For the Macksville High School boys’ basketball team, a trip to the Class 1A state basketball tournament is an old-hat scenario.
In head coach Jeff Kuckelman’s nine years of coaching the Mustangs, he has taken the team to the state tournament six times.
This season, with the competition dispersed due to the Kansas State High School Activities Association separating Class 1A into Division-I and Division-II, the Mustangs will be traveling to Emporia to compete in the Division-I tournament on Thursday night.
“I think we are all looking forward to it,” Kuckelman said. “We are just trying to get focused on our first opponent and getting by them before we move on to the next team.”
Macksville will be playing Olpe, which is 17-6 this season, at 6:30 at White Auditorium.
“Olpe has a great tradition,” Kuckelman said. “They have been to the state tournament several times. They have a good coach (Chris Schmidt).
“They have a big kid in the middle for them. He’s strong under the basket and good on the boards. They a couple of good shooters, too. They are similar to us and our style of play.”
This season marks the third year in a row that the Mustangs have made the trip to state. However, with the separation of Class 1A comes a different setting for the tournament.
“It’s the third year for our two seniors,” Kuckelman said. “Our juniors went last year and played some. Some of them were on the varsity team their freshman year but I don’t think they played.
The Mustangs’ seniors are 6-foot-6 Derek Bevan and 6-5 Kyle Bunker.
Bunker leads Macksville, averaging nearly a double-double with 19.6 points and nine rebounds.
Bevan is second in rebounding with 7.7 per game and third in scoring at 11 points.
“Bevan and Bunker are doing a good job for us this year,” Kuckelman said. “Kyle is our leading scorer and leading rebounder, and Bevan was our second-leading scorer for most of the season, but I think he’s now third.
“They‘re great because their presence on the inside really opens things up for the rest of the team on the outside.”