December — 5, at Salina South; 9, Hutchinson, 12, Andover; 16, at Eisenhower; 19, at Valley Center.
January — 6, Maize South; 8, 9 or 10, TBA at Koch Arena; 13, at Derby; 16, at Arkansas City; 22-24, Chanute tournament (B); 23, Maize (G); 29-31, Newton tournament (G), 30, Maize (B).
February — 3, Goddard; 6, at Andover; 10, Eisenhower; 13, Valley Center; 17, at Maize South; 20, at Goddard; 26, Arkansas City.
Coach: Jesse Herrmann, 14th, 228-76
Last season: 11-11
Darraja Parnell, 6-2, jr., G
Brock Schaffer, 6-3, sr., F
Cole Taylor, 6-0, so., G
Clark Taylor, 6-0, sr., G
If there’s a specific aspect of the Jaguars’ game that must change from last season, it’s rebounding.
“It was the worst rebounding team I’ve ever coached,” Herrmann said. “They averaged well below the next-worst team I’ve had at Central.
“Part of it is our size. We’ve usually had one or two big guys, but we’ve had a drought on big guys. We need to be more deliberate.… If you don’t win possession, you don’t have a very good chance of winning games. We have to get a lot better on the boards.”
If the Jaguars can improve their play around the basket, there are multiple options to score, starting with Parnell. He averaged an AV-CTL Division II-high 23.1 points as a sophomore.
“Darraja is obviously an offensive talent,” Herrmann said. “We’ll try to put people around him and play. Teams will try to take things away from him. We will counteract that this year because we have some guys who can score.”
Taylor is a scorer, and there should be some of last season’s junior varsity players who are strong offensively, including Isaac Anthemides.
Parnell will also be looked to as a facilitator, which won’t be a problem.
“He is a great passer,” Herrmann said. “He’s just really good at getting in the lane, but last year he felt like he needed to put up a shot that maybe he shouldn’t have. When people collapse and focus on him, I think he’ll have more options.”
Andover Central is young with three seniors in Shaffer, Clark Taylor and Ryan Maddox. Taylor and Maddox were hindered by injuries as juniors.
Coach: Stana Jefferson, 11th season, 190-49
Last season: 20-5, finished third in 4A-Division I
Masen Stamp, 5-4, sr., G
Brooke Pedersen, 5-7, sr., G
Becca Schulte, 5-10, sr., F
Amanda Kakoulias, 5-10, jr., G
Andover Central lost two key players — All-Metro selection Skylar Snodgrass and Katie Kretchmar — from its third-place team in 4A-I a year ago, but Jefferson opens the season with a core of top-notch players.
“I have four solid kids back, three starters and then Amanda Kakoulias, who was first off the bench and played tons of minutes,” Jefferson said. “You hope the confidence and experience trickles down and then the younger ones buy in.”
With Stamp, Pedersen and Schulte, the Jaguars have leaders and competitive athletes.
“When those three walk in the gym, the intensity of the practice goes up,” Jefferson said. “That’s fun to coach.”
Stamp’s quickness has long been her strong point, but she’s added more thoughtful decision-making and even better ballhandling. Pedersen, who Jefferson said will be Andover Central’s valedictorian, is consistent and an oustanding passer.
Kakoulias should shine brighter with a starting spot. She has made a non-binding commitment to play at Emporia State.
Schulte is a presence in the lane.
“Just call her the enforcer,” Jefferson said. “She gets after every part of the game. Defensively, she’s a monster in the paint. She’s only pushing 5-10, and she doesn’t care if the other girl is 6-3, 6-4. She’ll find a way to win.”
Stamp, Schulte and Pedersen each averaged around 10 points and 3.5 assists. Kakoulias averaged 5 points.
Their scoring needs to increase to fill the gaps left by graduation.
As for concerns, Jefferson said it’s “just finding the depth that we need and being able to stay on the court. Last year we struggled with getting into foul trouble. We need to make smart decisions.”