By BRETT MARSHALL and
One might consider the Scott City Beavers' boys basketball team as a puzzle with many pieces to fit together.
In making a successful run to their second consecutive Class 3A state championship two weeks ago in Hutchinson, the Beavers found those pieces with a combination of players who contributed in many different ways.
Two of those players — both juniors — were integral pieces to putting the puzzle together.
One was Mr. Inside for the Beavers — 6-3 power forward Drew Kite. The other was Mr. Outside — 6-0 point guard Brett O'Neil.
Without one, the other wasn't as efficient for the Beavers. Even head coach Glenn O'Neil had difficulty in figuring out who had a better season. In essence, the two were like one.
Thus, for the first time in recent memory, the two Scott City juniors shared The Telegram's top honor as Co-Players of the Year.
6-4, Jr., Forward. Scott City
That would be one way to describe the performance of Drew Kite as he was one of the main cogs in leading the Beavers to a second straight 3A state championship.
In 26 games, he scored in double figures 23 times, had four games of 20-plus points and recorded 13 double-doubles in points and rebounds. His season high scoring was 28 against Lakin (13-of-16 field goals) while his rebounding high was 20 against Palmer Ridge, Colo., in the first round of the Colby Orange and Black Classic. Kite was voted the MVP of that tournament.
In the Beavers' three-game run at the state, Kite averaged nearly 15 points and 11 rebounds, nearly identical to his season averages of 15.6 points and 10 boards.
"I think at the beginning (of the season) we all kind of knew we had a chance," Kite said of the team's pursuit of a second straight title. "I think many people doubted us since we lost Ron (all-stater Baker, now at Wichita State). I still thought we had a great chance to repeat."
Kite's confidence was reflected in his improved play from his sophomore season when he came off the bench for the Beavers in a supporting role.
"My vertical jumped went from 27 to 31 inches and I think it just helped me a lot," Kite said. I had more experience having played last year and I just had more confidence and everything just improved — my scoring and all-around play."
Kite also said he was more of the inside big man for the Beavers while his frontcourt mate — 6-3 junior Joey Meyer — played more away from the basket. Thus, the two complemented each other with their different styles.
"Joey and me are almost completely different," Kite said. "He's gets up and down the floor more, he's more of an outside shooter. I'm more like right under the basket."
Kite's scoring was reflected in his 62 percent field goal shooting while also making 72 percent of his free throws. His versatility showed up by his averages in blocked shots (1.8, season high 5), assists (1.4) and steals (1.5).
Having a chance to return to Hutchinson and repeat as champions is a memory he will savor.
"It was awesome to get back to state and be in that atmosphere," Kite said. "It was a lot of fun, more fun than even last year."
6-0, Jr., Guard. Scott City
Basketball experts will tell you how important it is for any successful team to have a good point guard running the show on the floor.
Head coach Glenn O'Neil describes it appropriately as having a quarterback out there to run the plays.
So perhaps there is just a tinge of irony when one considers that the eldest of coach O'Neil's two sons — Brett — plays point guard for the Beavers and also quarterbacks the Beavers' football team, also coached by his father.
Like a conductor of an orchestra, it is O'Neil's job to get everyone on the team involved and there was nobody better at that than the team-oriented, passing whiz O'Neil.
"We like to get up and down, take some risks and speed up the other team," O'Neil said. "I think communicating on the court, playing good defense were all important parts of our success. We like to play fast and our defense really is the key."
Every point guard is gauged by his assist to turnover ratio and in O'Neil's case, he finished the year with 165 assists (6.3) to just 71 turnovers (2.7). He managed to pull down 3.7 rebounds a game despite playing on the perimeter and in the up-tempo defense, averaged 3.4 steals. He was a 45 percent field goal shooter and made 68 percent of his free throws.
His season high scoring of 25 points came against Liberal in the Colby Orange and Black semifinals and he had 20 games of double-figure scoring. He recorded three double-doubles in points/assists including an 11-point, 11-assist effort in the state championship game against Nemaha Valley.
"I think the thing that helps is that we're very comfortable with each other," O'Neil said of his teammates. "We've won throughout middle school, freshman, junior varsity. We know each other and what we're going to do out on the floor."
Repeating as champions, O'Neil said, was just another fun trip on what has been a two-year journey of compiling a 50-2 record.
"Winning it twice is greater and to have a chance for a three-peat is something we're looking forward to," O'Neil said.
Of his own play this season, O'Neil said he had stepped up his performance on the defensive end.
"Definitely, my defense got better," O'Neil said. "I had to play good defense, but I also knew I had help back behind me. I talked more and I think that's the best part of where I improved."
6-3, Sr., Guard. Garden City
Jake Curran had high hopes for his senior season, not only for himself, but also for his Buffaloes teammates.
And while the Buffs' 9-12 record doesn't tell the entire story, the just-completed season for Curran and the Buffs has set a course for a program that is ever-improving after two years with Jacy Holloway at the coaching helm.
"My senior year was pretty fun, I enjoyed my teammates and I had to step up my role as a leader," Curran said. "I had to take more command. My rebounding was my biggest area where I improved."
During a midseason run in which the Buffs put themselves in position to challenge for the Western Athletic Conference title, it was Curran's all-around play that contributed to the team's success.
"The better I rebounded, the better the team did," Curran said. "I started attacking the boards more and we got on that winning streak. That helped us."
With a target on his back as the Buffs' top offensive threat, Curran saw every defense imaginable. Despite that, he averaged a team-high 14.4 points per game while also averaging 4.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.6 steals.
Curran said competing and having a chance at sharing the WAC title (they finished second at 6-2), was among the season's highlights.
"The six wins in the WAC was special," Curran said. "We haven't won that many league games in some time. It would have been nice to finish off with a win and have a chance to tie."
In the team's regular season finale at Liberal (a 69-62 loss), Curran had his best game as a Buffalo. He scored a career-high 34 points, 30 of which came in the second half. He had 16 games in which he scored in double figures and had a season-best 12 rebounds against Great Bend.
Having played for Holloway, a former Big Eight point guard at Iowa State, Curran said he was a much better player and also understood how to enjoy the game.
"He taught me to have fun," Curran said of his two-year coach. "You want to be competitive and play hard, give 100 percent and try your best. But you've also got to have fun."
6-3, Jr., Forward. South Gray
Trenton Holloway knows what basketball success is all about.
The 6-3 junior from South Gray has been to the state tournament each of the last three years as a player, and he remembers well the back-to-back titles of the Rebels while he was in sixth and seventh grades.
It's something that's become synonymous with South Gray boys basketball, which is a good thing, Holloway said.
"Going to state never gets old. It's always a great atmosphere to watch, but it's really fun to play in," he said.
This year the Rebels (18-5) lost in the first round, but last year they placed third and two years ago they finished second. A title would be great, Holloway added, but he knows that each new year brings a new team.
"We had a lot of young guys this year, but they got a lot of playing time," he said. "We'll be losing some talent, but we'll be getting some back."
Coach Mark Applegate is the one constant in the Rebel program, he said, and this year when they weren't playing so well, he was the one who kept the team going in the right direction.
"He always gets us to keep playing as hard as we can," he said.
Holloway has been playing varsity ball since he was a freshman, but this was his first season as a starter. Coming off the bench behind other talented players helped prepare him for this season and his role as a leader.
Getting in the gym, practicing and working out, he explained, were the simple steps to his individual success (13 points and seven rebounds a game).
He also realizes he and teammate Garret Watkins were go-to guys because of the strength of their inside games.
Practices are intense with everyone trying to make everyone else better, he added, and that just helped his overall game. That translated into team leadership, even as a junior, Holloway said.
It's all part of being part of a successful program, he said.
"You've got to give it your all, all the time," Holloway said. "Everyone's just trying to knock off South Gray all the time. It's a tough position, but we expect it every game."
5-11, Sr., Guard. Lakin
Bryant Miller never got a chance to play in a state tournament during his four seasons with the Lakin Broncs.
But that never dampened the love of the game for the 5-11 senior guard.
Playing varsity as a freshman and starting since he was a sophomore, Miller said he always played the game he loves with a spirit of competitiveness inspired by his lifelong love of college powerhouses Duke and Kansas.
At 17.3 points a game this season (including a season high of 31 in the Hi-Plains League tournament), Miller scored his career 1,000th point in the penultimate game of his career, only to see that career end with a sub-state loss to eventual state champion Scott City.
Miller was aware of his role in the Broncs' lineup, especially the past three years, and especially as a sophomore.
"That was still tough because I put so much pressure on myself," he remembers. "Then I started to relax and tried to have more fun, and that seemed to work."
Expectations were high, both from himself and from fans, he said, but he felt that as long as he was good enough, he deserved to be playing.
Miller said he has been playing basketball since he can remember.
Playing with a core of seniors that had had success since middle school, the Broncs expected to have a solid season this year. But a 1-8 start dampened those hopes, until an 8-game winning streak that ended in the sub-state loss proved to themselves and their detractors that the Broncs were truly a quality team.
"We weren't playing as a team and we didn't play with any emotion," Miller said of the Broncs' poor start. At mid-season, they realized that they were playing against the same teams they used to beat in middle school, and that attitude seemed to turn around their season.
Miller is heading to Neosho County next season to play basketball for the Panthers. Once again, he'll be playing as a freshman, but this time, the players will be bigger and the speed faster.
2012 Telegram All-Area Boys Basketball
Name School Ht. Class Pos.
Jake Curran Garden City 6-3 Sr. G
Trenton Holloway South Gray 6-3 Jr. F
Drew Kite Scott City 6-4 Jr. F
Bryant Miller Lakin 5-11 Sr. G
Brett O’Neil Scott City 6-0 Jr. G
Name School Ht. Class Pos.
Tyler LaSalle Holcomb 5-11 Jr. G
Joey Meyer Scott City 6-3 Jr. F
Braeden Robinson Scott City 5-11 Sr. G
Garret Watkins South Gray 6-5 Sr. F
Kyle Zerr Ulysses 5-11 Sr. G
Garrett Kissell, Ulysses; Cesar Yanez, Greeley County; AJ Govert, Greeley County; J.D. Howell, Syracuse; Gary Parks, Syracuse; Heath Tucker, Holcomb; Shane Bennett, Holcomb; Austin Terpstra, Garden City; Braden Taylor, Garden City; Taylor Williamson, Sublette; Alex White, Sublette; Gabe Martinez, Wichita County; James Persinger, Hugoton; Breck Roop, Moscow; Darrick York, Healy; Guy Fullmer, Dighton; Ted Boersma, Cimarron; Seth Holliday, Stanton County; Wyatt Slaven, South Gray.
Co-Players of the Year — Drew Kite and Brett O’Neil, Scott City.
Coach of the Year — Glenn O’Neil, Scott City.