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Subway Sports Spotlight, Feb. 5th

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  • Pictured, clockwise from left: South Gray boys basketball, South Gray junior Aaron Skidmore and Sylvan-Lucas freshman Keeli Knobbe. (South Gray photos by Karen Jantz; Knobbe photo by Becky Rathbun)
    Pictured, clockwise from left: South Gray boys basketball, South Gray junior Aaron Skidmore and Sylvan-Lucas freshman Keeli Knobbe. (South Gray photos by Karen Jantz; Knobbe photo by Becky Rathbun)

Check out a few noteworthy stories from recent Kansas high school basketball action, and head to Subway for pre- or post-game meals, catering or Footlong Faves starting at $4.99. Order online at Subway.com.

Haven outlasts tough field at Wildcat Classic

The 47th Annual Wildcat Classic featured six teams ranked in the Jan. 28 KBCA Rankings, host Haven among them.

Haven defeated three ranked opponents in three days to secure its home invitational, including a 54-46 win over Nickerson on Saturday. The Wildcats are the only team to beat Nickerson this season, and Haven has now done it twice.

Haven entered the tournament as the No. 6 seed, defeating back-to-back state champions Garden Plain in the first round, followed by a seven-point win over Halstead in the semifinals. Haven and Nickerson went back and forth for much of the championship, but a 13-0 run from Haven to close the third quarter was ultimately the difference. 

Nickerson defeated Andale in the first round, then held off top-seed Cheney in the semifinals, despite 36 points from Emporia State commit Kylee Scheer. 

Halstead rebounded in the third-place match by defeating Cheney, Garden Plain defeated Andale for fifth, and Rose Hill salvaged seventh place with a win over Moundridge.

Gallagher Martin

Shawnee Mission Northwest outlasts McPherson in battle of unbeatens

Shawnee Mission Northwest’s Kennedy Taylor dominated the field at the 25th Annual Mid-America Classic, as she led the Cougars to a 44-37 win over top-ranked McPherson (5A) on Saturday. Northwest is now 14-0 on the season while McPherson drops to 12-1.

Kennedy, who finished with 21 points and 18 rebound in the championship, became the first player in the tournament’s history to win both the scoring and rebounding title. The 6-3 junior also led the tournament in blocked shots and field goal percentage, while setting a tournament record for most rebounds in a tournament (45).

McPherson’s Grace Pyle did everything she could in the championship game, finishing with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Pyle became the first individual in tournament history to finish in the top 10 in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, total field goal percentage, 3-point field goal percentage, and free throw percentage. 

Northwest jumped out to a 14-2 run before McPherson fought back. The Bullpups took a slight lead at 23-22, but Northwest responded and took a four-point lead into the fourth quarter.

Neither team shot the ball well outside of Kennedy or Pyle. Kennedy shot 8 of 13 from the field, but the Cougars were 16 of 50 as a team. Pyle went 4 of 8 from the field, while the Bullpups were 12 of 48 as a team. 

Olathe South, who fell to Northwest in the semifinals, defeated Wellington for third place. Shawnee Mission South rebounded from an opening-night loss to Northwest by going 2-1 for fifth, while Manhattan defeated Ulysses for seventh. 

McPherson’s Kassidy Beam, Olathe South’s Dani Winslow, and Wellington’s Ali Zeka were named to the All-Tournament Team, in addition to Kennedy and Pyle.

Gallagher Martin

South Central continues strong season behind young players

Coldwater-South Central coach Tim Rietzke has won more than 750 games in over 40 years of coaching. SC has reached the state tournament the last three winters with back-to-back final four showings in ’17 and ’18. Last year, SC finished 22-3 with 23 points a game from all-state point guard Bri Rutherford.

Afterward, the 68-year-old Rietzke contemplated retirement, though elected to return.

“My wife didn’t want me around the house all the time,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest reason.”

Rietzke also wanted to coach the current group of Timberwolves after SC graduated 72 percent of its scoring, including seven seniors.

Rutherford (junior college basketball), Jordyn Jellison (Sterling College volleyball), and Tyra Snyder (Hutchinson Community College cheer) all committed to play a college sport. Kelsey Hackney also graduated, and Hunter McGuire moved to Cunningham.

This winter, South Central has nine total players, including just one senior, Sorel Peterson. SC, though, has started 11-4. 

“I think if you give us another year with this group, we are going to be pretty competitive,” Rietzke said.

Rietzke called this team “very enjoyable” and said the squad has seen progress “most days.” 

“They have had asked me to rebuild the boys or girls programs three or four times since I have been at Coldwater and South Central, so I have started from scratch before,” Rietzke said. “I think it’s a little harder as a coach when you have been lucky enough to have success and then have to go back to inexperienced teams.”

The Timberwolves finished in third place in the Southern Plains Iroquois tournament last Saturday at United Wireless Arena at Dodge City. 

“Two things are married in basketball, and that’s confidence and aggressiveness,” Rietzke said. “And any good player has both of those, and that’s probably the biggest improvement I have seen in our team is that we are making progress on that front.”

South Central lost 58-56 at Bucklin on Jan. 14 on a last-second shot. On Saturday, SC defeated Bucklin, 50-44, behind strong performances from sophomores Sierra Jellison, Hadley Lohrding and Kirsten Hackney, and freshman post Kodie Herd.

“It’s been pretty good,” Lohrding said. “We are very fortunate and thankful for Rietzke, because he always works us hard, and he always says that we are young, but that’s not an excuse. Keep working hard.”

Last year, Jellison averaged 5.4 points and 3.2 rebounds, while Lohrding was at 3.1 points and 2.4 rebounds. Peterson and Hackney saw limited time and combined for 38 points. 

In practice last year, Rietzke saw Jellison was capable of scoring but she deferred in games because of the T-Wolves’ surrounding talent. This winter, Jellison has enjoyed a big jump to 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.1 steals. Against Bucklin, Jellison delivered 17 points on six of 13 shooting along with five rebounds.

Jellison ranks third among Kansas sophomores in scoring, according to MaxPreps. She narrowly trails Topeka standout forward Nijaree Canady and Salina Central’s Aubrie Kierscht, one of the state’s best shooters. Canady and Kierscht each averaged double figures as a freshman.

“I realized that I had to step it up,” she said.

The 5-foot-9 athletic Herd has averaged 10.7 points and 6.6 rebounds. Peterson has delivered 6.5 points and 3.5 rebounds with Hackney at 5.3 points.

“(Jellison) just a solid 1A player as a sophomore,” Rietzke said. “Freshman girl (Herd) has got about as much potential as any player I have had as a freshman. To me, her upside is unlimited. It just is. A lot of things you can’t coach.”

Lohrding has worked on her scoring and has upped to 4.7 points and 4.7 rebounds. Against Bucklin, she delivered two points, 11 rebounds and three assists. Rietzke has preached talking, and Lohrding was often vocal on the court against Bucklin. She called out defensive adjustments. 

“Everything he says, it’s right, so you have just got to do what he says, because he knows what he’s talking about,” Lohrding said. “He has coached basketball for over 40 years, so he just knows what he is doing.”

Once on offense, she told Herd to post up, then passed her the ball for a score. Late in the game, she delivered a great pass from beyond the three-point line to Herd, who cut under the hoop from the right side to the left.

“He always wants us to talk, and when we don’t talk, nothing goes well,” Lohrding said.

As well, South Central was plus-11 on the glass, along with 13 offensive rebounds. In the first Bucklin meeting, SC had four offensive rebounds.

“Our talking at times lacks,” Rietzke said. “Our toughness at times lacks, but you get manhandled a few times, you finally decide that you are either going to fight back or get beat. So we are gaining on that, and we will continue to gain.”

South Central leads the Ashland regional, two games ahead of Bucklin (9-4). 

“It’s a challenge for me, and I have a really good young group,” Rietzke said. “They are good kids, they work hard for me. They want it. They want to do well. Just haven’t quite figured it out yet, but they will.”

Conor Nicholl

South Gray continues tradition of success under Applegate

Montezuma-South Gray coach Mark Applegate has one senior, reserve Juan Ortiz. The Rebels took third place on the boys’ side of the Southern Plains Iroquois tournament last Saturday at United Wireless Arena in Dodge City. The Rebels defeated Coldwater-South Central, 68-48 for third. SG, ranked fifth in 1A, is 12-2.

“They are a great group of boys,” Applegate said. “And they are learning, and they are young, and they make young mistakes, and I constantly have to remind myself of that, but by the same token, at some point in the season, they are no longer young, and they have got to overcome those.”

SC is ranked sixth in 1A, though missed 40 points a game in the loss, mainly because of absences from seniors Owen Alexander (illness) and Xavier Frazier (concussion). Last year, South Central defeated South Gray in the tournament championship in a thrilling contest.

South Gray played better on defense compared to its tournament semifinal loss to Kiowa County. Four players scored in double figures: sophomores Brent Penner tallied 19 and Brady Deges scored 15 points. Junior Aaron Skidmore added 12, and junior Carter Riley had 10.

Skidmore has emerged as one of the state’s top scorers with 21.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.1 steals a contest. He stands in the top-15 in Kansas in scoring.

Last year, he averaged 12 points and five rebounds for a 23-2 team. He and junior Ethan Salmans are the only returning starters. Skidmore scored 12 versus South Central, tied for his fewest of the year, although Applegate switched his substitution patterns.

“Good offensive player,” Applegate said. “And he’s a good defensive player when he’s not tired, and I have got to give him more rest, and that’s what we tried to do tonight was give him more rest.”

Deges, who suffered a hand injury in football, has upped his scoring to 17.3 points a contest. The athletic, high-flying Penner had his third double-figure game.

“He is very athletic,” Applegate said. “He’s just got to learn the game better, but he will help us.”

Conor Nicholl

Sylvan-Lucas enjoying success despite graduation losses

Sylvan-Lucas posted a 14-6 mark in 2018-19 and then graduated its top-seven scorers. Only 38 points came from non-seniors. This winter, the Mustangs has just two seniors: Sasha Albert and Kelsey Decker. 

The Mustangs opened 0-2 with a 36-35 overtime defeat to Wakefield, and then lost 44-28 at Southern Cloud. Since then, S-L won eight of its next nine before a 56-28 road loss to undefeated Otis-Bison last Friday. S-L is 8-4 with third-year Mustang coach Craig Batchman, who previously enjoyed a successful run at Meade.

“We are doing a little better than I thought we would,” Batchman said. “We have gelled a little quicker, but all the girls have really stepped up.”

Freshman Keeli Knobbe has averaged double figures throughout the winter and is part of a highly talented freshmen group of girls across the state. Against O-B, Knobbe led with nine points.

“I knew she was a good eighth grader and stuff,” Batchman said. “I was hoping she would be able to step up and play at the high school level, and she really has. 

“The other girls, too, I have got two seniors that have really stepped up and my two juniors have really stepped up,” he added. “I mean, it’s just all across the board.”

Conor Nicholl

Coaches, athletes, fans and parents, are you aware of an interesting story about your favorite high school team? Email us details for future releases of the Subway Sports Spotlight, and head to Subway for pre- or post-game meals, catering or Footlong Faves starting at $4.99. Order online at Subway.com.

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