Bobcats set new standard for BLHS basketball
Despite an upset in shocking form to conclude the season, the 2006-2007 Basehor-Linwood boys basketball season will be looked at as an unequivocal success.
The Bobcats (17-5) finished with more wins than they accumulated in the four previous seasons combined. BLHS also became the first team in school history to go undefeated in league play, winning the Kaw Valley League title with a 13-0 mark.
"The big thing going into the season was to get better, that was our goal," coach Mike McBride said. "We upped our goals as the season went on. At the end of the year we wanted to go to state. We took big steps, winning the league and going 13-0. It was a good stepping stone for us in the future."
The team's goal will remain the same next season.
"Definitely going to state," junior forward Tanner Swafford said. "We won't have anybody in the way this time. When we enter sub-state, we will look back at what happened this year and make sure it doesn't happen again. Piper is losing (Austin) Bond and (Nate) Daniels, so we have a good chance. I am confident that we will go to state."
McBride believes the 11-game improvement over last season came from an X-factor.
"We played as a team very well; we couldn't have done what we did without that," McBride said. "There wasn't any jealousy on our team. The intangibles made us good this year."
The Bobcats began the season in Emporia as the only 4A team in the preseason tournament. After a heartbreaking 58-57 loss to Olathe East and a second-round defeat at the hands of Junction City, the team had dug a 0-2 hole heading into a matchup against 6A Nebraska school, Bellevue. Austin Knipp and Tanner Swafford went off for 23 and 20 points, respectively, in the Bobcats 60-49 win.
"The Bellevue game at Emporia was huge for us," McBride said. "Being able to beat a bigger school that we had watched play and knew were very good was huge. Being able to beat them by 11 really jump-started our season. In our hearts we knew at that point that if we came to play, we could beat anyone."
Indeed, the Bellevue win began a seven-game winning streak. The Bobcats were for real.
The Bobcats achieved their record with as difficult a schedule as the team could put together. They will play the same schedule next year, with an improved field in Emporia.
"The seniors obviously carried us through it, and hopefully the juniors and sophomores develop where they can carry us next year," McBride said.
The Bobcats ended the regular season on a nine-game winning streak to enter the postseason at 16-4. The most symbolic of the wins came at Piper, with a 54-42 win against their nemesis.
"That was obviously a huge win for our program," McBride said. "They have historically been the team that has ended undefeated seasons."
Sub-state began with a 71-39 drubbing against St. James Academy before the Baldwin loss ended the season in Tonganoxie.
"We are still upset about the Baldwin loss, because we should have won," Swafford said. "If we had won, we could have played Piper again to go to the state tournament. Still, we had a great season. We can keep our heads up."
Next season will feature a BLHS team that could look very different on the court. The team will lose star guard Austin Knipp, starting wing Matt Fanning, and the top big man off the bench, Jon VanderVelde. But they should be much bigger.
"We will be intimidating," Swafford said. "We will have a 6-7 center (Jacob Schierbaum), we'll have Scott Ogilvie, a 6-3 monster. He loves the weight room. He will be bigger. When you have so many people over 6-feet, appearance can help."
The team may have to develop some outside shooters. Besides the gunning Knipp, the Bobcats had Fanning, who despite beginning the season 3-for-24 from beyond the three-point line, finished 31 percent from downtown.
"(Chandler) Schaake and (Anthony) Pierce can hit outside shots," Swafford said. "It's a part of maturing and growing up. We have to practice that over the summer. I will have to practice them myself."
Despite the changes, McBride can see an improved team.
"My expectation is to be better," he said. "We lost a couple kids, and we need to find a way to fill their spots. We should be bigger, stronger and faster. Our rebounding will be better.
"We have kids that didn't play a lot that can shoot the ball. We should be better with the ball in our hands and have less turnovers. Our big guys will be better. I don't see where we get worse at any spot. We should be better at every position."
McBride said he didn't know who would replace Knipp and Fanning in the starting lineup and added that he has nine or 10 players to choose from.
"We will be very deep," McBride said. "We will be better at that than last season."
The team's point guard believes the depth will allow the Bobcats to exploit match-ups.
"Whoever we are playing, if their team is run-and-gun we will slow down, if they are slower, we will run," Schaake said.
After a season of defying the odds, a second-round exit in sub-state will not be acceptable for the team next year.
"I wrote on the board: state," McBride said. "That will be our goal every year. There is no going back on that. We used to just talk about getting better; we flew by that this year. Our goal has to be to get to state."