By BRETT MARSHALL
When the Scott City boys basketball team pulls into Hutchinson's Sports Arena on Thursday for its 6:30 p.m. Class 3A first-round state basketball game against Riverton (13-8), veteran head coach Glenn O'Neil is hoping his 10th trip to a state tourney will end just that way — as a perfect "10."
The No. 2-seeded Beavers (22-1) will be searching for their first state crown since 2006 when they captured the 4A title in Salina, a 71-52 romp over Belle Plaine.
It was just a year later, when the Beavers slipped down to 3A with the annual enrollment determining the class, that the Beavers made it all the way back to the finals, before falling to Wichita Collegiate, 52-44, at the Sports Arena.
During his 15 years at Scott City, and nine years previously at Frankfort, teams coached by O'Neil have played in the 1A state tournament at Gross Memorial Coliseum in Hays, the 2A state event at Manhattan's Bramlage Coliseum, and the 3A Hutch and 4A Salina sites.
Heading the cast for the Beavers is senior Ron Baker, who averages 20.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.6 steals, 3.2 assists and 1.9 blocks per game.
"Ron has really been a coach's dream," O'Neil said. "I've been fortunate to coach a number of outstanding players over the years and he ranks right up there with them. He's continually trying to improve his game and his work ethic is really impressive."
But the Beavers have hardly been a one-player show. Brett O'Neil, the coach's son, averages 12 points per game from his point guard position while handing out six assists per game. From there, it's all balance.
A pair of inside players, both sophomores, provide the scoring punch up front for O'Neil. Joey Meyer averages 8.3 points and 4.6 rebounds, while Drew Kite knocks down 7.5 points and grabs 6.4 boards.
"Together, they've really grown as the season has progressed," O'Neil said of the tandem.
Add in the trio of Tyler Hess (6.9 points), Braeden Robinson (5.9) and Mason Turner (4.8) and its easy to see how the team averages 70.3 points a game.
O'Neil said the Beavers' first round opponent, Riverton, likes to play a mid-tempo style of basketball with its tallest player at 6-foot-2.
"They play a patient offense and run a combination of zones on defense," O'Neil said. "It's always hard to tell on film how quick teams are. But they've got three guards and all of them have shot three's well at one time or another."
The Beavers' mentor said he doesn't plan to change his game plan for the tourney opener.
"We'll go with what we've done," O'Neil said, emphasizing the full court and half court trap defenses that created 16 steals a game.
"We've had a good season, but this is what you work for. We'll see what kind of noise we can make this week."
A victory by the Beavers would put them into Friday night's semifinal against the winner Wichita Collegiate-Hutchinson Trinity game. Collegiate, 21-2, is ranked No. 2 in 3A-B the KBCA.
See pairings in Scoreboard, Page B2.