State championship defense begins today for Bobcat boys
On the bus ride back to Basehor-Linwood High School from the state capital last summer where the team was honored by state legislators for winning the Class 4A state championship, returning players began talking about Emporia.
They wanted to see how they could perform in the Emporia Invitational Basketball Tournament that would kick off the season and the Bobcats’ quest for another run at the state title.
While a summer of basketball camps and games awaited them, players were eager to start a new season and embark on the next challenge.
A new season begins today for Basehor-Linwood in Emporia and the Bobcats are playing schools with greater enrollments than themselves. The tournament includes multiple teams that are experienced playing in state tournaments and winning titles.
Basehor-Linwood plays Junction City in the first round. Junction City has a talented group of post players and is a top program from central Kansas.
“They try to deny passes and pressure the ball,” McBride said. “They play a lot like Sumner Academy. This will be a great game for us. We will get to see what we need to work on.”
The Emporia Invitational will feature top teams. Olathe East is a perennial Sunflower League power and Blue Valley West has been successful since it opened earlier this decade. With the exception of BLHS, all of the schools at the tournament are Class 5A and Class 6A. With more students, they tend to have a lot of height, more talented players to choose from and play at a faster tempo than what can be played in Class 4A.
“We want to go up, play hard and believe we can win,” McBride said. “We will see what happens from there. We need to develop some more players and will be a different team in March than we are right now.”
The Bobcats enter the tournament with some preseason accolades, including being ranked No. 10 in the Topeka Capital-Journal poll among all classes.
They are ranked No. 1 in several Class 4A preseason polls, and McBride said the team has responded well to those rankings.
“I can say our kids have practiced harder since we found out the ranking,” he said. “We are not taking anything for granted and welcome the challenge. I will be surprised if we don’t work hard to stay up there.”
Still, in a preseason tournament it is as much about Basehor-Linwood as it is any opponent. The Bobcats need to improve as a team and work on execution with the realization that the game will be a footnote in the season if it ends at the state tournament in Salina.
BLHS scrimmaged on Friday night as part of Meet the Bobcats night.
The scrimmage didn’t tell a lot. Players were split into two teams, and they didn’t reveal much because both teams knew what the other was doing.
“The seniors displayed that you have to have them to win games,” McBride said. “The seniors got things done. They attacked everything and weren’t scared to make mistakes; that is what you want. They demonstrated why you want to have seniors who have been in a program for a while and know what we expect.”