Varsity Basketball

Maize South enjoys progress from inaugural season

The Maize South girls basketball team isn’t downplaying its 34-30 win over Wellington on Tuesday. The coaches and the players know that the win was a huge step in the right direction for a two-year-old program that had two wins last season.

“Tuesday night we took on a team that many people predicted to go to state,” Maize South coach Mike Domnick said. “They have four quality seniors and juniors that are scoring well. For us to be able to do what we did Tuesday is important for our program.”

Wellington entered the game 12-4 record and was considered among the top teams in the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division IV’s best teams.

Shea Poynter, McKenna Poynter and Emily Martin were the first players in the locker room after the win. When the rest of the players came in there wasn’t a lot of jumping and screaming, but there were plenty of smiles.

“With Wellington being tied for first in our league, I hope this shows teams that we can compete with other teams in our league,” Shea Poynter said. “Our record isn’t the best record, but we can pull off upsets and we can hang with the good teams and eventually start beating them.”

Domnick hopes it will continue against Clearwater tonight.

“We’ve finally started to figure out that maybe we can make some plays at the end of the game to keep our lead to make a difference,” said Domnick, whose team is 5-12, 1-6. “Previous games when we had the same situations when the game has been tied with two or three minutes left to go, we haven’t made those decisions.”

Winning with experience — When Circle coach Burt Helmer took over the boys program for the 2008-09 season, Circle was coming off two seasons of four and five wins.

In Helmer’s first season, Circle was 17-5 and had sophomores Alex Gardinier and Jordan Phillips starting.

Gardinier and Phillips stayed with the program, leading the Thunderbirds to a 14-10 record last season. Circle is 15-2 and ranked fifth in Class 4A.

Circle has five seniors with loads of experience. In addition to Gardinier and Phillips, Brett Tunnell and Kanyon Kinder came on as starters midway through last season. Nick Warren was a key as a sophomore as well as a junior, when he missed a handful of games with an injury.

That experience is especially important because Helmer emphasizes the little things. He wants high-percentage shots and he wants his team to defend those high-percentage shots.

“We have forced our opponents into a lot of threes, and we’ve got the ball inside enough to have a considerable margin at the free-throw line,” Helmer said.

“It’s man-to-man defense, helping a lot, be in the passing lane. Defend the area that is the biggest threat, and that’s the area inside.”

League champs? _ McPherson’s Christian Ulsaker and Jack Pyle not only lead the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division II in scoring with 23.3 points and 20.3 points, their team has a two-game lead as the season winds down.

McPherson can wrap up at least a share of the league title with a win at Goddard (8-9) tonight. The Bullpups’ final league games are against Valley Center (3-13) on Tuesday and at Arkansas City (3-13) on Feb. 25.

The McPherson girls also can wrap up Division II tonight.

The Heights boys and girls can clinch their shares of the City League title with wins over visiting Carroll tonight. Both Falcons teams are ahead by two games with three to play.