December – 5, Carroll; 9, South; 12, at Kapaun; 13, Heights; 19, West.
January – 6, at Northwest; 8, 9 or 10, TBA at Koch Arena; 16, East; 17, at Southeast; 20, at Carroll (G); 22-24, at Dodge City tournament (B); 27, at Carroll (B); 29-31, at Pratt tournament (G).
February – 3, at South; 6, Kapaun; 10, at Heights; 13, at West; 17, Southeast; 20, Northwest; 26, at East.
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Coach: Gary Squires, seventh season, 76-58
Last season: 12-11
Tiylar Cotton, 6-0, jr., G
Andrew Sanders, 6-3, sr., G
Fred McCrary, 5-9, jr., G
Ethan Randleas, 6-3, fr., F
Kace Vongsakda, 5-10, fr., G
Last season, Squires had to adjust to losing Conner Frankamp. This season he has to replace 10 seniors who led North to back-to-back state tournament appearances.
Three players from varsity return, but none played extensively. There’s so much turnover, Squires suspects three freshmen will wind up on varsity.
“It’s going be like Basketball 101,” Squires said. “We’ve had a great run the last few years, and our goals always stay the same, but we know it’s going to be a learning situation for a lot of these kids.”
Cotton is the team’s best scorer and Squires plans to run most sets through him. He has carved out a nice all-around game that will be put on full display this season with higher usage.
“He’s going to have to score for us to win,” Squires said. “He showed some flashes of what he could do last year, and I think you can expect more of that this season.”
Sanders, a high-riser at 6-foot-3, and East transfer KeAndre Champion are both plus-defenders and reliable senior options.
But what has Squires excited is the arrival of a freshman class he called the most talented he’s seen in his seven years. Randleas, Vongsakda, and Peyton Hatter are prospects he plans on grooming this season.
“I’m looking forward to teaching those guys how to play the game and watch them get better and better,” Squires said. “Wins and losses are important, but we want to build confidence in these kids for the future, too.”
Coach: Branden Patterson, third season, 8-34
Last season: 5-16
Aliyah Bernard, 5-10, sr., F
Marissa Evans, 5-6, jr., G
Imani Jones, 5-8, so., F
Terache Wilson, 5-9, sr., F
Brittany Bailey, 5-7, sr., G
North has averaged four wins the past two seasons, a trend that Patterson wants to buck. Returning Bernard at her peak, and developing talents Evans and Jones give him hope North can win more.
“I think just having that continuity back is going to help the girls,” Patterson said. “We have a very good core of kids coming back. Hopefully they’ll be able to work together and be a little more competitive.”
To Patterson, North becoming more competitive starts with its own practices. He’s focusing on trying to increase the intensity during practices and keeping the players engaged with new drills.
“It’s a long season and we have to focus on not getting too happy and not too sad,” Patterson said. “We have to go in and work and the kids need to know their daily efforts are going to have a cumulative effect.”
Bernard approached averaging a double-double last season and should do so once again. She’s added on to her offensive game and Patterson suspects she will lead the team in scoring and rebounding.
Evans is coming off a productive summer and showcased an improved skill set, which includes catch-and-shoot ability. Jones came on toward the end of last season and as a freshman and flashed potential. After an off-season of work, Jones could be in store for a breakout season in the post.
“She’s already a great defender down there, that’s what comes naturally to her,” Patterson said. “Now if we can add a few moves for her on the offensive end, I think she could have more of an impact.”