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Mid-Continent League basketball preview

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The MCL will again be one of the toughest small school basketball conferences in Kansas

  • TMP's Carson Jacobs (left) and Oakley's Jordyn Lowrie are just two of the many outstanding players that will roam the basketball courts of the Mid-Continent League this season. (Photos by Everett Royer, KSportsImages.com)
    TMP's Carson Jacobs (left) and Oakley's Jordyn Lowrie are just two of the many outstanding players that will roam the basketball courts of the Mid-Continent League this season. (Photos by Everett Royer, KSportsImages.com)

*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 Mid-Continent League enjoyed another banner year as one of the state’s top small school conferences. The Thomas More Prep-Marian boys battled through multiple injuries to qualify for the Class 3A state tournament as the No. 8 seed. The Monarchs defeated top-seeded Maur Hill, 73-51, in the first round and eventually finished fourth with a 14-13 record.

The Plainville boys qualified for the Class 2A state tournament. The Phillipsburg boys finished 18-3, but were upset by Smoky Valley at the Hoisington sub-state. 

On the girls’ side, Norton won the MCL midseason tournament and eventually earned third place in 3A with a 23-3 mark.  Norton reached state for the first occasion since 2008 and first time in the final four since ‘01. The Trego girls took fourth in 2A with their best finish in 42 years. 

The TMP girls, though, defeated three ranked teams at home, won the league’s regular season title and finished 16-6. 

Four of the five first team all-league girls are back with Plainville’s Aubree Dewey, WaKeeney-Trego’s Lili Shubert, Oakley’s Jordyn Lowrie and Ellis’ Grace Eck.

The preseason rankings had Trego’s girls fourth in 2A, with Norton’s girls seventh in 3A. 

Notably, one veteran league coach believes this could the deepest the MCL boys’ side has been in years.

On the boys’ side, TMP was No. 10 in 3A, and Hoxie, Plainville and Ellis were fifth, sixth and eighth, respectively, in 2A.

Hoxie and Russell will join the MCL as full members next year. Hoxie will play in the MCL tournament this season.

BOYS

The PLAINVILLE boys finished 17-7, 7-2 in league play and fell to Inman in the first round of the Class 2A state tournament. Coach Chris Drees enters his 13th season as a head coach, his seventh at Plainville. He is 157-108 overall, 91-49 with the Cardinals after a stint at Palco.

Plainville returns four starters, including senior Jared Casey, one of Kansas’ best players and a first team all-state pick from the Kansas coaches. He averaged 21 points and nine rebounds a game. Sophomore Anders Dewey (three points, four rebounds per game), junior Clay Pelton (eight points, 44 percent from 3), and junior Eli Hays (six points, five rebounds) are also returning starters.

“Return a number of players with experience at the state level,” Drees said of his team.

The PHILLIPSBURG boys graduated four-year starting point guard Trey Sides, one of the top all-around players in Kansas the past four seasons. Sides has started the majority of the games as a freshman for NCAA Division I Jacksonville University. 

The Panthers finished 9-0 and won the MCL midseason tournament for veteran coach Keith Sides, who enters his 24th year at Phillipsburg and 18th as head coach, with a career mark of 221-152. 

Junior guard Ty Sides, second team all-league, delivered 13 points, four assists, four rebounds and three steals a game. Senior Austin Miller had eight points and five rebounds a game. 

Coach Sides listed goals as regular season MCL championship and to win the league tournament for a fourth straight year. Sides he’ll look for more inside production from Miller and Parker Dibble and also try to develop guard play around Ty Sides.

The ELLIS boys enjoyed a six-win improvement to 17-6 in the first winter under coach Mark Eck. Ellis went 7-2 in the league and tied for second with Plainville. The Railers were sub-state runner-up, also to Plainville. Eck also coached for two seasons at La Crosse in the early 2000s after a standout playing career at Fort Hays State.

Ellis returns the bulk of its team, including a pair of returning starters. Senior Zachary Eck averaged 16.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and two assists a game. Junior point guard Brady Frickey had 10.7 points, three rebounds and three assists a contest. Zach Eck was a first team all-league player, and Frickey was honorable mention.

“Expectations are high as we are looking to build off of the success we had last year,” coach Eck said. “We have several kids with varsity experience and have a solid group of players with limited varsity experience. With that combination we hope to improve quickly and compete for a league title and go deep into the postseason.”

Junior guard Daniel Eck, senior guard Landis Fischer, senior forward Jake Eck, senior guard Kade Gottschalk and sophomore point guard Tyson Jiminez are all returning players.

“We should have a fairly balanced scoring team that will make us a little more difficult to defend,” coach Eck said. “Much of our success will depend on how well we are able to defend and rebound as we will not have a lot of size in the paint. We have a guard heavy team with some good shooters and hope to create some mismatches with other teams. How well our guys with limited experience adjust to the varsity level will be key.”

Last winter, former THOMAS MORE PREP-MARIAN assistant Bill Meagher replaced Joe Hertel, who led the Monarchs for 33 years. Meagher paced the Monarchs to their second straight state tournament. 

TMP has a number of returning players including senior guards Ryan Stoecklein and Brady Kreutzer and senior forwards Mason Robbins and Carson Jacobs (6-foot-6). The junior class features guards Lucas Lang, Hayden Brown, Jackson Schulte, along with forwards Garrett Pfeifer and Trenton Rome, and sophomore Bryce Seib and Jace Wentling. Schulte was second team all-league.

“We have a lot of work to do this season to give ourselves a chance to be a good team,” Meagher said. “We lost four seniors to graduation but we are excited about the young guys who we are asking to step up and fill those roles. We lost three postmen from last year’s team and we need some guys to step up and give us good minutes in the post area.

“We are going to have to really improve as rebounders and cut down on our turnovers if we want to make a run again this year,” he added. “We have a lot of work ahead of us but our guys are excited and hungry to get going and see where we end up this season.”

HILL CITY finished 10-10 and returns coach Keith Riley for his remarkable 52nd year at the school. Riley, a Hall of Famer, is the all-time leader in boys’ basketball victories in Kansas history. The Ringnecks went 4-5 in league play and took fourth place in the league tournament. Riley stands at 702-430 overall. 

Hill City returns four starters. Senior Dalen Journigan averaged 9.9 points and 5.3 rebounds. Junior Kyle Richmeier had 4.4 points and three rebounds. Senior Michael Blanks finished with seven points and five rebounds a contest. Senior Jacob Lindenman recorded two points and two rebounds a contest. The quartet is all between 5-10 and six feet tall.

However, Hill City lost junior Brody McDowell to a football injury, which Riley said was “a big blow.” McDowell was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder.

“Our three seniors are going to have to play well for our team to have any success,” Riley said.

WaKEENEY-TREGO finished 7-13, 2-7 in league play, though is considered a team that could make an improvement this winter with coach Sean Dreiling.

The Golden Eagles return four starters with senior guard Carter Minson, senior forward Hunter Price, junior guard Kobi Shubert and sophomore forward Charlie Russell. The Golden Eagles graduated leading scorer Keagan Shubert. Minson, Price and Kobi Shubert are all multiple year starters. 

“Expectations are the highest they have been in my four years in WaKeeney,” coach Dreiling said.

Dreiling said the team’s most talented class is the sophomore group with Russell and Cole Feldt. Sixth man Trevyn Brown was lost for the season after a knee injury in football.

“The MCL is a brutal league with a lot of talent for a small school league as well as great coaches,” Dreiling said. “Adding Hoxie and Russell next year will not make things easier. I expect Ellis, TMP and Phillipsburg to be the top teams, but 4-10 are very scary, and can/will beat those top teams.”

The NORTON boys finished 9-13 and are coached by 28-year veteran Doug Reusink. The Bluejays return five of their top-six scorers. Senior Kade Melvin averaged 9.2 points and senior Carter Jones delivered nine points a contest. Melvin earned honorable mention all-league.

OAKLEY finished 7-14, 3-6 and in eighth place in the league tournament. Seventh-year head coach Craig Wamsley returns two starters with junior point guard Jarrett Sporer and junior forward Dane Scheetz. Sporer delivered three points, three rebounds, four assists and three steals a contest. Scheetz is at eight points, seven rebounds and three blocks a game.

Wamsley said team goals are to “get better everyday, and win a playoff game.” He listed Oakley’s keys as “staying healthy, and playing better defense.”

Coach Rob Buckmaster led SMITH CENTER to an 8-12 mark and an eighth place finish in league. SC returns three starters, all 6-foot-1, with Trenton Colby, Griffin Kugler and Joel Montgomery. 

Buckmaster listed the goals as “continue to get better each day,” and the keys as “development of our younger players.”

The STOCKTON boys were 8-15, 2-7 in league and finished 10th in the MCL tournament. Third-year coach Kyle Fox (15-29) has three returning starters, all juniors: Ethan Means (9.3 points, 3.7 rebounds), Kameran Hamel (nine points, five rebounds), and Troy Rogers (5.6 points, 3.5 rebounds).

“Win more league games to give us a better seeding for 1A regionals and peak towards the end of the year,” Fox said of the team’s goals. He added his team’s keys to success included, “Having upperclassmen step up and take leadership roles and learning to play together as a team.”

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GIRLS 

TMP defeated three ranked teams at home: Abilene in non-conference play, and WaKeeney-Trego and Norton in MCL action. TMP beat WaKeeney on a last-second shot, and defeated Norton after a loss to the Bluejays in the league tournament. 

The Monarchs graduated Jillian Lowe and Emily Schippers, both second team all-league selections. Senior shooting guard Adell Riedel is a multi-year starter and averaged 7.8 points and 2.8 rebounds a game. Sophomore post Emilee Lane averaged seven points and seven rebounds a contest for coach Rose McFarland. Junior Kyleigh Allen, known for her defense, is back after five points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals a contest. The Monarchs are 85-15 in the last four years.

The TREGO girls went 20-5, 7-2 in the conference regular season and finished in second place in the league tournament. The Golden Eagles won their Purple and Gold tournament for the first time and advanced to the final four at state.

Coach Donnie Shubert is 35-12 in his first two seasons with the Golden Eagle girls. He had won a state title with the WaKeeney boys in 2006. 

Trego returns 95 percent of its scoring. Junior Lili Shubert was an honorable mention all-state selection by the Kansas coaches after she averaged 15.4 points, seven rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.3 steals a game. Senior Libby Frost, honorable mention all-league, had nine points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.3 steals a contest. Senior Gracie Pfannenstiel has 4.5 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 steals. Junior Tilie Malinowsky delivered 5.3 points and 4.1 rebounds, and junior Emma Day has 3.9 points and 3.4 rebounds a contest. Malinowsky started five games before she suffered injury, and then Emma Day became a starter.

“Continue to grow defensively and we need to become more proficient on offense,” coach Shubert said of the team’s goals and keys. “Defense! League is really, really good from top to bottom. If we can’t defend we will struggle.”

NORTON coach George Rossi is in his 32nd season with the Bluejays, the first 25 as an assistant. He stands at 91-66 in his head coaching tenure. Norton took first place at the MCL league tournament and finished 9-1 in the regular season. Six-foot-2 junior Tessa Hauser, honorable mention all-league, averaged 11 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals a contest. Point guard Tayli Hartwell had five points, three steals and three assists a game.

“Replace the scoring we lose from our seniors from last year,” Rossi said.  “We need to find leadership in this year’s group.”

PLAINVILLE finished 13-10 and has first-year coach Chris Rinehart, the former assistant for seven years. He takes over for Kate (Lehmann) Bremerman who took over the Newton program.

The Cardinals return five key players: senior point guard Aubree Dewey, junior Brianna Augustine, senior Halli Friend, senior Jersey Kaiser and junior Brooke Nuss. Dewey, a Washburn University-signee, is one of the state’s top players and averaged 28.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.2 steals and 3.9 assists a contest.

ELLIS finished 10-12 last winter, 4-6 in league play, in the first year under coach Elle Stein, a former Fort Hays player. All five starters return for the Railroaders, notably junior Grace Eck who averaged 19.5 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals a game.

Senior Karista Pugh finished with 3.2 points and 4.6 rebounds. Senior Abigail Mattheyer had 4.4 points and seven rebounds. Senior Rylee Werth delivered 6.1 points and three rebounds. Junior Abigail North had 4.7 points and 5.7 rebounds.

Stein said the team’s goals are to post a winning record, win the MCL and win state.

“Another player consistently scoring in double digits, handling pressure without turning the ball over, successfully running multiple defenses, and being able to adapt to in-game changes,” Stein said of the team’s keys.

OAKLEY’s Lowrie is a talented all-around player known for her defense and blocking ability. The Plainsmen went 10-11.

PHILLIPSBURG has freshman combo guard Taryn Sides, who played for Ohlde Elite and has already garnered significant high-level college interest. The Panthers finished 12-10.

SMITH CENTER returns senior Bree Freiling and sophomore Tallon Rentschler, both honorable mention all-league players. Freiling averaged 11 points, 4.9 rebounds, three assists and 2.6 steals a contest. Rentschler had 10.3 points and six rebounds for the 10-11 Lady Red. 

Coach Nick Linn has served more than 30 years as head coach for Smith Center volleyball and girls’ basketball. 

HILL CITY won just two games for 14th year Ringneck coach Linda Nighswonger and went 0-9 in the MCL, but all five starters are back. The team will still be relatively young, with just one of those returning starters a senior this season.

Junior Breckan Born led the Ringnecks with 10.1 points, 2.3 assists and 2.2 steals per game and added 6.9 rebounds per contest. Her classmate, Alissa Keith, led the team in rebounding with 7.6 per game and also added eight points a contest.

Senior Allissa Pimlott, junior Maggie Underhill and sophomore Leah Lindenman round out the returning starters and four other letterwinners - two juniors and two sophomores - also return.

STOCKTON went 8-13 last season.

*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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