Great Bend High School landed two players on the All-Western Athletic Conference basketball first team — Greg Hildebrand and Dakota Ellis — and two others on the second team in Will Gray and Jace Bowman.
Selections were made in a vote by the conference’s coaches.
“I thought our team was well-represented,” Great Bend head coach Chris Battin said of the Panthers, who finished with a 4-4 conference record for second place and 12-10 overall.
During the conference season, Great Bend was led by Hildebrand, an undersized 6-foot-2 senior post player in scoring and rebounding. He finished the regular season with a 7.9 scoring average and 4.0 rebounding average.
“Greg played in the post and he did a great job for us,” Battin said of Hildebrand, an inside-outside threat who could also step out on the perimeter, like he did with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer during a regular-season home win over Hays. “He plays and works really hard. He led us in scoring and rebounding, and he was one of those guys that is willing to do anything for the team.”
Hildebrand shot 73.5 percent from the free-throw line (50-for-68) and totaled 158 points — both second on the team.
“He’s just an all-around good athlete and good kid,” Battin said.
Ellis, a 6-0 senior, played small forward for the Panthers, a defensive specialist who became the team’s top threat from beyond the arc as he hit 16 of 37 3s during the regular season for 43.2 percent.
“In the WAC, Dakota shot around 45 percent from 3,” said Battin of Ellis, who averaged 6.7 points and 3.6 rebounds on the season. “I just think he understood when it was time to shoot a 3 and when it was time to pass.”
Ellis also shot 50.7 percent on two-point baskets (37 for 73).
“He didn’t force a lot of things,” Battin said of Ellis, “and he’d hit it when he was wide-open. That’s the reason why his percentage was so high.
“I think the thing that people will remember about Dakota was his defensive effort. Everybody in the WAC knew that he defended their best player, and that ranged from a 6-5 kid or a big-time post player to a good athlete. I think that was a big reason why he was on the All-WAC team.”
Gray, a 5-10 senior, and Bowman, a 6-2 junior swingman, also were vital cogs for the Panthers.
Gray, who averaged a team-leading 56 assists and a team-leading 46 steals, tied for second on rebounding (3.6 average).
“He’s a natural 2 (shooting guard), but this year we had to move him to the point and he did a great job there,” Battin said. “At times, he took over games, getting to the rim and other times he did a great job knowing when he couldn’t get to the rim and kicking it out to open shooters.
“He defended the other team’s best ball-handlers, and he did a great job from the point rebounding.”
Bowman averaged a team-best 8.7 points during the regular season, shot a balmy 90.6 percent from the free-throw line (29 for 32) while hitting 37 field goals and scoring a team-high 166 points in all games.
“Jace is a good shooter, inside and outside,” Battin said. “He could get to the rim or he could pull up and hit the 15-footer and shoot 3s.
“He’s a pretty good threat for a guy coming back. He does a good job with that mid-range jumper, knocking it down off the dribble and coming off screens. He’s going to be a good player next year for us.”
GBHS lost in the second round of the Class 5A sub-state tournament, falling to eventual state champion McPherson.
“They did a good job,” Battin said. “If you’re going to get beat, I guess you get beat by the best. We played as good as we could (against McPherson), and we came up short.”
The Panthers beat arch-rival Hays on its home floor in the opening round of sub-state.
Dodge City, which went undefeated in winning the Western Athletic Conference, advanced to the 6A state tournament in Wichita, falling to Blue Valley Northwest in the state semifinals before losing to Olathe East in the third-place game.
WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
(Selections were made in a vote by WAC coaches)
Coach of the Year: Dennis Hamilton, Dodge City
Player of the Year: Rico Hogan, Jr., Dodge City
Jade Cathey Liberal Sr.
Tyson Deaton Liberal Sr.
Dakota Ellis Great Bend Sr.
Greg Hildebrand Great Bend Sr.
Cody Bernbeck Garden City Sr.
Jake Curran Garden City Jr.
Zack Gaughan Hays Sr.
Seth Tophoj Hays Sr.
Trey Hallman Dodge City Sr.
Bruce Campbell Dodge City Sr.
Brandon Howarth Dodge City Sr.
Will Gray Great Bend Sr.
DeVondre Livingston Liberal Jr.
Braden Taylor Garden City Jr.
Trey Herman Hays Jr.
Benito Sotelo Dodge City Sr.
Chris Schultz Hays Jr.
Slader McVey Liberal Sr.
Jace Bowman Great Bend Jr.
Austin Terpstra Garden City So.
Larry Gomez Garden City Sr.