It's hard to picture a recent Wichita Collegiate basketball team without thinking about high-pressure defense and an up-tempo offense.
The Mitch Fiegel-coached units that have won three of the last four Class 3A boys championships used those calling cards to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents, especially the teams that went a combined 52-1 to win the 2009 and 2010 championships.
Those teams were undeniably dynamic, but Fiegel has noticed something different about this season's state-qualifying squad.
"We're forcing more turnovers than any team we've had in school history. That's saying a lot, because we've had some really good pressing teams," Fiegel said. "But this team is forcing 25 turnovers a game. That's unheard of. So we're bringing it defensively."
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Fiegel said he'd already been impressed with Collegiate's defensive efforts this season, but after watching his team play Conway Springs in its sub-state championship game and hold a good team to 18 points over the final three quarters, including a four-point fourth quarter, he couldn't wait to coach in the 3A tournament.
"If you're going to be at a championship caliber, there have to be things that you can put your finger on that makes your team different, that makes your team unique, that makes it special," Fiegel said. "We're starting to be able to put our finger on those kinds of things with this team, and that's always exciting."
Collegiate senior guard Raymond Taylor, who played on last season's championship team, has noticed the difference in defensive intensity between the two squads. He's helped lead the Spartans to a 21-2 record and a No. 3 seed in Hutchinson. When they play Hutchinson Trinity on Thursday night, the Collegiate players will be like-minded.
"When our defense comes together and we get into the other team really well, that's when we go on our best runs," Taylor said. "People are diving on the floor and getting loose balls. They're willing to put their bodies on the line to win the game."
Spartan senior Doug Burton agrees.
"That's what we put as our top priority," Burton said. "Even when our shots aren't falling, we always know that defense can carry out and get us a victory. That's where people put their focus — even above their offense. When you're doing you're hard to beat."
Fiegel expects his teams to keep its intensity up for 32 minutes. He said his current group of players bought into the system after observing teams before them. They established a foundation and built on it. That's why they've been so dominant defensively.
"We have allowed the lowest 2-point field goal percentages in two games this season since 1996," Fiegel said. "We've held opponents to shooting 18 percent from inside the arc twice. We're manufacturing that energy. We've taken nine charges in the last four games. We're starting to do those things that championship teams do."