By KEVIN THOMPSON
Morgan Ediger loves basketball.
More specifically, she enjoys playing a team sport that allows her to be around her friends in a competitive arena.
"I really love the game," The Telegram's 2014 Girls Player of the Year said. "The only reason I play is because I love the game. I get to be with my friends. We're like a family. We all share playing basketball and being friends. We love playing with each other."
It's that esprit de corps that propelled the Cimarron Lady Bluejays into the Class 3A state tournament for the first time since 2008 and the first time after four straight years of reaching the sub-state finals.
And just like all families, Ediger's experienced lows and highs.
The lowest moment of the season came at the state tournament in Hutchinson where they fell in overtime in the first round, and their season came to an abrupt end.
A silver-lining finder, though, Ediger is able to look back at her team's 22-3 record with pride and find many more positives than negatives.
Just a junior, the 5-9 forward was second on the team in scoring with 16.8 points a game (61 percent) and the team leader in rebounds with seven a game.
She also made 44 percent of her 3-point attempts (53-of-121) and converted 64 of her 100 free throw attempts (64 percent).
In three seasons totaling 67 games, Ediger has scored 910 points (13.6 per game), which is sixth all-time, including 108 3-point attempts, just six behind Haley Lloyd's mark of 114 set in 2008.
While the numbers are impressive, the four-sport athlete looks at this year's basketball season as all about team.
"Looking back, we had a good year, winning the league and tournament titles," she said.
Being undefeated at home, including the sub-state championship and qualifying for state, were also high points.
Once again, it was all about the team. It's a big deal for this program, she said.
"Whenever we go out and play, we represent Cimarron girls basketball," Ediger said. "It's a big name right now, and we've been successful, but we know that we have to keep working and it takes a lot of work. As long as we keep working at it, we'll be successful. We've been blessed with talent. As long as we work and play as a team, we can be successful."
That philosophy is displayed each time they play a game, she added. It's how they keep their edge when success could make them complacent.
"We have to come ready to play every day. Some games we know we're more talented, but we have to make sure we respect all teams and play hard each game," she explained. "We always want to be getting ready for games down the road — blocking out this game, certain defense this game. We're always working to try to get better."
Ediger has been around basketball all her life as her father, David, has been coaching it for the past 20 years.
"I've always been in a gym with my dad because he's coached my whole life. I've always been around it and played all through school, and my love for it grew," she said. "I'll play as long as I can. I also don't want to play so much that I don't want to do it anymore."
Ediger is savvy enough to know that, with her game and numbers, she is one of the team leaders. It's a role she enjoys.
"Being a leader on the floor, it means making defensive calls, making sure we were all on the same page, we're communicating on defense," she said. "On offense, it's doing whatever it takes to win that night, whether it means being a passer that night, or a scorer."
The Cimarron girls have developed an unselfish attitude that unifies them, Ediger said.
"We share the ball very well. It doesn't really matter who scores, as long as we win games," she said. "We're happy with that."
In preparing for the sub-state title game this year against Holcomb, the team that had kept them from reaching the state tournament the two previous years, Ediger said she and others tried to treat it like a normal game — with a twist.
"We brought out the old trophies to show that we could get one of these and qualify for state. We were really believing in each other and trying to keep positive all day," she said.
As one of the core players on a team that has experienced success, Ediger acknowledges that teams often specifically target her.
"I let the game come to me. I try not to force too many shots. We let our offense work," she said. "Eventually if I get the ball, I can look for the open drive or open shot. My teammates do a great job of getting me open. If there's nothing there, I'll be a passer."
She said she is most proud of her assists. She can score, but when opponents single her out, it means teammates are open. She looks to them, and they look to score.
It's also part of the Jays' offensive strategy of spreading the floor and looking to drive, shoot or post up.
"We just get it and go and look to run a lot," Ediger said. "Whoever is open, we can throw it ahead and maybe post up. If not, we can throw it around and get some screens and get a shot off quickly. We always want to get the ball and go."
Besides getting to state in basketball, Ediger has qualified for state in tennis, golf and track, where she is the defending champion in the Class 3A 300-meter hurdles.
She is also an honor student and active in her church.
Being involved in so much means she doesn't have time to get bored in anything.
"The breaks are nice," she said. "Doing other things, I can be around friends."