Basketball Preview 2022

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EMPORIA • LEBO • MADISON • OLPE • HARTFORD NORTHERN HEIGHTS • CHASE COUNTY PREVIEW
2022 AREA

The Lebo Wolves 2021-22 season end ed with a 2022 sub-state championship loss to Waverly, 32-22, finishing the year 15-8. They’ll look to build on that suc cess in 2022-23.

The team has a strong nucleus return ing, but a new coaching staff beginning.

Lebo athletic director Dennis Becker takes over the program this year along with assistant Duncan Fort.

Three returning team leaders will be vital to the Wolves’ success this season.

Senior point guard Landon Grimmett averaged 16 points and four rebounds per game last year. The Lyon County League first-team player was also se lected as a 1A DII All-State Honorable Mention. Junior shooting guard Gray son Shoemaker averaged 12 points and nearly six rebounds per game, receiving Lyon County League Honorable Men tion recognition. And senior forward Luke Davies averaged six rebounds per game.

Becker said the new players expected to make an impact are Zach Oswald and Dominic Risner.

Becker said scoring in the half-court has been a problem for this group, so focusing on ball movement and driving will be key. Otherwise, Becker believes he has a solid squad.

“This year, we will rely on team de fense and our bench,” he said. “We will be able to play eight or nine guys, keep ing people fresh on the court and able to

Back Row: L to R Austin Bailey, Luke Davies, Landon Grimmett, Zach Oswald, Dominic Risner, Grayson Shoemaker, Scott Smith, Andrew Konrade, Sam Hasenclever. Front Row: L to R, Caleb Durst, Eli Ellis, Gunner Graybeal, Taegan Kelley, Daniel Raush, Brayden Hopkins.

play tough-pressure defense.”

The Wolves’ 2022-23 goals are to place first in the Lyon County League, win the LCL tournament and return to the postseason. Becker feels his team

should finish near the top in league and compete for an LCL title.

“In order to achieve these goals, we will need to improve our defense and re bounding from a year ago,” he said. “We

will also need players to step up on the offensive end. Overall, we just need play ers to do their job and work to get better at practice and improve every time we step onto the court.”

THE EMPORIA GAZETTE Page 2 Saturday, December 3, 2022
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The Lebo Lady Wolves head into 202223 following a successful 2021-22 cam paign, where they won a sub-state cham pionship against league rival Waverly, and came up slightly short in the state quarter finals against Hanover.

Lebo, 22-2 last season, is going all-in again this year. Head coach Patrick Gard ner stated that the season’s goal is the bag and everything in it, i.e., preseason tour nament wins, Lyon County League, Lyon County League tournament, sub-state championship and a state title. Lofty goals for sure, but he believes it, stating that the Wolves “Bring back a wealth of experience and should be able to score at a high level.”

Gardner said two challenges this year will be ensuring the ball is protected, and that his team is a little undersized — the tallest players are 5-feet-8. Furthermore, the lost production of point guard Abby Peek, six points and five steals per game, and Alli Moore, a 37% shooter from threepoint land, hurts.

But Lebo returns the talented trio of se nior Brooklyn Jones (15 points per game, 5 rebounds per game, 5 steals per game), junior Audrey Peek (11 ppg, 3 apg, 2 spg) and sophomore Saige Hadley (9 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 spg). Sophomore Abi Jones and ju nior Katie Ott should round out the start ing lineup, and returning non-starter Siara Crouch will get minutes off the bench. Jones and Peek were selected to the 1A DII All-State First Team last season, and Hadley was a 1A DII All-State honorable mention.

Gardner, who is in his fourth season as Lebo head coach (54-14), said his 10-yearold daughter motivates him to coach.

“She has the opportunity to attend

Lebo BB Schedule

Dec. 2: Flinthills

Dec. 5, 8, 10: Central Heights Tournament

Dec. 13: Hartford Dec. 15: Olpe Jan. 3: MdCV

Jan. 6: at SCC

Jan. 10: Madison Jan .13: at Burlingame

Jan. 17: at Waverly

Jan. 23-28: LCL Tournament

Jan. 31: Marmaton Valley Feb 3: at West Franklin Feb 7: at Lyndon Feb 13: at Olpe Feb 17: SCC Feb 21: at Osage

practices and games with me throughout the season,” he said. “And I believe the life lessons you learn from being a part of a ‘team,’ and to be surrounded by good role models that could make lifelong impres sions on her and other youth in our com munity are priceless,” he said.

Gardner said the opportunity to chal lenge players and coach them hard while gaining their trust and belief that you’ll lead them in the right direction is highly motivating too. This year’s group included.

“Anytime you are talking about making a state title game it’s going to be challeng ing,” he said. “I think I’m blessed to have

Front Row L/R: Audrey Peek, Abbie Shields, Chalie Crough, Siara Crouch, Brooklyn Jones, Abi Jones, Saige Hadley, Ally Peek, Emma Marsh

Back Row L/R: Cira Plummer, Cassidy Potter, Katie Ott, Elena Milan, Allison Konrade, Delia Muraru, Hannah Carpenter, Aubriana Vannocker, Kaitlynn McWhorter

a good group of athletes that will need to work hard each day we step on the court. Nothing is guaranteed and we know that.

We believe that we have a strong schedule that will help prepare us for postseason play.”

THE EMPORIA GAZETTE Saturday, December 3, 2022 Page 3
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The
Emporia Gazette
The Madison High School boys
ketball team has
ing the ship this season. First-year head coach Alex McNeal takes the reins from longtime coach Brett Dannels. Dannels led the Bulldogs to a 16-4 re cord last year
a sub-state game, los ing to the Burlingame Bearcats when a 3-point shot landed into the basket as time expired. Now it’s McNeal’s turn to continue Madison’s success. He is no stranger to
Madison hoops. McNeal spent the past four seasons as Dannels’ assistant coach and one year as the head coach at
Please see Madison, Page 8
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The Madison High School girls basketball team enters 2022-23 in a similar fashion to their male counterparts. They have a first-year coach and lost a close sub-state contest to Burl ingame (31-37) last year. Their 14-7 record was even comparable.

New head coach Bill Nienstedt replaces Vanessa Kresin, who ran the program for five seasons. He’s looking forward to December.

“I enjoy being a part of a team, and I want to give back to the game that has given so much to me,” he said.

And despite a change at the top, the Lady Bulldogs return four starters, including the

6-foot senior forward Yolaine Luthi, who was chosen as a 1A DI All-State Honorable Men tion last spring. She’s complemented by senior guards Sarah Miser and Ava Foltz and 5-foot-10 sophomore forward Jaelynn Weakley. Nienst edt said new player Caylin Luthi should be a contributor as well.

But the key to winning will be how fast these returners adjust to a new system and cul ture. Aside from that, it’s just a matter of put ting the work in.

“We are excited to work toward being the best team we can be by mid to late February… We are all looking forward to the opportunity to grow together as a team and to improve steadily as the season progresses,” Nienstedt said.

EXPERIENCED MADISON GIRLS
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Dec. 2: at Yates Center Dec. 6-9: at Moran Tournament Dec. 13: Waverly Dec. 15: MDCV Jan. 3: at SCC Jan. 6: Burlingame Jan. 10: at Lebo Jan .13: Olpe Jan. 17: at Hartford Jan. 23-28: LCL Tourna ment Jan. 31: Mission Valley Feb 3: at Northern Heights Feb 7: West Franklin Feb 14: at Chase County Feb 17: at Lyndon Feb 20: Crest Madison Basketball Schedule

Madison Junior High School.

His goals for the season seem very attainable: be a factor in the competi tive Lyon County League, be a better team in game 20 than game one and place themselves in the best posi tion for postsea son success.

McNeal said two of the keys to achieving those goals will be the returning seniors elevating their play and the younger ones tran sitioning to the varisty level in a timely manner.

McNeal’s love of the game motivates him to coach. And perhaps that will serve him well in helping his team meet those goals.

“I love coaching kids, the game, and seeing them learn the game and enjoy playing it,” he said.

One of the Bulldogs’ strengths will be leadership. The squads returning starters, seniors Gavin Isch and Bryson Turner, bring maturity to the court.

“Senior leadership,” McNeal said. “Our two returning players are talent ed players, but are more importantly, great leaders.”

He said junior Lane Darbro returns after a season spent as the sixth man and newbie sophomore Colton Isch is expected to make an impact.

McNeal feels his team is up to the challenge of ensuring another bankable season.

“I think we have a chance to be a solid team again this year,” he said. “We are replac ing some talented players from last year but have some kids that are ready to increase their production from last year as well as players that are going to be stepping up to the varsity level and ready to show case their abilities.”

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The Olpe High school boys basketball team has a tall task this season. Defending a state title is never easy. The Eagles return one starter but have sever al veteran players with minutes’ experience, so last year’s expectations remain the same in 2022-23.

“Our expectations are never going to change…have a good year, get better and better, and then at the end of the year make a run in the postseason,” said Olpe head coach Chris Schmidt.

Olpe is actually defending two state titles. They won it all in 2021, too. The Eagles will rely on a rota tion of seven players to get the job done.

Starter

The athletic Truman Bailey is the lone returning starter who brings scoring acumen to the floor.

“He averaged about 12 points and four rebounds a game. He’s a kid that’s a pretty good shot for us,” Schmidt said. “So, we’ll lean on him.”

The two Blakes

Blake Redeker and Blake Skalsky will step into the bigmen roles, giving Olpe some strength in the inside game.

“Blake Redeker is another one that played quite a few minutes last year but didn’t start,” Schmidt said. “But he played a lot of minutes. He’ll kind of be our forward and will

probably be a pretty good defensive player for us.”

Skalsky could be an inside game-changer for the Eagles, providing length and size that has been absent in recent years.

“Blake Skalsky will play post, and he’ll take on a big role

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GIRLS

as far as the scoring part of it,” Schmidt said. “Losing what we lost last year, he’s one of the kids that will need to step up, and I think he will. He’ll probably give us more of a post pres ence than what we had the last couple years. I think he’ll be a tough match for kids so we’ll lean on him. Obviously defensively, I look for him to be pretty solid inside to kind of give us a presence inside where nothing will be real easy.”

Post

Darren Heins adds to the depth in the post but probably won’t be available until after Christmas due to a collarbone injury.

“Darren Heins is another one that got quite a few minutes last year coming off the bench,” Schmidt said. “He’s a pretty good defensive player and he’ll be a kid that we’ll expect to step up scoring-wise.”

Garret Cole rounds out the post-type players and projected starters.

“Garret Cole is another senior kid to come off the bench a little bit last year,” Schmidt said. “He’ll be more of a post-presence kid, just that physical body. He’ll kind of take that Ted Skal sky spot from last year. Just being a physical kid inside that does the little things. Garrett, I think, will be a better scorer than Ted was. I look for those five kids to kind of be our leaders and our kids we lean on a lot.”

Perimeter

Schmidt said guards Dexton Hoelting and Ethan Redeker shoot the ball well and fortify the offense from the outside. Initially, they’ll get minutes coming off the bench.

“Dexton is already shooting the ball as well as anybody, and then Ethan will come around,” the long-time Eagle coach said. “I think these two kids will give us some perimeter scoring. I would say those seven kids, in particular, will be kind of the rotation to start out with. I think we got a couple other kids that can come on and help us as the year progresses.”

Outlook

Schmidt is optimistic about the 2022-23 sea son.

“I feel good about this group,” he said. “I think they’re going to be looked at as a team that’s going to be pretty competitive around the state. I think they’re going to be looked at as a team that has an opportunity to do something.”

Olpe Basketball Schedule

Dec. 2: at Ottawa

Dec. 6: at Wabaunsee

Dec. 8-10: Tournament

Dec. 13: Shawnee Mission North

Dec. 16: at Great Bend

Dec. 20: Chase County

Jan. 6: at SCC

Jan. 10: at Lebo

Jan .13: Olpe

Jan. 17-21: Flint Hills Shootout

Jan. 24: at Rural Vista

Jan. 27: Herington

Jan. 31: at Burlingame

Feb 3: Madison

Feb 14: Olpe

Feb 17: Hartford

Feb 20: West Franklin

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THE EMPORIA GAZETTE Saturday, December 3, 2022 Page 13

It’s the beginning of a new era for the Emporia High School boys basketball team.

The Spartans are in their first year of the Lee Baldwin era. Baldwin took over for Beau Welch, who is now the school’s assistant principal and athletic director.

Emporia is coming off a 4-18 cam paign a season ago and will look to take a step forward this season in what will be a trimmed-down Centennial League. But with that comes opportunities to play some different teams.

“The Centennial League has gone through some changes this year,” Bald win said. “Topeka West, Highland Park, and Seaman – all state qualifiers in 5A last year – have left the league. Our league is down to six teams and with that our schedule changes. But it gives us an op portunity to play some teams we haven’t played before.”

Emporia has the best of both worlds so to speak in returning a roster that is full of youth, yet also experienced. Baldwin is

hopeful the experience his younger guys gained last year with pay dividends this year.

“We have a lot of returning experi ence,” Baldwin said. “We’re returning four starters including our two leading scorers in River Peters and Parker Leeds. Our guys took their lumps last year as fresh men and sophomores playing in a really tough league. Hopefully, based on that ex perience and getting a year older, it will pay dividends for us.”

Also expected to be key members for Emporia this season are juniors Cooper Rech and Sheldon Stewart and senior Drew Hess. Baldwin is excited to have as much experience returning as he does. In Peters and Leeds, the Spartans return their top two scorers from last year, and having that returning experience will help Baldwin as he gets accustomed to the program.

“It’s immensely important having those guys back that have played in this league against high-quality competition,” Baldwin said. “Nothing is going to sur prise them in terms of athleticism, size, quickness, and change of pace. Those are

the type of things those guys are experi enced with.”

Baldwin noted he is excited to get the season going and that his guys have been working hard since the summer. He’s ex cited to see what the guys can do in game action.

“I think we’ve done a really good job from the summer to now,” Baldwin said. “Our guys have bought in and our team chemistry is really good. Our excitement at practice is at a high level. If you walked into our practice, you wouldn’t tell that we just came off of a four-win season. I think our guys are bought in and hungry

to get this thing turned around.”

Coming off a four-win season, Baldwin knows this likely won’t be a year where Emporia take a big leap in terms of wins. But he has a bigger-picture vision that he wants to work towards: having opposing teams fear playing the Spartans.

“I don’t really have a goal in terms of wins and losses,” Baldwin said. “I just want other teams on a nightly basis to look at the schedule and not look forward to playing against Emporia. If we can earn that reputation with our opponents, I think every other goal will take care of itself.”

at Ottawa Tournament

Shawnee

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EMPORIA BOYS BASKETBALL LOOKS TO TAKE NEXT STEP
MEETTHE SPARTANS 841 Graphic Arts Emporia, KS (620) 342-1650 Karla Morales Sophomore Katarra Jackson Sophomore
YOUTHFUL
Emporia BB Schedule
TBD Girls
TBD Boys
TBD Girls
TBD State TBD All Only Boys & Girls JV/V All All All JV All All Girls Only FRB VB FR G Boys Only VG All Fresh G & B JV G&B/V G& B All All All All 12/2 12/8-12/10 12/13 12/16 1/3 1/6 1/7 1/10 1/13 1/17 1/17,18,19 1/19-1/21 1/23,25,26 1/24 1/26,27,28 2/3 2/6 2/7 2/10 2/14 2/17 2/21 2/24 3/1 3/2 3/3 3/4 3/8-3/11
Mission North at Great Bend Hayden at Topeka High JV Tournament Paola Junction City at Manhattan FR Boys Tournament Chanute - Ralph Miller FR Girls Tournament Manhattan Glaciers Edge at Washburn Rural Hayden at Hayden at Topeka High at Manhattan Junction City Make up date at Washburn Rural Boys SubState
SubState
SubState
SubState

EMPORIA GIRLS BASKETBALL LOOK TO REMAIN IN STATE CONTENTION

Last season was a year to remember for the Emporia High School girls bas ketball team.

The Lady Spartans finished the sea son 17-6 and lost in the Class 5A state quarterfinals. The team hopes it has ce mented itself as a team that can make a run in the state tournament on an an nual basis.

“It was fun to see because the girls had been building towards that for a long time,” head coach Carolyn Dorsey said. “We’ve kind of climbed our way back to the top of the league and our goal is to stay there. This group learned a lot under the wing of some really good kids that we had last year. This year will be about them growing up, but they’re going to grow up fast and I think they’re up for the challenge.”

Emporia did graduate eight seniors which laid the foundation for the next wave of girls that saw firsthand what it takes to reach that level.

“They groomed and showed these kids what needs to be done and where that bar is,” Dorsey said. “Now, our kids need to understand how they get to that bar. Our biggest thing right now is what they think is playing hard is not playing hard. They need to go to that next level and the weeks leading up to the season are designed for us to get them there. In terms of talent and depth, I think we can compete like we

did last year but we need to grow up a little bit.”

One of Emporia’s key returning starters this year is senior Rebecca Snyder, who has 207 career points and 168 rebounds at the varsity level. She was their No. 2 option behind Gracie Gilpin last year, but will now take on the primary role in the offense. Dorsey is hoping to find someone to step up and become the team’s No. 2 option alongside Snyder this year.

“Rebecca’s had an interesting jour ney,” Dorsey said. “She got to step in on varsity her freshman year. It was minimal, but she’s grown up a lot on the fly. In the Centennial League at the 5A level, you don’t typically see fresh men or sophomores contributing. But she’s done a nice job and she’s going to fill a key role for us. We graduated a main scorer from last year in Gracie Gilpin and Rebecca was her counter part. So now we need to find someone else to step up and fill Gracie’s shoes so that Rebecca doesn’t take all of the focus.”

Emporia was one of the Centennial League’s premiere teams a season ago and while the league is not what it was, Dorsey still expects good competition from the remaining schools.

“The Centennial League has changed quite a bit but we still have some really good teams, so I imagine it’s going to be as competitive as it was before,” Dorsey said. “There are a ton of athletes in our league and that’s what makes it a chal lenge on any given night.

Should Emporia have the opportuni ty to reach the state tournament again, Dorsey wants to prove that the Lady Spar tans are contenders on that level. But it’s going to take a lot of maturity from some of her younger players between now and then if they are hoping to advance farther than last year.

“In terms of state, we’re hoping to make a run again,” Dorsey said. “We don’t want last year to be a fluke. It’s not a oneand-done type mentality for us. We’re not rebuilding. We’re going to try to replace and that’ll take some time, but our girls are going to grow up really fast.”

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The Hartford High School Jaguars come into the basketball season having placed eighth in the Lyon County League in 2021-22, along with posting a 5-17 re cord.

Head coach Colten Barrett says im proving the pace of play and continuous improvement on defense will be critical factors in reaching their goal of winning more league games than last year.

Barrett enters his fourth year at the helming the program and will have to rely on three returning starters to help guide the team to more than five regular season wins and possible postseason victories.

Senior guard Ali Smith returns to the Jaguars, averaging nearly 11 points per game in 2021-22.

“Ali Smith brings leadership, will look for him to be the team’s leading scorer this year,” Barrett said.

Returning sophomore guard Tysin Bul son and senior post player Duncan Baker

THE EMPORIA GAZETTE Page 16 Saturday, December 3, 2022 Hartford Booster Club HARTFORD STATE Bank P.O. Box 8 Hartford, KS 66854 Phone 620-392-5541 ~ Fax 620-392-5801 www.flinthillsbank.com HARTFORD JAGUARS www.thurstonsplusautobody.com BODY SHOP (620) 342-2613 MECHANICAL (620) 343-7063
Front row: Ali Smith. Second row: Daden Wilson, Damien Bomar, Simon Blankley. Third row: Kevin Goza, Tysin Bulson, Oliver Smith. Fourth row: Keenan Renfrow, Duncan Baker, Ashton Goodman, Nolin Trester HARTFORD BOYS LOOKING TO IMPROVE UPON LAST SEASON Please see Hartford, Page 17
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HARTFORD GIRLS WILL BE YOUNG THIS YEAR

bring experience to the team.

“Tysin Bulson brings a lot of toughness, best defend er, will be asked to score more this season,” he added. “Duncan Baker is a vocal leader, will be the key to our half-court defense, our best rebounder.”

The Jaguar ranks will be bolstered by sophomore guard Nolin Trester who will be a first-time starter. Guards Homer Bomar and Kevin Goza will compete for the final starting spot, and Barrett sees freshman guard Keenan Renfrow contributing solid minutes on offense and defense.

“We will have good size this year to be able to play better defense overall,” Barrett said. “Also our depth will allow us to different things defensively this year.”

As is the culture in Hartford, coaching a team tran scends the sport itself. It’s the game of life that they’re really playing and preparing for.

“I have been blessed to have been coached by great people in my life that I still look up to and count on for advice in my everyday life, and being able to provide that for someone else is really important to me,” Barrett said. “I want to be able to help my play ers become better athletes but also want them to be come better people as well.”

Hartford Schedule

Dec. 1: Marmaton Valley

Dec. 2: at Altoona-Midway

Dec. 5-9: at Yates Center Tourney

Dec. 13: at Lebo

Dec. 15: SCC

Jan. 3: Waverly Jan. 6: at Olpe

Jan. 10: Burlingame

Jan .13: at MdCV

Jan. 17: Madison

Jan. 23-28: LCL Tournament Emporia TBA

Jan. 31: Wichita-Classical

Feb 3: Chase County

Feb 10: at Wichita-CCA

Feb 14: Rural Vista

Feb 17: at Northern Heights

Feb 23-24: Sub-State Quarterfinal TBA

Feb 27-Mar. 4: Sub-State TBA

Mar. 8-11: State TBA

Like many area teams, Hartford will have to contend with a lack of experience on its 2022-23 squad. The Lady Jaguars lost scoring threat Kiernan Brushers to graduation and will rely on returning players to rise to the occasion.

They bring back experienced players in last season’s starting

sophomore point guard Tobye Sull, 5-foot-9 sophomore Trinity Windle — last year’s sixth “man,” er woman, off the bench, and state qualifying high jumper — plus 5-foot-9 sopho more Katie Finnerty, who is slated to start.

“We are very young, despite re turning three players that saw a lot of time as freshmen,” said Hartford head coach Ryan Thomas. “They played different roles with our team

last year and are having to step into even bigger roles this year.”

Freshmen Aubrey Finnerty and Sydney Sull, along with sophomore Chiara Garcia will be expected to contribute productive minutes. Fivefoot-nine freshman Marcela MunozGardner rounds out the roster.

“It will be tough at first with those freshmen getting acclimated to the speed of the game,” Thomas said.

THE EMPORIA GAZETTE Saturday, December 3, 2022 Page 17
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HARTFORD From PAGE 16

The Northern Heights Wildcats closed out 2021-22 with a 6-13 record and a sub-state loss to Mission Valley.

The Wildcats can reverse that if they play as a cohesive unit, work hard and focus on fundamentals, said head coach Jacob Lang. In fact, Lang believes his players are capable of competing with any program on their schedule.

“We have the ability to compete against every team we go up against,” he said. “We should be able to battle with some pretty good competition early (Osage City, Wabaun see and Manhattan) and grow to prepare us for the grind

throughout the year.”

Lang said the team is athletic and deep with sopho mores, juniors and seniors.

“We have a lot of experience coming back as well as some younger guys who have been in the system for a couple of years ready to take the next step on the varsity level,” he said.

The experience is: Kolden Ryberg (11 points per game, 6 rebounds per game, 2 assists per game, 2 steals per game); Gabe King (2 ppg, 3 rpg); Connor Arb (1 ppg, 7 rpg) and Cooper Hamlin (3 ppg, 4 rpg).

The new players expected to make an impact are Patrick Niedfeldt, Hunter Smart and Gabe Beck.

Lang said Northern Heights will need to execute consis tently and practice at a high level to claim victories.

“We have to do the right thing every time in practice and make sure that translates into the games,” he said. “Focus on the game in front of us. We work every day to go 1-0.”

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The Northern Heights High School girls basketball team looks to improve on last season’s respectable 15-6 campaign in 2022-23. The Lady Wildcats ended the year with a loss to Mission Valley in the substate championship, but going that deep in the postseason this year will be a challeng ing task.

Northern Heights only returns two starters, 5-foot-11 Teagan Hines, a five-post player, and Kailyn Schlimme, the four-for ward.

“Both of those girls started last year and gained a lot of valuable experience,” said Northern Heights head coach Bob Blair. “Really helped our team to be successful, so that experience will be invaluable for us.”

Inexperience will be Northern Heights’ biggest weakness as a plethora of younger players will take to the floor this week. Blair expects them to step up and fill a scoring void left by the loss of four start ing senior players from the 2021-22 squad. However, they do have players with varsity minutes. Junior Makenna Delgado should be a significant contributor, inside and out side, and junior guard Addison Landgren is a projected starter. Other players expected to have an impact are senior Kylee White, junior Elizabeth Galloway and freshman Briauhna Pierce.

Blair said a key strength of this team is its collective athleticism, which will allow the Lady Wildcats to play pressure defense and run the floor. But that isn’t all. Hines is a force in their half-court game.

“We have Teagan Hines back that aver aged about 11 points a game last year in side, so I think it will be multifaceted be tween our athleticism, our quickness and our half-court game with our big girls,” Blair said.

Blair is competitive, but winning re cords do not define his program. While Blair doesn’t dismiss wins and losses in the scheme of a basketball season, the priority at Northern Heights is personal growth.

“I talk to our girls about leadership,” he said. “We put a lot of importance on lead ership, and just developing those skills within a team, and playing as a team. This is my 26th year coaching basketball, and my teams always had a propensity to put out a lot of effort in the games. I’ve never measured success by wins and losses. I’ve always measured success, did we play to our ability? Did we put out the amount of effort necessary to be successful? Did we play as a team? As our players develop lead ership skills and teamwork skills, those are character traits that they can take into life.”

Northern Heights Schedule

Dec. 2: at Osage City

Dec. 6: at Wabaunsee

Dec. 8: Manhattan CHIEF, at Wabaunsee

Dec, 9: Frankfort, at Wabaunsee

Dec. 13: West Franklin

Dec. 15: at Council Grove

Dec. 20: Chase County

Jan. 6: at SCC

Jan. 10: at Lebo

Jan .13: Olpe

Jan. 17-21: Flint Hills

Shootout

Jan. 24: at Rural Vista

Jan. 27: Herington

Jan. 31: at Burlingame

Feb 3: Madison Feb 14: Olpe

Feb 17: Hartford

Feb 20: West Franklin

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THE EMPORIA GAZETTE Saturday, December 3, 2022 Page 19
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The Chase County High School boys basketball team will try to improve on its 10-11 effort in 2021-22 this season, rely ing on a 17-player roster to take the pro gram to postseason success.

The Bulldogs were knocked out of sub-state play last year by Lyndon High School but aiming for something more in 2022-23.

“Ultimately, our goal is to get back to the sub-state championship game and make it to the state tournament,” said Chase County head coach Cade Witte,

who enters his fourth year in Cotton wood Falls. “We have an opportunity to make a push in the playoffs.”

Of course, that only happens with con sistency and playing competitive ball in league games.

“If we improve our early league per formance, that should set us up with a better record heading into sub-state,” Witte said. “Last year, we struggled with early league games, and that hurt our seeding, in the league tournament and sub-state. Osage City and Lyndon bring back some key players from their success last season and will be tough again this year. We are hoping to be at the top in

consideration with them.”

Witte will be counting on his return ers to bring consistency to the court.

Returning team leaders include se niors Cooper Schroer (13.8 points per game, 7.0 rebounds per game, 2.6 assists per game), Pax Vogel (11.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 2.0 blocks per game) and Dominic Cauthers (2.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg). Juniors Tag Groh (10.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.4 apg) and Colin Monihen (4.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg) round out the Bulldogs’ returnees. Senior Aid an Eidman, who returns from an injury, will be a new player expected to make an impact.

Witte, who has played and watched

Chase County Schedule

Dec. 2: Central Heights Dec. 6-10: Preseason Tourney at Herington

Dec. 13: Council Grove

Dec. 16: West Franklin Dec. 20: at Northern Heights

Jan. 6: Lyndon Jan. 10: at Osage City Jan. 13: at Mission Valley Jan. 16 - 21: FHL Shootout

Jan. 24: Peabody

Jan. 31: LeRoy (SCC) Feb. 3: at Hartford Feb. 7: at MdCV

Feb. 10: Waverly Feb. 14: Madison Feb. 17: Centre Feb. 27 - March 4: Sub-State Tourney

basketball his entire life, said older-play er experience is an area of strength for the team along with length, and speed, which he plans on fully utilizing. Howev er, the Bulldogs first need to reintegrate their defensive efficiency and play with intensity on offense and defense.

While coaching allows Witte to de velop teams striving for a common goal and to help student-athletes better their skill sets, the specifics are different from year to year.

“As a team, we need to stay focused on improving our game,” he said. “Even with success, we must improve through out the season to play our best basketball in the postseason. Besides that, we need to stay healthy throughout the season.”

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Chase County High School girls basketball will look to better last year’s 9-12 record, despite graduat ing five seniors, four of them starting players.

The Lady Bulldogs finished sixth in the Flint Hills League standings in 2022-23 and lost to Northern Heights High School in sub-state.

“This will be a challenging year regarding experi ence, but I think we’ll make up for that with effort and attitude,” said head coach Amber Rausch. “This is a great group of girls that we can rely on to bring hard work and intensity every day, encourage one another and work toward a common goal…Our inside game will be taken up a notch, which in turn opens up a lot of opportunities elsewhere.”

And their inside game starts with freshman center Madelyn Wilson. Rausch said the first-year player pos sesses significant upside and potential.

“Looking for her to be our true post and being a big presence in defensive and rebounding aspects,” Rausch said.

The second-year coach said she wants to utilize the posts, focusing on rebounding, passing fundamentals and handling pressure.

“If we can handle pressure, we will do great things in the paint,” Rausch said. “Emily Miser (senior) will return to the post, they’ve worked really hard to get comfortable with footwork. They, along with Mayah Dorsey (senior), will find a little more opportunity outside the paint as well, looking to help our outside game. Lilly Hinkson (junior) has been battling inju ries since last season, but we’re hoping she can con tinue to help us inside and look to take more outside shots.”

Chase County’s outside/perimeter game is the domain of guards Leaya Francis (senior) and Avery Beyer (sophomore), who will split time at point.

“We have some strong guards coming up…they bring some experience and drive to the team, will pro vide offensive leadership for us,” Rausch said.

Rausch enjoys connecting with high school play ers, pushing them to succeed and encouraging them to believe in themselves. But developing relationships is a key motivating factor for her.

“Building relationships with them while sharing my passion for the game and competition and hoping

they’ll take these lessons and apply them throughout their lives,” she explained.

Rausch said overall playing experience is lacking in the 2022-23 squad, so growing pains might be appar ent initially. But she hopes to balance the outside and inside games and create defensive intensity this year.

“As the season progresses, I think we will notice improvement across the board due to the hard work and effort these girls put forth,” Rausch said. “We aren’t a tall team, but I’m hoping we can make up for

that in other areas. This will be a building year for us. Work ethic and attitudes overall are great with this group, so we’re positive about the gains we will be able to make.”

THE EMPORIA GAZETTE Saturday, December 3, 2022 Page 23
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