CIMARRON — For many schools, an absence from a state tournament appearance is not an unusual occurrence.

But for the South Gray Rebels, three years seems like an eternity.

They hope to change that this season, having missed each of the past two seasons since moving from Class 1A to 2A, and suffering season-ending losses to Meade in sub-state championship games.

The Rebels will likely get an early-season indicator of just how much progress they’ve made after demolishing an out-gunned Wichita County team, 84-20, on Monday in the opening round of the Cimarron Invitational.

Meade will open its tournament today with a 4:45 p.m. game against a struggling Bucklin Red Aces team. A Buffaloes’ win today would send them into Friday’s 4:45 p.m. semifinal game against the Rebels.

It didn’t take long on Monday for the Rebels to take command, leading 15-4 just past the midway point of the first quarter. Another 11-0 run extended the margin to 26-6 and it was 26-8 when the first period came to an end.

“We haven’t had a chance to play a lot (of minutes),” senior point guard Tate Skinner said after scoring a game-high 20 points, hitting 8-of-10 field goals and perfect at the free-throw line (3 of 3). “We’re just trying to execute. What I’ve liked so far is how we’re really playing together. There’s been no 1-on-1s.”

Skinner, a member of The Telegram’s 2013-14 All-Area team, said he had worked hard to develop better leadership skills on and off the court for his final season.

“I’m just trying to get everyone involved,” Skinner said. “Our defense sets the tone for our offense. We try to get out in transition, and I think we’ve excelled at that so far. We just try to keep the pedal to the metal.”

Skinner and his senior teammates have not seen a state tournament since their freshman season, and that is one of the goals as this season evolves, the 5-foot-8 guard said.

“We’re together more, and this year we’ve got big guys up front,” Skinner said of his team’s improvement from a year ago. “We’ve got freshman off the bench, sophomores who are contributing. We’re really deep I think. I’ve just tried to be more verbal in helping get everyone involved.”

The Indians provided little opposition to the speedy Rebels, trailing 44-13 at halftime and 68-20 after three periods. The Indians were unable to score in the fourth quarter.

For veteran Rebel coach Mark Applegate, the team’s 2-0 start has come against suspect competition and knows tougher days are ahead.

“We’ll find out Friday how much we’ve come along,” Applegate said. “Our depth is young, but our chemistry is much better than the last two years. They look to each other a lot more.”

The Rebels’ defense forced 29 Wichita County turnovers, something that is a focus for Applegate.

“We want to pressure the ball so we can get out and run,” Applegate said. “So far, we’ve been able to do a good job of that.”

Michael Martens and Carson Skidmore joined Skinner in double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively. In all, 11 players got their name into the scorebook for the Rebels.

They also owned the rebounding battle, grabbing 47 to 27 for the Indians. The Rebs only had eight turnovers in protecting the ball.

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South Gray (84) — Skidmore 5-11 0-0 10, T. Skinner 8-10 3-3 20, L. Skinner 1-4 1-2 3, P. Martens 3-6 0-0 9, Giesbrecht 0-3 0-0 0, Racy 2-4 0-1 4, Loewen 2-7 1-3 5, Ponce 2-3 0-0 4, G. Peters 4-6 0-0 8, M. Martens 5-7 2-4 12, Miller 3-5 1-1 7, Watson 0-1 0-0 0, Griebel 1-2 0-0 2, Pan. Martens 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 36-70 8-14 84.

Wichita Co. (20) — Long 0-2 0-0 0, Huber 2-6 1-2 5, Thurman 1-9 0-2 2, Burch 1-5 0-0 2, Schumacher 4-13 0-0 9, Alvarado 0-1 0-0 0, Sheppard 1-3 0-0 2, Gallardo 0-1 0-0 0, Tucke 0-0 0-0 0, Hembree 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 9-41 1-4 20.

South Gray 26 18 24 16 — 84

Wichita Co. 8 5 7 0 — 20

3-point goals—So. Gray 4-18 (Skidmore 0-3, T. Skinner 1-2, L. Skinner 0-2, Pet. Martens 3-6, Giesbrecht 0-2, Miller 0-2, Watson 0-1); Wichita Co. 1-11 (Long 0-1, Thurman 0-4, Burch 0-1, Schumacher 1-4, Gallardo 0-1). Rebounds—South Gray 47 (Skidmore 7), Wichita Co. 27 (Schumacher 7). Fouls—South Gray 7, Wichita Co. 18. Fouled out—Wichita Co. (Huber).

Sublette 42,

Satanta 37

New Sublette Lark boys coach Aaron Dardis could look back on his team’s nervous 42-37 victory over Haskell County rival Satanta in Monday’s first-round of the Cimarron Invitational as the best of both worlds.

He got an important win, and he can still take the learning curve and show his team what it needs to improve.

That’s because Dardis, who came from a successful stint at Hoxie, saw his team lose a 19-point lead midway through the third quarter only to see the Indians make a furious rally, closing the gap to three with 6.9 seconds left. But a breakaway assist from Sabastian Morales to Sam Massey for an easy layup with 2 seconds showing iced the victory for the 2-0 Larks.

“Our full court pressure was the difference in the third quarter,” Dardis said afterward. “We were aggressive in the passing lanes, which translated into points for us on the offensive side.”

Then, there was the drought of 6 minutes, 50 seconds for the Larks, which provided the Indians with their comeback trail.

With Tristan Colantonio getting six points and Trathen Stanfill scoring his team’s final seven points, the Indians made a gallant run at the Larks.

“Basketball is a game of runs, and we had a good one and Satanta had a good one at the end,” Dardis said. “We were fortunate. But I told the kids afterward that we got on the winner’s side of the bracket and we have to enjoy that for the moment. But we’ve got to become more disciplined in what we do. Me being new, it’s a big transition. The style of play is different from what they’ve done. It’s just gonna take some time.”

Nate Cearley scored 17 points and Massey 14 to pace the Larks’ offense. Stanfill had 17 points to pace the Indians. Sublette now awaits the winner of today’s 8:15 p.m. game between Cimarron and Minneola in Friday’s 8:15 p.m. semifinal.

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Satanta (37) — Stanfill 4 9-10 17, Miller 0 1-2 1, Stalker 0 0-2 0, Colantonio 3 3-4 9, Abernathy 3 0-2 6, Gonzales 2 0-0 4. Totals 12 13-20 37.

Sublette (42) — Whaler 1 0-0 2, Hinkle 1 0-0 2, S. Morales 2 1-3 5, Cunefare 1 0-2 2, Cearley 7 0-1 17, Brown 0 0-0 0, Massey 7 0-0 14. Totals 19 1-6 42.

Satanta 10 7 4 16 — 37

Sublette 13 12 11 6 — 42

3-point goals—Satanta 0, Sublette 3 (Cearley 3). Fouls—Satanta 14, Sublette 22.

Girls

Sublette 61,

Satanta 42

Just when it looked like the Satanta Lady Indians, led by senior twins Vanessa and Valerie Caro, had taken control of the third period, the Sublette Lady Larks came up with their not-so secret weapon — junior Brooke Briggs.

Having watched a 25-22 halftime lead disappear into a 31-27 deficit just 4 minutes into the third quarter, Sublette coach Andrea Ardery brought Briggs in off the bench.

Briggs had been recovering all fall from an ankle injury that required surgery in August, and had just been cleared by doctors a week earlier. Practice had been limited and Ardery said before the game that Briggs’ minutes would be limited.

When Briggs entered the lineup, she canned a pair of 3-pointers, sandwiched around a nifty assist to Alexis Ornelas that put the Lady Larks into a 35-31 lead, and they never looked back.

The result was a dominating final 12 minutes that led the way to a 61-42 victory.

“I think Brooke was the spark that got us going,” Ardery said afterward. “I thought we did a good job of turning on the pressure when the Caros were out of the lineup. Things just seem to flow better once she’s in the lineup.”

Briggs finished with eight points in the second half en route to a 12-point performance, but it was the play of Ornelas, a 5-6 senior, that had Ardery beaming. Ornelas finished with a team-high 18 points.

“She, as well as the other girls, are looking more to shoot the ball,” Ardery said of Ornelas. “They’re not afraid to shoot it anymore. It’s a huge improvement from last year.”

Peyton Whaler was also a big force in that third-quarter spree, hitting a pair of treys, along with one 2-pointer en route to 12 points.

The Lady Larks are now 2-0 after having won just four games a season ago in Ardery’s first season at the helm.

“They’re just seeing more of what’s happening on the floor,” Ardery said. “They don’t have their heads down. They’re playing more to win than not to lose. I can see a look in their eyes that they are more confident. They believe it more, and they trust their teammates.”

The Caro twins were deadly for coach Janie Lutz, scoring 35 of the team’s 42 points. Vanessa had a game-high 20 points while Valerie finished with 15. But between them they could make just one 3-point basket.

The victory puts the Lady Larks into Friday’s semifinal at 6:30 p.m. against today’s winner between Cimarron and Minneola.

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Satanta (42) — Howie 1 0-2 2, Wagner 0 2-3 2, Valdez 0 1-2 1, Van. Caro 9 2-4 20, Val. Caro 7 0-1 15, Gonzalez 1 0-2 2. Totals 18 5-14 42.

Sublette (61) — Watson 1 1-2 3, Briggs 5 0-1 12, Ornelas 8 2-5 18, Koehn 2 0-0 4, Whaler 5 0-1 12, Martin 3 0-0 6, Gonzalez 3 0-0 6. Totals 27 3-9 61.

Satanta 11 11 14 6 — 42

Sublette 14 11 22 14 — 61

3-point goals—Satanta 1 (Val. Caro), Sublette 4 (Briggs 2, Whaler 2). Fouls—Satanta 12, Sublette 17. Fouled out—none.

South Gray 58,

Wichita County 14

The Lady Rebels of South Gray exploded for 30 first-quarter points while holding Wichita County scoreless and cruised to a 58-14 victory in the opening round of the Bluejay Invitational on Monday afternoon.

South Gray lead 39-7 at halftime and 51-8 at the end of three periods.

Madison Dirks, a 5-10 sophomore, led the Lady Rebels with 22 points, 20 of those coming in the first quarter. She also knocked down four 3-pointers in the early onslaught. Eleven different Lady Rebels got into the scoring column. AnnaLeigh Whitham’s four points were high for the Lady Indians.

The victory moves the Lady Rebels into Friday’s 3 p.m. semifinal against the winner of the Meade-Bucklin game, which is slated to be played at 3 p.m. today. Wichita County gets the loser of that game at the same time in the Old Gym at Cimarron.

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South Gray (58) — Watson 2 0-0 4, E. Wright 1 1-2 3, Davis 1 0-0 3, W. Wright 1 0-2 2, Torres 2 0-0 6, Unruh 1 0-0 2, Dirks 9 0-0 22, Smith 2 0-0 4, M. Wright 1 2-2 4, Sidebottom 3 0-0 6, Axtell 1 0-0 2. Totals 24 3-6 58.

Wichita Co. (14) — Hermosillo 1 0-0 2, Preedy 1 0-1 2, Heredia 1 0-0 2, Budde 1 0-0 2, Fisher 0 1-5 1, Kenfield 0 1-2 1, Martinez 0 0-2 0, Whitham 2 0-1 4. Totals 6 2-11 14.

South Gray 30 9 12 7 — 58

Wichita Co. 0 7 1 6 — 14

3-point goals—South Gray 7 (A. Davis 1, Torres 2, Dirks 4), Wichita Co. 0. Fouls—South Gray 17, Wichita Co. 12. Fouled out—none.