Jenny Yungeberg. Last season, VH finished 11-10, 6-6 in league, a five-win decrease after the Mustangs graduated all-state standout Jo Roepke from a 16-7 year in ’15-16. Smith is also an outstanding track athlete. In ’16, she won the 2A triple jump as the Mustangs captured the team crown. Last spring, she won the long and triple jumps as the Mustangs repeated. On the boys’ side, coach Adam

Schreiner went 13-9, 7-5 in league with a season-ending 68-58 loss to Bennington in sub-state. Returning seniors include shooting guard Bryan Yungeberg (6’0”), power forward Harrison Bleske (6’3”) and shooting guard Alex Hardin. Junior point guard Jeremy Reed (6’3”) is back, too. Valley Heights is 25-18 in the last two seasons. Washington County The Lady Tigers return three senior starters — 5’10” Tess Cecrle, who averaged 10 points a game and 8 rebounds;

5’7” Holly Delay (6 ppg and 6 rebounds); and 5’6” Lauren Wyatt (4 points and 3 rebounds). Other returning letter winners are Grace Otott, 5’6” sophomore, and Andrea Bruna, 5’8” senior. The Lady Tigers finished the 2016-17 season with an overall record of 18-5 and a league record of 10-2, placing Washington County in third place. “We have some girls who gave us lots of great minutes last year,” said head coach Jay Kearn, who has been at Washington County for a dozen years. See TEAM EXTRAS, Page 54

Hi-Plains Continued from Page 52

Western Area

assists. Cimarron has senior Jaylen Pickle. He averaged 11.1 points and six rebounds. Lakin finished 9-12, 6-3 in league. Syracuse finished 11-10, 5-5 in league play. Stanton County was 13-9, 5-5. Sublette (6-15), Wichita County (6-15) and Elkhart (4-17) all struggled last year.

Mid-Continent Continued from Page 32

Eastern Area

was honorable mention all-league after 12.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.2 steals, all team-bests. The Golden Eagle boys finished

8-13, 2-7 MCL in the first winter under coach Sean Dreiling, a former Fort Hays player and coach. Senior Hunter Olson is back after he averaged 11.8 points a contest. Oakley Oakley had a seven-win improvement to 11-12 but graduated second team all-leaguer Jenna Zimmerman. The Plainsmen boys earned four victories and went winless in league.


Page 54

Continued from Page 53 “They will be great leaders and will be ready to fill the void of losing some great seniors last year.” He said one of his team’s greatest strengths will be athleticism. “We have some girls who want to get after it,” Kearn said. “We will need some post players to step up this year. We are guard heavy and will need to help Tess inside with some other post players.” Young is word that best describes this season’s boys’ team. Robert Smith, who is in his second year as head coach, has no returning starters. “I have a few kids that will have varsity experience,” he said. “Outside of that we will be young all around. Carson Talkington and Scyler Zenger are my seniors this year and will be taking on a huge role. “Our strengths are team unity and teamwork on the court. They all stay together at all times. Weaknesses is our age. We are young and have a lot to learn. They’re all great kids and willing to be coached.” The seniors will be joined by two juniors, Wyatt Bentz and Tyler Roepke. Smith’s other players are all sophomores. Hanover The Lady Wildcats know their way around a basketball court and they are expected to prove it once again this season. Hanover finished the 2016-17 season with a 24-2 overall record and a league record of 11-1 for 2nd place in the Twin Valley League. Starters returning from that team are 5’6’ seniors Claire Zarybnicky (5.4 ppg and 2.7 rebounds) and Taylor Klipp, (4.0 points and 2.8 rebounds) and Macy Doebele, 5’11” junior, (15.3 points and 6.1 rebounds). “Macy led us last year in points,” said

Team Extras Christopher Beikmann, who is in his first year as head coach. “Claire and Taylor stepped into starting roles last year and did well but now since we graduated two, three-year starters (Riley Doebele and Ashton Jueneman), they will all need to take that next step for us to reach our goals. “We will have to bring it defensively every night. It will be what keeps us in every game. Our weakness is offense, replacing three seniors who carried a lot of the load last year.”

Attica Blake Harnden, a 6’0” junior who averaged 16.3 points a game his sophomore year, returns following the Bulldogs 13-10 season in 2016-17. “Blake Harnden is one of the best shooters in his class in our area if not the whole state while continuing to improve his athleticism,” said Danton Hilton, who is in his 6th year at Attica. Harnden will be joined by other returning starters juniors Masen McDaniel, 7.3 points, and Ezra Goodman, 3.1 points and sophomore Mason Miller, 8.4 points. “Our strengths this year will be our ability to shoot the ball and our physical and mental toughness,” Hilton said. Hodgeman County Hodgeman County boys have posted six straight under .500 seasons, including 10-12, 10-13 and 10-11 marks in the last three years. On the girls’ side, the Longhorns had an 11-11 record last year. Frankfort The Frankfort girls finished 15-9, 8-4 in league play and lost 55-39 to Centralia in sub-state. It marked a big improvement from ’15-16 when Frankfort went 13-11. The

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Wildcat boys went 9-13. Hoisington Veteran coach Kyle Haxton had four straight winning seasons, including three consecutive league championships, before four years under .500. Last year, Hoisington went 9-12 after back-to-back 8-13 marks. The Cardinals graduated first team allleague player Brenner Donovan. He easily led the squad with 14.7 points a contest. Additionally, second-leading scorer Grant Dolechek (10 points/contest, team-best 7.8 rebounds) also graduated. Sophomore Alex Schremmer had 8.1 points and a Cardinalhigh 3.2 assists. He is the only one of the top-six scorers back. On the girls’ side, coach Mandy Mason delivered an 8-12 record, a drop back from 14-7. Like the boys, the Cardinals were senior-heavy with four of the top-five scorers graduated. Junior Maleigha Schmidt averaged 4.7 points per game. Pratt Under coach Chris Battin, Pratt graduated all-stater and first team all-league selection Samson Kohman from a 19-6 team that finished as state runner-up in Class 4A, Division II. Pratt lost to Holcomb, 60-45, in the state title game. The Greenback girls finished 4-17. Seniors Elijah Gatlin and Landen Studer and junior Travis Theis returns as key players. Dustin Hildebrand takes over as Pratt girls’ coach. He spent the last 13 years coaching at Buhler, his alma mater. Hildebrand served as boys’ assistant and head soccer coach and assistant boys’ basketball coach. In sub-state, Pratt lost top-seeded Haven, 40-32. The Greenbacks will have a majority of sophomores and juniors.

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

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McPherson’s Pyle shoots for another perfect season

passing 1,000 points in his McPherson career as a junior. Kinnamon projects double digit rebounds for Pyle this year. Beyond physical talent, Pyle often wins the mental game. n March of 2015, with a sea of red “I pride myself on being the smartest player T-shirts looking on, cheering, morphing on the floor at all times,” Pyle said. “I watch the Bicentennial Center in Salina into a de tape, and then when you’re watching games, facto home game for the McPherson just picking up on little things, how teams Bullpups, freshman Ben Pyle basked in the play the pick and roll and stuff like that.” satisfaction of celebrating an undefeated seaThroughout his life, Ben has been able to son and 4A-Division I championship. hone his skill set with Drew. They were wit“It meant a lot. I always wanted to win a ness to the tradition of McPherson, roots state championship,” Pyle said. “That’s always firmly entrenched down every street in town, what every kid is looking forward to, growing and pushed each other to one day become a up, especially in McPherson. That’s something part of it. that’s important to everyone.” “It’s playing against someone that’s stronger Pyle, now a senior, has spent the past two than me and a little more experienced,” Ben seasons chasing a re-creation of that season. said. “For him, he gets to play against someBoth times, the Bullpups were thwarted in Ben Pyle photo courtesy of McPherson High one who’s longer than him and has a little the championship game by Bishop Miege. more athleticism.” No matter the stakes, no matter the result, School Athletic Department. It would be remiss not to mention the tuteswarms of Bullpup fans flood every venue. twists and turns any way necessary to carve its lage of Kinnamon, as well, a basketball savant. State sites, away games, and of course The path, a type of performer that causes oppo“I think just the way that he demands us to Roundhouse, the historic gem in the heart of nents to toss their hands in the air as an exacplay to the best of our abilities, and play with Kansas. erbated feeling of hopelessness settles in their 100 percent effort all the time, no matter who “I think it’s just the turnout of people who chests. you are, top to bottom,” Pyle said. have always been a part of the tradition. Pyle can fire away from the 3-point line, but Pyle is one of seven seniors in a full returnThere are some people that show up to the he has bulked up to bully inside for spot-up ing cast for the Bullpups. games that have been going there for 40 jumpers or meandering all the way to the rim. They are in a unique situation. Few players years,” Pyle said. “I think it’s great to be a part He thumps his dribbles with confidence, with ever play for a state title. These Bullpups have of that, to know they’ve taken notice and they none the wiser that his plan can change on a either played, or at minimum witnessed, three appreciate the tradition.” whim. championship showdowns. Pyle was indoctrinated to the chorus of “It’s more improv,” he said. “I think you’ve By far, the majority of players in the state fans singing the praises onto the Bullpups as a just got to read what the defense is giving would be envious of those credentials. For kid watching the team. His cousin, Jack Pyle, you.” McPherson, two consecutive journeys ended played for McPherson, and Ben’s older brothPyle averaged 22.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.9 with heartache and unfulfilled hunger. er Drew – now a sophomore at Washburn assists and 1.2 blocks this past season, sur“Despite six titles as a coach, my title in University – was also a member of the 2015 1982 as a member of a team is still championship team. the one that means the most to “I think the culture in town me,” Kinnamon said. “I want every encourages our players to develop P.O. BOX 9 kid to have the feeling I had in their games. Most of our players 300 NORTH CENTENNIAL DRIVE 1982.” have grown up going to Bullpup McPHERSON, KANSAS 67460 McPherson oozes talent, but games and have watched how we 620-241-0713 Pyle is arguably identified as the play the game and have seen how FAX 620-241-3226 star. It carries some pressure to CELL 620-242-7579 the whole town embraces our playperform up to the mighty standard tompylejr@gmail.com ers,” said McPherson coach Kurt of McPherson greats come and Kinnamon. “They naturally want gone before him, and to help leave E. Tom Pyle, Jr. & Associates, P.A. to be a part of that and they realize a program legacy for the 2017-18 ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN & SERVICES that if they want to play in The team. www.pyledesignbuild.com Roundhouse, they have to continue “We want to have a perfect seato work and improve.” son like my freshman year,” Pyle E. TOM PYLE, JR. Ben is a 6-foot-8-inch do-everysaid. “We want to go out on top.” thing prototype, a surging river that ARCHITECT - NCARB CERTIFIED

BY KYLE McCASKEY For Kansas Hardwood

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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Reinert sparks the Vikings

BY KYLE McCASKEY For Kansas Hardwood

S

moky Valley senior Nick Reinert has a spot-on attitude reflecting upon backto-back 4A-Division 2 state tournament berths — appearances that ended after one game. “It was a really good experience, but it left me hungry for more,” Reinert said. “It’s always been a goal as a kid to get to the state championship. That would make the town, make everybody, proud.” This is the latest, and perhaps best, transformation of Reinert. If bravado were a seasoning, the container was accidentally tipped over into the frying pan when Reinert was a charismatic freshman. Now aged, Reinert has a knack for dishing assists and cooking up points, a smooth blend of spicy that causes heartburn for opponents. The competitive attitude Reinert displayed early in his career brought pros and cons. A pinch of flair was warranted in the Smoky Valley program. Reinert found himself in the starting lineup midway through his freshman season. Fearless to bury a critical shot when that team needed invigorating, Reinert gladly fed off the crowd’s reaction. “I was comfortable with it. I was ready to step up and do what the team needed. The seniors definitely helped me that year to stay calm and do my thing,” Reinert said. “I was probably a little too overly confident, but yes.” As a point guard tasked with fanning the fire of his teammates, too, Reinert needed to settle in as a supervisor on the court. “I think that’s one of the adjustments Nick has made since he was a freshman,” said Smoky Valley coach Doug Schneider. “I think since he’s matured as a player, he’s become more business-like.” The evidence presents itself in the statistical breakdown between Reinert’s sophomore and junior seasons. Reinert’s scoring hardly changed — from 16.6 points per game as a sophomore to 16.2 as a junior. His shooting proficiency rose, however, 9 percent better from 3-point range, 6 percent better from the field and 7 percent better from the free throw line. Most of all, Reinert unleashed the passing wizardry that would separate him from most. His numbers rose from 2.4 to 4.5 assists per game. “I just kind of got more experience under my belt, and then I trusted my teammates and made the right play, instead of try to get

my own,” he said. “The coaching staff definitely helped me, and they talked to me about it. Just making sure I get everyone involved. That’s my role as a point guard, to make sure everyone’s in the game and keep them involved.” A sharp distributor, a capable outside threat, a penetrator in the lane that devours defenses. Reinert is emerging as a star in Kansas. This is not the final product, though. “He’s a very talented player. He does so many things well,” Schneider said. “I think Nick is still fighting himself as a player. You want that. You don’t want them to feel like they’ve peaked.” Reinert’s defense is good. Schneider wants

Courtesy Photo

it to be great, for Reinert to be the tenacious participant that flusters opponents just as much on the defensive end as he already can on the offensive. For some athletes, this is the toughest hill to climb. Reinert understands that. There are fundamental, technical aspects of defense that can be tinkered with to make small improvements, but for Reinert, this is a pride issue. He trusts his teammates behind him, and he is eager to return the favor by stifling his man. “I need to step up,” Reinert said. “I’m looking forward to taking the best player on the other team and trying to lock them down.” There are lessons in here for Schneider, too. He recalls a nail-biting contest with Concordia in Reinert’s sophomore season. In the fourth quarter, Reinert — almost automatic from the free throw line – airballed. Reinert, always the spark plug, was tired. “He was going to do everything he could, even though he was gassed,” Schneider said. “He’s willing to give you anything he can give you, any time.” For all Reinert can do to deconstruct an opposing defense, it is instructive for the Vikings to remember he never has to take the court alone. After all, anyone who has caught Smoky Valley play in the past two seasons knows this team is at its best when foes are exhausted from chasing five scoring options. Reinert’s evolving understanding of game tempo makes that possible. Sure, he can go Hollywood and save the universe if the moment is right, but he reads the script the defense presents to him before making that call. “If somebody’s hot, I’m going to keep feeding them. If we’re getting in a lull on offense, it’s time for me to step up and get a bucket for us,” Reinert said. Smoky Valley is resetting the program standards, moving from 10 wins in 2015-16 to 15 this past season, and cultivating excitement in the potential next wave of contributors in the basketball program. The matured Reinert sets the tone. “We definitely want to get back to state and get that first round win, for sure. We’re looking for a Top 3, Top 2 finish, preferably,” Reinert said. “We’re definitely going to have to be physical defensively. Mentally tough. Just knock down shots. “I think it’ll help having everyone more experienced. We’re five seniors now. We should be a pretty experienced group.” Precisely the attitude one would want from a senior leader.


Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

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Hard work pays off for Robertson

BY KYLE McCASKEY For Kansas Hardwood Spin the ball. Dribble three times. Shoot. McPherson senior Taylor Robertson is close to automatic at the charity stripe, the culmination of tireless hours of preparation and a clockwork routine. “A lot of times I’ll shoot 100 free throws in a row, and see how many I can make in a row out of one hundred,” Robertson said. “I’ve hit 100 before. My goal is always to make 100.” It was 177 spins, 531 dribbles and 177 consecutive free throw attempts tumbling down the net on her best practice streak. As a junior for the Bullpups, she shot 91.5 percent from the line. Robertson is a sharpshooter from every inch of the hardwood, cashing in 57 percent of her 3-pointers and 65 percent from 2-point range. Combined with her free throws, her percentages totaled 213.5 percent. For perspective, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, arguably the most illustrious shooter on the planet, totaled 191 percent this past season. Precision shooting comes with pounding the practice gym. Taylor invested hours into getting up shots, with her father, Dave Robertson, as a personal rebounder and motivator. “We did a whole bunch of different drills. They were really hard drills, but he always made it fun,” Taylor said. “Trying to be a scorer, or trying to do it super fast. It didn’t seem like work.” There was no easing Robertson into the McPherson varsity squad. She had the skills to contribute as a freshman — quite the compliment for a program as storied as McPherson. “The summer before Taylor’s freshman season was when she answered a lot of questions for me about if she would be ready to be a key contributor right away,” said McPherson coach Chris Strathman. “I really had no doubts remaining after our first weekend tournament of that summer.” Quickly adapting to the high school level, Robertson ruptured defenses by splashing 3-point shots. Still, as a freshman, there were timid moments and room for growth. That season ended in heartache. Rival Buhler knocked off McPherson for a spot in the 4A-Division I state tournament. In the past quarter-century, the Bullpups have missed state only three times. “I would say that loss probably provided the best lesson, because these girls want to play for a state championship, but you can’t

do that unless you actually get to state first,” Strathman said. “That loss to Buhler turned into a great reminder that going to state is not an automatic.” Sophomore season represented another jump in Robertson’s game, coinciding with McPherson reaching the state quarterfinals. Strathman challenged Robertson before her junior year. Mining the free throw line for points could be a gold rush of production for the Bullpups. Robertson obliged, welcoming contact as she aggressively hammered the paint. “She ended up getting to the foul line twice as much as she had as a sophomore, which made her even harder to guard,” Strathman said. PHOTO COURTESY OF KENDALL SHAW PHOTOGRAPHY Robertson contribut- McPherson’s Taylor Robertson gets better the harder she works — ed 24 points, six both on and off the basketball court. Taylor recently signed with the rebounds and three University of Oklahoma. assists per game, earning the Kansas Robertson verbally committed to Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Oklahoma. Year honor. “Whenever I went on my visit, I felt McPherson scratched through the state really comfortable around the coaches and tournament to reach the title game against the players. I really like them. It just felt Bishop Miege. Miege captured its fourth like a good fit,” she said. consecutive title, but not before a 66-59 There is pressure. There always has grueling test from McPherson. been, ever since that freshman campaign. “I just think mostly from this last year, Robertson embraces it. It tests her to when we got second to Miege, that has perform at her most efficient – striving for motivated me every day this summer, so a version of herself better than 100 out of that we can hopefully work our way back 100 while still taking moments to reflect to that point and hopefully have another on the joy of the game. chance and play them for the state champiA vaunted McPherson roster will be onship again,” Robertson said. back in the championship chase with These are all motivators for Robertson. Robertson as the guide. From the freshman season loss in sub-state “All of the girls respect her and what she to a taste of the championship atmosphere has done to get where she is, but Taylor to every game in between in front of the will still need to be more vocal,” Strathman rambunctious crowd at The Roundhouse said. “She will make it very clear that she in McPherson, this is the fuel that keeps takes some personal responsibility when Robertson in the gym, not satisfied for 100 we have a bad practice or we don’t have our out of 100 on her free throws, instead pur- best game. suing perfection. “Great leaders do that, and Taylor has a Those meticulous details attracted chance to be a great leader for us this seaDivision I fanfare. This past summer, son.”


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Kansas Hardwood, Volume 6

Steffen ready for a healthy season at Yale

BY MIKE COURSON For Kansas Hardwood

J

essica Steffen’s college basketball profile says she made 50 percent of her 3-point tries in the 2016-17 season. The math is accurate — it is Yale after all. But Steffen, a former standout at Buhler, shot just four threes last year after missing most of her freshman season due to injuries. She’s now healthy and ready for a second season in New Haven, Conn. “I honestly do expect to have a lot more playing time because I’m healthy, which I haven’t been in a really long time,” she said back in August. “I think I’ll be able to show I can bring a lot to the table in terms of range and my passing abilities, and opportunities I can set up offensively for the rest of my teammates.” Steffen helped the Lady Crusaders to a fourth-place finish at state in 2015, and averaged 19 points a game in her final season at Buhler. Growing up in a 4A town, the move to Yale was bound to be a big one. “I wasn’t exactly sure what I expected,” she said. “All I knew going into it was it was going to be significantly harder than anything I’d ever done before, both in terms of athletics and academics. “I took a bunch of economics and political science classes, which I’d never taken before, so a lot of that was very new. The intensity of preseason conditioning, weights, and practice - it’s all about a constant attention to detail. That was definitely something I had to adjust to.” Then there was the injury. Right before the season began, Steffen was sidelined with a stress fracture. That meant sitting out until facing a Stanford team that finished the season at No. 4 in the polls. Stanford won that Dec. 28 game on its home court 102-44, but Steffen scored her first collegiate points on 1-of-3 shooting from behind the arc. She made small appearances in four of the team’s

next games. She played just a minute in a 66-55 loss to Penn but knocked down her one 3-point try of the night. She played three minutes against Brown on Jan. 27, but those proved to be her final minutes of the season as she suffered another stress fracture. The Lady Bulldogs finished the 201617 season with a 15-12 record. Even with a so-so record in a league known more for its academics than its basketball programs, Steffen said it’s still Div. I basketball. “We take it just as seriously as any other program, and we’re trying to be just as successful as any other program,” she said. “We spend 4-plus hours on the court, in the gym, and in the weight room everyday just trying to become better than everyone else in the league. It’s

COURTESY PHOTO

Buhler’s Jessica Steffen is healthy and ready to make a name for herself at Yale.

absolutely a full-time job.” And that first year away had its perks. After the season, the team traveled to Italy where it went against three professional teams. “We went Rome, Milan, Venice, Cinque Terre ... we basically toured all of Italy and got to play these super-talented foreign teams,” said Steffen. “We got to see how basketball was integrated into their culture and how seriously they took it. Over the three games, I saw a lot of the court, and proved that when I’m healthy, I can be very useful as an offensive and shooting threat.” Back for a second year, Steffen is used to the transition. While all Div. I athletes must find a way to balance sports and academics, the job is all the more difficult for Ivy Leaguers. “You go to class and you have to go straight to the gym,” she said. “Right after practice, you go to dining hall, then you have what is supposed to be four hours of Yale-quality homework. That was very difficult, just trying to maintain such a high level of performance all day, every day. I was relieved to find that it’s very possible to do. “I’m coming from Buhler, which is a fantastic school. I’m unbelievably blessed to have gone there. But other kids are coming from college prepatories. They basically went to college before they went to college. I was definitely unsure if I would be able to compete academically, but Yale absolutely sets everyone up with an opportunity to succeed.” With all the anxieties of a freshman season behind her, Steffen is ready for the upcoming season that includes a trip back to Kansas for a game at the University of Kansas on Nov. 19. “The training I’ve had this summer with Hutchinson Community College has been incredibly beneficial” she said, “the women’s team has so graciously let me workout with them this summer and they’ve really helped me out a lot for this next year — I expect it to be a very successful year.”


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