By JIM MISUNAS
Great Bend girls basketball coach Carrie Minton guarantees her team will compete at a high level and improve. How much success that translates to is unknown because the Panthers face a challenging schedule starting with Olathe North at the Hays Tournament.
“We play a very tough schedule and that’s a good challenge for the players,” Minton said. “If we qualify for the state basketball tournament, our schedule will prepare us really well. We have a lot of players returning with varsity experience. But our roles will be different because our personnel is changing from last year.”
Senior Morgan Kottas will be the team leader from an 8-13 team that lost 69-58 to Newton in Class 5A substate play. Expected leading scorer Lauren Welsch, a senior, is recovering from a off-season knee injury and several other veterans elected to not compete.
“Morgan Kottas has been a great leader for us,” Minton said. “We just need our players to step in and take on new roles with more responsibility.”
The junior class is strong with Keely Ireland, Carly Dreiling, Brooklyn Burkhart and Kate Warren contributing last year. Sophomores Carley Brack and Camryn Dunekack also gained experience last season.
The Panthers, vastly undersized, will play a fast tempo keyed by pressure defense and 3-point shooting. The Panthers’ strength is their quickness and ability to create turnovers.
“Our team mentality is a scrappy defensive team and we saw that at the end of the year,” Minton said. “That’s what we expect. We want to get up-and-down the floor. We have to play a fast pace.”
Minton wants her players to have the freedom to shoot when they are open.
“My philosophy is we try and make them feel comfortable taking shots,” she said. “We want them to take open shots. But we also want to be more selective with our shots at times.”
The Panthers’ biggest concern is lack of height. Kate Warren at 5-10 and 5-9 Camryn Dunekack are the only Panther players measuring over 5-foot-8. But the Panthers’ athleticism actually made them a competitive rebounding team last year.
“The lack of height factor is something we see because we don’t have any 6-0 players that we see on other teams,” she said. “Our inside defenders play hard all the time and they are scrappy. But it’s definitely a challenge.”
Minton believes the Panthers will play an exciting style of basketball.
“The girls have worked hard and will be an exciting team,” she said. “But we don’t have expectations because teams won’t know what to expect from us. Our team will play hard and work to get better every day. There is a time commitment to continually get better as a team.”
GREAT BEND PANTHERS
Head coach—Carrie Minton
Morgan Kottas, 5-8, sr.; Lauren Welsch, 5-8, sr.; Brooklyn Burkhart, 5-8, jr.; Paola Contreras, 5-8, jr.; Carly Dreiling, 5-6, jr.; Keely Ireland, 5-1, jr.; Allison Neeland, 5-2, jr.; Kate Warren, 5-10, jr.; Carley Brack, 5-7, so.; Lo Cor’a Bryant, 5-5, so.; Esmeralda Delgadillo, 5-4, so.; Camryn Dunekack, 5-9, so.; Alyssia Garcia, 5-4, so.; Shelbie Deason, 5-5, fr.; Darian Harbaugh. 5-6, fr.; Alyssa Keller, 5-3, fr.; Monica Lang, 5-4, fr.; Shanaeia Mehlhaff, 5-5, fr.; Kylee Sandy, 5-3, fr.; Marcie Schartz, 5-7, fr.; Kaylee Unruh, 5-4, fr.; McKayla Williams, 5-6, fr.
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. 28-30—at Emporia 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