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Five storylines to watch for the boys basketball season


By Brad Hallier

What a year 2022-2023 was for area boys basketball.

Hesston won a Class 3A record-tying third straight state championship. Mounridge sent its long-time coach Vance Unrau into retirement with a state championship. Macksville won Class 1A Division 1. McPherson took down its all-sports nemesis Bishop Miege in the state semifinals before falling to Hugoton in the Class 4A championship game. Hutchinson had its best season in a long time, as the Salthawks reached the Class 5A state semifinals.

What will this season bring? Here are five storylines to watch for.

McPherson primed for another title push

Kurt Kinnamon will go down as one of the greatest coaches in Kansas high school boys basketball history. The man wins, wins and wins some more. Even two years ago, during a rebuilding year, the Bullpups finished third at the 4A state tournament

This season looks promising. In typical McPherson style, the Bullpups have several players who can beat you. Seniors Kyden Thompson and Cory Muehler averaged nearly 25 points, eight assists and five steals a game, combined. Senior Owen Pyle and junior Gabe Pyle are also standouts returning.

Kinnamon knows the expectations for McPherson basketball all too well. State runner-up is a pretty good season in McPherson. It’s not normally considered a great season. The Bullpups will be fueled by the heartbreak and may come back even stronger this season.

Two contenders in McPherson?

You better believe it. Look just to the south, as Elyria Christian has almost everyone back from last year’s team that went 19-5 in Class 1A Division. 1. Now playing Division 2, Elyria and coach Zach Goodrich could win some hardware this season.

Ty Romero returns after averaging 18 points a game, and Johnny Unruh added 13.

Consider that the Eagles didn’t lose to another 1A school all season until they lost to Wichita Classical at state. This is going to be a good, good team to watch out for.

Sterling looks like a 2A contender

What classification has been stronger for area boys basketball than 2A? Schools like Moundridge, Berean Academy, Sterling, St. John, Central Plains and Hillsboro have won state titles in the last 12 years. And that doesn’t count other good teams like Inman and Remington.

Sterling could be the best of the lot this year. Seven players who started at various times last season are back, including four who averaged more than seven points a game. Isaac Briar is the top returning scorer at 11.5 points a game, while Gabe Riffel could be a double-double machine after averaging more than 9 points and 9 rebounds last season.

There are athletes everywhere. Sterling should be able to defend, beat teams in transition, but also be able to win a half-court game. This will be a fun team to watch.

Central Christian is ready to run

Coach Adam Clark’s favorite style is to have four or five guards on the floor. Athletes. Shooters. Creating havoc on defense and making opposing defenses beg for mercy on offense.

While just 8-15 a season ago, Central Christian was substate runner-up despite injuries. This team returns most of their guards, and Clark could throw out some of those four and five-guard lineups that could lead to some deafening evenings at the small gym in northeastern Hutchinson.

Blake Yoder averaged 10 points a game, and Piercen Huff and Justus Huff averaged 6 points a game. Tucker Clark was a solid defensive stopper with a long wingspan.

Hesston looks for history

When Hesston got drubbed in the first game of the season last year to Southeast of Saline, it was safe to assume almost everyone wrote off a threepeat bid for the Swathers.

It still happened, though. Hesston keeps graduating great senior classes, with Jake Proctor being a part of last year’s. Still, let’s not write off Hesston. Adrian Hernandez and Jackson Fry were starters last year and should have a bigger role this season.

Many other 3A contenders last year also graduated great senior classes, including runner-up Marysville and Southeast of Saline, which Hesston beat in the semifinals in an instant classic.