Who’s No. 1?
Bobcat boys begin quest for third straight KVL title, but coaches say league is tough
The Kaw Valley League had its toughest boys basketball season in recent memory during the 2007-2008 campaign, but that may have been just a prelude to an even stronger season in 2008-2009, according to league coaches.
“I think it’s going to be pretty up this year,” said Mike McBride, coach of the two-time defending champion Basehor-Linwood Bobcats. “I know a lot of teams out there didn’t lose much. Perry lost one senior and brings just about everybody back from a team that lost one senior. Lansing, if I was to pick, I would say would be first or second as well. They have good size. They’ve got a group of good athletes. Mill Valley’s going to be improved.
“As far as the league, you could go through every team and say why they would be better.”
McBride says the same thing about his team, which lost a talented senior class but may return one of the top guard trios in the Kansas City area with Anthony Pierce, Chandler Schaake and Mark Vaca.
McBride expects his team to contend for the league title again this season, but he said there are nine other KVL teams that will have something to say about it.
“When we go on the court we expect to get everybody’s best shot,” he said, adding, “Everybody talks about going to state. Winning league is sometimes a lot tougher than going to state. That’s why you get some eight-win teams that put three in a row together. To get to state you’ve gotta win three (in Class 4A). For league you’ve got to put 13 together.”
Bonner Springs coach Ryan Hull expects to see last year’s top three teams — Basehor, Perry and Lansing — back atop the standings this season.
“I think those teams will actually be the three teams to contend with, and I think Piper’s going to be a pretty good team as well,” Hull said.
A rebuilding year for Piper last season meant a fourth-place finish.
Hull said the team that may be hurting the most from last year’s graduations is Bishop Ward, which went 15-9 last season and advanced to the Class 4A state tournament.
Both Hull and McBride said the league should be tougher from top to bottom, however. That includes teams like Tonganoxie that have traditionally struggled. The Chieftains have a new coach in Shawn Phillips.
Also included in the discussion is league newcomer Turner. The Bears are the league’s largest school and boast plenty of talented athletes, as witnessed by their football team’s late-season surge into the state playoffs. Turner, a Class 5A school, replaced Class 2A Immaculata in the Kaw Valley League.
“It’s definitely going to make the league a better league,” McBride said of Turner’s addition. “I’m excited about it because I try to beef up my schedule wherever I go, so having another large school and playing them twice a year, I’m excited about that because that’s two more games that will get us ready for sub-state.”
With so many teams improved and the league’s overall difficulty rising, neither McBride nor Hull expects the league to be cut-and-dry. That includes Hull’s Braves, which will present a completely new lineup this season.
“We’re just going to be so darn young that it’s gong to be like hold onto your shorts because you don’t really know what you’re going to get,” Hull said.