Girls, boys see early success on hardwood

(Photo by Taya Wilson)
Junior shooting forward Lucas Briar skies through the air as he attempts a mid-range jump shot against the Nickerson Panthers on Dec. 13 in Sterling during the home opener. The Bears went on to defeat their former CKL rivals, 71-60.

The high school basketball season is underway for both the Lady Bears’ and Black Bears’ basketball teams. Both teams have amassed 4-1 records to start the season, but they’ve done so in very different styles from each other.

“We’ve been pretty happy with what we’ve been doing basketball-wise, and energy-wise we’ve been very pleased with what we’re doing with our positive energy among all team members,” eighth year Black Bear Head Coach Derek Schneider said.

After suffering a season-opening loss at Hillsboro, the boys’ team has won four straight games, including a Kingman Invitational Championship against Haven.

“We’ve pushed the tempo well, which has led to some easy buckets. Our helpside defense has been very solid,” Schneider said. “But really, our team energy has been very strong. I’ve been happy watching everybody encourage each other and find their spot on the team, even when they’re not on the floor.”

Senior Kyler Comley said he has had a blast playing with his team and agrees with Schneider.

“This team is different because we have all been playing together since grade school playground days. We just know each other so well,” he said. “Most teams don’t get to share that bond because they’re so spread out in age groups. We’re tighter than most.”

Junior Lucas Briar received the Most Inspirational Player award, given at the conclusion of the Kingman Invitational Tournament. He has led the Black Bears in scoring every game, most notably with a 37-point outing against Nickerson, but it has been the other players who have really competed in some new and previously uncertain roles.

“Our maturity level has been high in some tough situations. We’ve been very happy with the way different people have stepped into different roles than they may have expected to be in, in the beginning of the season,” Schneider said.

Girls’ coach Jill Rowland has been pleasantly surprised with her team’s efforts so far, as well.

“I thought at times we might struggle scoring, yet we put up 69 points against Sunrise. We’ve shot the three ball maybe better than I had expected us to. We’ll take those type of performances any day,” Rowland said.

Perhaps taking on the personality of their coach, the Lady Bears have scrapped their way through some adversity.

“I will say that our first night was rough, and I think as we went on, we definitely got better,” Rowland said.

In their only defeat against a ranked Kingman team, the Lady Bears struggled to rebound.

“Our rebounding is probably the thing that worries me the most. We’ve got to get a lot more physical and be willing to chase some boards a little harder than we’ve done,” Rowland said.

The players are aware of the departures from last year’s exceptional season.
“We graduated several great players last season. We’re trying to figure out how to leave a legacy in our own special way,” sophomore Grace Rowland said.

Both teams face tough upcoming games in the Heart of America/Central Prairie League Showdown and in match-ups against Moundridge, a school of strong basketball tradition, immediately following Christmas break.