Many teams can look back on a season and feel satisfied. For the South Gray boys basketball team, last year will make the Rebels perfectly satisfied. That’s because, for the first time in school history, the Rebels finished a season unblemished, a perfect 26-0, and claimed the Class 1A-1 state title with a 65-54 win over Hanover, making it The Telegram’s No. 7 local sports story of 2018.
The state title game in Hays was South Gray’s eighth in 15 state appearances, dating back to 1993. All appearances came under the guidance of coach Mark Applegate, who started coaching 37 seasons ago at the then Montezuma High School, before it consolidated with Copeland in 1991. Applegate was the Telegram’s Coach of the Year.
The Rebels took down a Hanover team that won the previous year’s matchup with South Gray in the title game, and did the same in 2010. The 2018 title was the Rebels’ fourth in school history and first since repeating in 2007 and 2008.
“This group of boys were a special group of kids,” Applegate told the Telegram in March. “All the groups we’ve had go to the state tournament and win it or go very deep, they have one thing in common, and that’s their team unity, their cohesiveness. That makes them a joy to coach.”
Key Stats and Figures
The Rebels averaged 72.2 points per game while giving up an average of 34.4. This team also averaged just 9.4 turnovers a game while forcing opponents into 20 a game.
South Gray shot 52 percent from the field (36.3 percent beyond the arc) and converted 68 percent of its free throws.
At 6-foot-7, senior Gilbert Peters averaged 16.6 points and 10.8 rebounds a game while blocking 65 shots on the season, dishing out 74 assists and picking up 76 steals. Clifton Miller scored a team-high 24 points in the title game, and Peters added 23 with 13 boards and four blocked shots. Austin Jantz added 10 points, and Brock Davis had seven rebounds.
South Gray was 19 of 44 from the field (as was Hanover), but the Rebels knocked down 23 of 28 free throws while Hanover (22-1) made 12 of 16.
South Gray wins fourth state title with 65-54 win over Hanover
Editor’s note: The following story, written by Gatehouse sports reporter Rick Peterson, first appeared in The Telegram’s March 11 edition and is re-published below.
HAYS — After falling in the Class 1A Division I title game a year ago, every one around the South Gray boys basketball team knew the Rebels were in store for big things in the 2017-18 season.
Even so, an undefeated season was never a goal South Gray talked about, even after the Rebels started breezing through every opponent they faced.
“I knew we had great things coming this year, but there was no plan to go undefeated,” South Gray star senior Gilbert Peters said.
The Rebels went ahead and made it happen anyway, cementing their dream season with a 65-54 win over Hanover on Saturday in the 1A D1 title game at Gross Memorial Coliseum in Hays.
“We just took it one possession at a time, and we’re glad we got an undefeated season,” Peters said. “We’re happy it turned out the way it did.”
Led by the tandem of Clifton Miller and Peters, South Gray finished 26-0, doing what no other Rebel team in school history had done.
Miller, a junior guard, scored a team-high 24 points. Peters, a 6-foot-6 forward, scored 23 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked four shots.
It was South Gray’s fourth state championship and first since 2008.
“They’re the only team in South Gray history to go undefeated,” South Gray coach Mark Applegate said. “That says something for this team. And that’s going to be their legacy.
In a rematch of last year’s title game, South Gray led 35-27 at halftime and led by as much as 17 in the third quarter. Hanover rallied to cut the lead to five with 1:45 left, but the Rebels put the Wildcats away with free throws and defensive stops.
“We knew that they would make a run when we went up (17),” Applegate said. “But we held on to the ball and made smart decisions, and we made our free throws.”
Austin Jantz joined Miller and Peters in double figures with 10 points.
″(Miller and Peters) played extremely well, but so did some support players,” Applegate said. “Brock Davis had (seven) rebounds and he kept No. 21 (Thomas Atkins) in check. And Marcelo Neufeld came in there in the second quarter when Gilbert picked up his second foul. (Austin) Jantz played really well. We had some guys really step up.”
Both teams were an identical 19 of 44 from the field, but South Gray went 23 of 28 from the foul line while Hanover was 12 of 16.
Hanover finished the year 22-1. The Wildcats were led by Daiken Stallbaumer’s 16 points.