BY JIM MISUNAS
The Great Bend Panthers learned some valuable lessons during a 2-19 basketball season. The undersized Panthers were outmatched by teams which shot better and defended better all season.
But Great Bend coach Chris Battin believes the Panthers will be vastly improved. The Panthers exhibited a scrappy defensive style that kept most teams below their scoring average.
“Our guys gained some valuable experience last year and with that maturity we expect to win those close games that we didn’t win last year,” Battin said. “The Panthers return underclassmen who gained some very valuable experience last season. This year, it is time for these players to step up to significant varsity roles and lead the Panthers during the 2015-2016 campaign.”
The Panthers feature three solid returning players – 6-4 all-league Kody Crosby, 6-5 Brayden Smith and 5-11 guard Trey Ibarra, who Battin considers to be a team leader. Crosby and Ibarra were the team’s leading scorers last season and Smith was a sensation in his first varsity season.
Kody Crosby, at 6-foot-4, is the Panthers’ tallest veteran and sophomore Brayden Smith is 6-4, but otherwise the Panthers are not blessed with much height.
Battin hopes the Panthers offset a rebounding deficit with better shot selection this season.
“We have to take better shots. We settled for too many jump shots last year,” Battin said. “We mostly got out rebounded because we missed too many shots.”
Battin considers Dodge City and Hays High to be the top Western Athletic Conference teams.
“We expect to teach double digit wins and be in the hunt for the WAC title,” Battin said. “Our goal is to improve every game. We will play a fast pace of play and play man-to-man defense.”
The Panthers started the year at the Hays City Shootout and plays their first home game Dec. 11 against Junction City.
Other veterans who gained experience last year are point guard Konner Ireland and guards Quinton Elliott, Brett Basye and hard-working Jacob Murray.
Head coach—Chris Battin
2014-15 record—2-19 (0-8)
Quinton Elliott, 5-10, G, sr.; Takota Esfled, 6-4, F, sr.; Trey Ibarra, 5-11, G, sr.; Kody Crosby, 6-4, F, jr.; Konner Ireland, 5-9, PG, jr.; Payton Mauler, 5-9, jr.; Jacob Murray, 6-1, G, jr.; Logan Perry, 6-3, F, jr.; Brayden Smith, 6-5, F, jr.; Dalton Bieker, 5-9, so.; Devin Boone, 6-3, so.; Aaron Clark, 6-7, F, so.; Ty Esfeld, 5-9, so.; Andrew Morss, 6-3, so.; Eric Woods, 5-9, so.
Dec. 3—Olathe North at Hays Shootout
Dec. 4-5—at Hays Shootout
Dec. 11—JUNCTION CITY
Dec. 18—at Andover High
Jan. 5—DODGE CITY
Jan. 8—GARDEN CITY
Jan. 12—at Hays High
Jan. 21-23—at El Dorado Tournament
Feb. 2—SALINA CENTRAL
Feb. 5—at Liberal
Feb. 9—at McPherson
Feb. 12—at Garden City
Feb. 16—at Hays TMP
Feb. 19—at Dodge City
Feb. 26—HAYS HIGH
March 3-5—at Goddard Eisenhower 5A substate