The high school basketball campaign is finally upon us.
The Great Bend Panthers open their season at 3 today in the 30th annual Hays City Shoot-Out against De Soto at Felton Middle School.
The Lady Panthers also play their season opener, starting at 4:45 at Felton, also taking on De Soto.
“They’re returning three guys that played quite a bit against us,” Panthers head coach Chris Battin said. “I expect them to really get out in transition, and that’s really what they did to us last year, pushed the ball extremely hard.”
It wasn’t a pretty sight, with the Jason Wedel-led Wildcats rolling past Great Bend 47-27 during the second round of the annual preseason tournament. Wedel, a standout guard, is now playing at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
“On paper, they appear to be pretty big again,” Battin said. “They have three guys that are 6-foot-4 and another guy that is 6-6. It looks like they have some pretty decent post players, and we really don’t know too much what type of our offense they’re going to run.”
The Panthers return power forward Ethan Henderson, a 6-0 senior, who averaged 7.9 points and a team-best 7.4 rebounds last season, as they finished with a 5-16 record and were eliminated in the first round of a Class 5A sub-state tournament, falling to Salina Central on the road in overtime.
Matt Marshall, a 5-10 senior guard, who averaged 7.0 points and 3.1 assists, also returns.
“As far as our guys go, I expect us to go out and play hard,” Battin said. “They’ve kind of beaten each other up the last few weeks in practice and I think they’re ready to get a taste of playing somebody else instead of ourselves.”
The Panthers seemingly could never find the right chemistry last season.
“We had a foul taste from last year and we didn’t feel like our finish was where we wanted it to be,” Battin said. “It’s a chance for a new start and a chance at a new season.
“We have new seniors this year and they have been working hard. We’re excited to get things going.”
The other two teams on Great Bend’s side of the bracket in both the boys and girls divisions will be Hays’ Thomas More Prep-Marian and Kearney, Neb.
The four teams in the opposite bracket include Hays, Colby, Riley County and Newton.
The winner of the Great Bend-De Soto boys game takes on either Kearney or TMP at 4:45 on Friday at Hays High. The losing teams play at 4:45 on Friday at Felton.
On the girls’ side, the GBHS-De Soto winner advances to play the winner of TMP and Kearney at 3 p.m. on Friday at Hays High, the losing teams will square off at the same time at Felton.
Today’s lid-lifter for the Lady Panthers will be Carrie Minton’s debut as head coach. She takes over for Jason Tatkenhorst, who is now the girls’ head coach at Basehor-Linwood.