KVL top-heavy with talent in girls hoops
After spending the past three years lingering near the top of the Kaw Valley League standings without actually ascending to the throne, this just may be the season the Lansing Lions rise to the top of the KVL.
“I think that Lansing’s going to be a force to be reckoned with,” Basehor-Linwood coach Noah Simpson said. “They’re very well-coached and have some very good seniors. They were very good last year, and they played us really tight the second time we played them. I saw them at some summer tournaments, and they’re very good. They’re on a mission this year.”
Lansing may return the most experienced lineup in the KVL this season with junior point guard Amy Briggs, senior shooting guard/forward Brittney Lang and senior power forward Alexis Ellis.
In fact, Lansing was a buzzer-beater away from knocking off Basehor last year at BLHS when Cassie Lombardino’s fadeaway bank shot lifted the Bobcats to victory. BLHS went on to win the Kaw Valley League championship.
Graduation took its toll on some of the league’s top programs. Tonganoxie, which dominated the league for years, has lost back-to-back talent-rich senior classes. Basehor also lost a senior-heavy senior class that accounted for the bulk of the offense and rebounds.
“I don’t know if we’re going to have the elite teams in (the league) like we’ve had the last couple years,” Tonganoxie coach Randy Kraft said.
While Simpson tips his hat to Lansing as the early favorite, he can’t count out his team either.
“I think we definitely have the goals of defending the league title and then making a good run by the end of the season,” Simpson said. “We do have a lot of new players on the team, a lot of young kids. We’re going to be pretty young this season, we’ll have a lot of sophomores on the court at times, but our kids are focused and determined and really want to play hard and get after it.”
Bonner Springs coach Clay Oakes agreed that Lansing was the team to beat this season, but he was quick to point out the depth of the KVL and said it would be anybody’s title for the taking.
“As far as from what teams have coming back from last year, I would think Lansing would be up there as a preseason favorite to win the league,” Oakes said. “Mill Valley’s going to be pretty strong. Piper’s got some pretty good big girls inside; they’ll be a contender too.
“Obviously you can’t count out Tonganoxie,” Oakes added. “Basehor lost a lot of starters, but they have a lot of young girls and I think they’ll also be contenders. It’s just so hard to say right now. Some teams lost key players last year, and I think it’s going to be pretty well-balanced toward the top four or five teams.”
Even though coaches consider Lansing, Basehor, Tonganoxie, Mill Valley and Piper to be the teams most likely in the running for the KVL championship, a number of other teams could shake things up.
Oakes points to Santa Fe Trail, a youth-laden squad a year ago that he said should be in the middle of the pack this year. Then there’s league newcomer Turner, which is the largest school in the KVL. And, of course, Oakes’ Bonner Springs Bravettes. With only three varsity players back from last season, Oakes knows his team will be climbing uphill all season. The Bravettes should be one of the tallest teams in the league, however, and most hungry. Simpson agreed.
“Bonner’s going to be one of those teams that is really going to be a surprise when you play them,” Simpson said. “They do have some young kids I’ve watched over the last couple years who’ve definitely impressed me, and I could see a lot of those young kids get varsity experience. That becomes a mystery when you play them because you don’t know much about them and you can’t really scout them. I definitely think Bonner could be that mystery team that could surprise people and be in that upper half of the league.”
— Benton Smith of the Tonganoxie Mirror contributed to this report.