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CKL Girls Hoops Preview

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The Central Kansas League girl's race will be competitive

  • Madi McClain (left) and Karenna Gerber are two of five returning junior starters for Halstead, one of the favorites in a loaded CKL girl's division. (Photos courtesy Halstead Yearbook)
    Madi McClain (left) and Karenna Gerber are two of five returning junior starters for Halstead, one of the favorites in a loaded CKL girl's division. (Photos courtesy Halstead Yearbook)

*Kansas Pregame will release its second annual Winter Preview late this week. This year we're trying something new by releasing some of our preview coverage of basketball and wrestling online prior to the release of our complete digital edition of the magazine, followed the second week of December by distribution of hard copies. Follow along here and on social media for complete distribution details. COACHES, don't see your team listed or have updates to your lineup? Email us details at pregamequestionnaires@gmail.com.

The CKL features a number of experienced and talented girl's teams heading into the 2019-2020 season.

Matt Richardson is entering his 15th year at Hesston, and he says this may be the most balanced the CKL has ever been.

Richardson’s HESSTON Swathers are coming off a 17-4 season. With a roster of about 20, the Swathers return six lettermen, headlined by senior Elise Kaiser. A Newman University commit, Kaiser averaged just under 20 points a game, 7.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.9 steals. She was unanimous All-CKL First Team and is also a standout in volleyball and track.

Hesston returns two more senior lettermen in Marisa Vogt and Lindsey Deegan. Caryn Yoder and Harley Ferralez both lettered as freshmen last season. Junior Alex Martin is an additional returning lettermen.

Outside of Yoder who is 5-5, all of the returning lettermen are listed as at least 5-7. Senior Talby Duerksen is a newcomer who is listed at 6-foot.

The Swathers are only tasked with replacing one senior - Rylie Schilling - but she was a leader on both ends of the court.

Hesston lost in the opening round of a loaded 3A sub-state last season. The Swathers fell to Haven, who then fell to state runner-up Cheney in the sub-state championship.

Hesston will be tested often this season.

“Disregarding any team will not be an option this season,” Richardson said. “Our schedule will be solid and help prepare us for the postseason.”

Led by Oral Roberts commit Faith Paramore, HAVEN is poised to defend its CKL title.

Paramore, a senior, averaged 17 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals per game last season and led the Wildcats to an 18-4 record. Haven head coach Dwight Roper says Paramore can play all five positions, but lists her as a guard. Paramore was a unanimous All-CKL First Team selection.

The Wildcats have a good nucleus surrounding Paramore. Senior Sarah Yutzy averaged 10 points and eight rebounds a game last season. Fellow senior Kara Matteson averaged four points and two assists. Junior Maguire Estill started and came off the bench and averaged six points, six boards and three assists last season.

The Wildcats will have solid height across the board. At 5-8, Matteson is the shortest returner.

Haven was one game shy of making state last year. The Wildcats fell to state runner-up Cheney in the sub-state final. Roper knows the CKL and the sub-state will be tough once again.

“Our league is better top to bottom than it has been in awhile,” Roper said. “Our league will test you and expose weaknesses. Whoever survives the 3A sub-state in this area will have a legitimate shot to win it all.”

NICKERSON made its second straight trip to state last year’s and finished fourth. Staying healthy will be key to Nickerson’s success this season, but the Panthers are a talented 4A team.

Nickerson has two players rehabbing from ACL injuries. Senior Madison Ontejs suffered her injury in June and third-year head coach Jon McLean is hoping to have her back by January. Ontejs, a four-year starter, averaged 11.5 points, 4.7 assists, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.6 steals per game last season.

Fortunately for the Panthers, 6-2 senior Morgan Stout appears healthy and ready for the season. Stout sustained her injury in January. Through eight games she was averaging 19 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per game. Stout was a first-team all-league selection despite missing much of the season.

Kieryn Ontejs averaged seven points and nearly four rebounds a game last season as a freshman. McLean said she never played like a freshman and he expects her to take a step forward this season.

At 5-7, senior Aspen Apfel is one of the team’s best rebounders. With four returning starters, Nickerson has the possibility to build off last year’s 20-5 team that beat Abilene in the opening round of the state tournament.

“We will have good size and good athleticism,” McLean said. “Team attitude, team work ethic, and team chemistry will ultimately decide how good we will be.”

HALSTEAD is another contender in the CKL after finishing fourth in the league last season. The Dragons were 17-5 overall and 6-3 in league play and were part of the grueling 3A sub-state along with Cheney, Haven and Hesston. The Dragons held a halftime lead on eventual 3A runner-up Cheney in the opening round of sub-state, but couldn’t close it out in a 44-38 loss.

Halstead started five sophomores last season. Now juniors, the group should be improved after spending an entire season together.

Karenna Gerber led the team in points (19.5), rebounds (9.0), and blocks (3.3) per game, and was second with 2.2 steals per game. Gerber was a unanimous first-team All-CKL selection.

Madi McClain was also a first-team pick after averaging 11.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.1 steals. Josie Engel was second on the team with 5.8 rebounds per game to go along with 2.1 steals. Parker Schroeder pulled down 4.2 rebounds per game, while Haley Lewis averaged three points and two assists to round out the starting five. Outside of Gerber who is listed at 6-foot, the Dragons do not have an abundance of height, but enough to hold their own.

Head coach Derek Schutte has high expectations for the team this season.

“This group has worked hard in the offseason to improve overall shooting and decision making,” Schutte said.

This Central Kansas League girl's preview is brought to you in part by The Halstead Bank and Halstead Dragon Backers, both proud supporters of Halstead athletics!

Like Halstead, HILLSBORO returns five junior starters. In fact, the Trojans return their entire team, with the exception of one graduated senior, from a team that went 7-15 overall and 3-6 in the CKL last year.

Teegan Werth led Hillsboro in points (11.5), assists (2.6), and steals (2.2) per game last season on her way to being named second-team all-league.

Kinsey Kleiner scored just over 10 points a game last season and was named honorable mention All-CKL. Jessica Saunders led the team with 4.3 rebounds per game while also averaging six points. Tuesday Weisbeck averaged 3.1 points and four rebounds a game, while Dani Klein was second on the team with 1.4 assists per game.

Although Hillsboro brings back nearly its entire team, the Trojans are still relatively young.

“We will still be fairly young with only two seniors that bring back varsity experience,” head coach Nathan Hiebert said. “Keys to the year will be to improve our offensive efficiency and try to create more turnovers defensively.”

PRATT is going to look different than their 14-7 season last year. Outside of seniors Dani Staats and Kyra Johnson, the Greenbacks have no returning starters or lettermen. Pratt is reeling from the graduation of five seniors.

The Greenbacks featured a balanced attack offensively last season. At point guard, Staats averaged eight points a game. Head coach Dustin Hildebrand says Staats will be asked to do more offensively this season.

“She is crafty with the ball and can get to the basket, but will also have to look to take more outside shots,” Hildebrand said.

Johnson only played in a couple of games last season before missing the rest of the year with an injury. Like Staats, Johnson will need to help lead the Greenbacks offensively.

“She was a great hustle player and great rebounder, especially for being an undersized post player,” Hildebrand said.

Pratt will lack experience and height entering the season.

“This team will not have the height that we had last year and so our offensive and defensive strategies will be different as well,” Hildebrand said. “There will probably be some bumps early on as they adjust and as we come together as a new team.”

SMOKY VALLEY is in year two of the Larry Van Der Wege era. Although the Vikings went 4-16 last season, it was two more victories than the program won the previous year.

The Vikings graduate three starters and return five lettermen. Smoky Valley’s two returning starters both earned honorable mention All-CKL honors last season. Junior Ellie Brumbaugh averaged 7.2 points per game and was 31 percent from beyond the arc. Junior Kerington Haxton scored 6.5 points per game and is the team’s top returning rebounder at 5.4 per game.

Seniors Ashlyn Bryant and Kaylie Ryan along with junior Claire Broxterman are returning lettermen.

“Last year was building the base of the program we want and now we can start to improve upon it,” Van Der Wege said. “We will need some girls without much varsity experience to step up this year but I think they have that ability.”

This Central Kansas League girl's basketball preview is brought to you in part by Pizza Hut in Hesston, Hillsboro, Hoisington, Larned, Lindsborg, Lyons and Pratt. Pick up your free copy of Kansas Pregame Magazines at central and western Kansas Pizza Hut locations and order pizza, pasta, wings and more online at www.pizzahut.com. Follow Kansas Pregame on Facebook and Twitter for distribution updates and hurry to Pizza Hut when hard copies arrive - they go fast!

Benjamin Smith is entering his first year with LYONS. The Lions return one of the best players in the CKL in 6-0 senior Kristina Head. Joining Head are returning senior starters Daci Stover and Liberty Belote.

HOISINGTON fell in the first round of sub-state to Thomas More Prep. While the Cardinals graduated honorable mention all-league selection Maleigha Schmidt, senior Kelsi Dalton is back after earning honorable mention as well.

LARNED graduated three talented seniors who earned all-league honors. The Indians will look to replace second-team all-league selection Ivory Muldrow along with honorable mention selections Katelynn Sanger and Baylea Perez.

*Kansas Pregame will release its second annual Winter Preview late this week. This year we're trying something new by releasing some of our preview coverage of basketball and wrestling online prior to the release of our complete digital edition of the magazine, followed the second week of December by distribution of hard copies. Follow along here and on social media for complete distribution details. COACHES, don't see your team listed or have updates to your lineup? Email us details at pregamequestionnaires@gmail.com.

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