A year ago, Bishop Carroll was a team of inexperienced underclassmen who were considered to compete but in no way win the City League and especially not a state championship.
About 365 days later, the Golden Eagles are thought of as one of the best boys basketball teams in the state. Carroll somewhat miraculously won the Class 5A state championship with a 43-41 victory overtime victory against Salina Central after starting the season 1-4.
“I didn’t really buy into my own team until the midseason tournament,” coach Mike Dominick said. “We were too young, too inexperienced. Now I expect us to start off quickly.
“We’re doing things now that we weren’t doing until February last year. We’re so much farther along.”
Carroll enters the 2018-19 season with a 13-game winning streak. In the Eagles’ last 20 games, McPherson is the only team they have lost to, and it came at the Roundhouse, one of the toughest venues in Kansas.
Senior Gunner Lynch said they are hungry for more.
“You got to be a lot more prepared because you know people are going to be out there to get you,” seinor Carsen Pracht said. “You can’t let that happen. You got to be focused to start strong and stay strong.”
Dominick said though it appears his team is eager to get back on the floor and prove there won’t be a championship hangover, not getting complacent is the biggest challenge. With a senior-heavy roster, it’s hard to believe complacency would be an issue.
Carroll could potentially come in with five seniors this season, but one, forward Cade Becker, is already out with injury until Christmas at the earliest.
The Eagles will run positionless, motion basketball. Senior Carsen Pracht and junior Tanner Mans will do much of the ball handling. Senior Gunner Lynch will be among their top rebounders, and senior Carson Lee is the top three-point shooter.
The roles are defined, and that was what got Carroll as far as it went last season. The difference is now the whole state knows.
“It’s kind of a different mindset you have to have when you have that target on you,” Mans said. “You don’t think about it until you actually start to play. Coach has been telling us that all week in practice, so it’s just a different mindset you have to have in games.”
Carroll only loses one senior from last year’s team, but he was a big one. Luke Evans was selected to the Eagle’s All-State team after an inspiring performance in the state tournament.
Evans was the Eagles’ vocal leader and knew how to fill up a stat sheet. Carroll will miss his presence.
“On offense, he got everyone where they needed to be, and I think doing that will be a huge part this year,” Lynch said.
However Evans had to take on a massive role last season. Coming into the year, Dominick was unsure of who of the just three players with varsity experience would step up outside of his one senior. He knows now with 11 who have put in minutes.
And more help is on the way in Becker and sophomore Enrique Lankford, who was out all of last season.
With that, there are expectations for Carroll in 2018-19. The Golden Eagles are the No. 1 team in Class 5A, according to the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association’s preseason rankings.
“I welcome it,” Dominick said. “I think it’s a good thing for our kids, a new perspective and perception that they’re now the hunted.”