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Plainsmen basketball teams depending on tenacious defense, big players for successful ‘09-’10 season PDF Print E-mail

by Pastor Vince Carrig

Sports Writer

The Southwest Roughriders visit  Grant on Friday night to help open the 2009-10 Plainsmen basketball season.

After one lap around the league, Head Coach Shawn Cole returns for his second year with hopes the boys can improve on their 13-9 season record and win the NSAA’s class C2 district six. 

Plainsmen fans will pin much of their hopes on 6-foot-10 senior center Kye Kurkowski. 

Kurkowski made serious off-season efforts to improve his game, adding more mass in the weight room and by attending a summer camp to get input from Huskers coach Doc Sadler. 

Kurkowski’s added strength and height should translate to more rebounds and even a dunk or two. Look for him to play a major role under both baskets for Perkins County.

After their sky-scraping center, the Plainsmen return just two players with significant varsity game experience. 

Max Jones will join Kurkowski under the basket, boxing out opponents and scrapping for rebounds. He brings an accurate mid-range shot and a willingness to drive the lane. Hopefully he can shake off a late-season football injury and shine in his final year. 

Michael York promotes from “sixth man” to swing man this year. Coach Cole should get lots of mileage out of the versatile and athletic player, who can create his own space and shots with dribbling skill and, at 6-foot-4, hold his own among the big boys under the net.

“Michael York was a good contributor to our team last year as a sophomore. I am looking forward to him to step up and be one of our best players this year. He will give teams match-up problems with his size and skills,” Coach Cole says of York. 

Coach Cole will have to insert some new pieces into the puzzle beyond those returning three, but has great raw material with which to work. 

Six-foot-five power forward Tyler Brott will complement Kurkowski well, adding more brawn for rebounds and put-backs. Brott should expect to spend significant time on the floor.

Senior Josh Sexon looks like a good candidate to run the offense from the point and handle the ball the most for Perkins County. Fellow senior Nick Turner and junior Jeremy Hagan round out the guard corps.

Expect kneecap-to-kneecap, suffocating defense from the Plainsmen again in 2009-10. Inherited from mentor Larry Pritchett, Coach Cole likes his team to play strong fundamental basketball and let the rest take care of itself. 

Perkins County’s offense will not center on one player. As opponents will likely commit extra resources to stop Kurkowski and York, expect the others on the floor to take opportunities to score. Rapid and patient ball movement should produce some open looks and lanes for shooters.

Coach Cole sees the Plainsmen as legitimate contenders, but expects to receive the stiffest challenge from North Platte St. Pat’s and their dominating player Shane O’Connor. O’Connor possesses the ability to take over a game and put the Irish on his back and drag them to wins. 

“I do feel that we have a team that can match up with anyone.  I feel that we have a good chance to beat all of the teams on or schedule if we play the type of basketball we need to
play—fundamental basketball,” Coach Cole said.

This year’s schedule for both the boys and the girls generally clusters home games and away games, with the Plainsmen often playing in Grant during December and gaining frequent bus rider miles in January. They again play in the Perkins County Booster Club Tournament over the winter break and in South Platte Valley Association’s championship on the campus of Mid Plains Community College. McCook High School will host this year’s sub-district playoff rounds. 

Head Coach Chris Mestl wants the Lady Plainsmen to appear in the NSAA’s state tournament in Lincoln for the fifth-consecutive year.

Entering his 14th year as a head coach (10 at Grant/Perkins County) with a 201-83 record, Coach Mestl sees an experienced and quick team ready to take on top rivals North Platte St. Pat’s and Hershey.

“We return three players who started every game last year, and a fourth who started the last eight games of the season (including all of the games at the state tournament). Hopefully this type of experience will help us as the season goes along,” Coach Mestl said.

The experience comes in the form of three senior guards named Mackenzie Hite, Jenni Sis, and Brooke Poppe, along with junior small forward Jessi Day. 

Hite will direct the offense as the point guard, and undoubtedly take mid-range shots and three pointers as those become available. Her quickness allows her to glue herself to opposing guards and get into their passing lanes as well.

Sis shoots effectively from mid-range and the foul line, and specializes in picking pockets. The Plainsmen will look to capitalize on her ability to swipe the ball and manufacture points that way.

Both Hite and Sis pull down more than their share of rebounds as guards. 

Day will again display tenacity in mixing things up under the basket, driving hard toward it and battling for loose balls. 

Poppe adds pure shooting ability to the Lady Plainsmen’s attack, and stretches the floor with her speed. Look for her as the key to Perkins County opening up into transition and scoring easy breakaway baskets. She will also tax opposing defenses with her ability to strike from behind the three point line. 

With three quick and speedy guards on the floor, expect the Lady Plainsmen to press opponents in their backcourt and trap at mid-court as much as ever. This group has run an up-tempo offense most of its career and it suits them well.

A stronger and more-experienced Tanya Metcalf will anchor the defense and gain possession of rebounds for 2008-09’s District 6 champion and state championship semi-finalist team. Metcalf also can use her soft touch around the basket to get close-range shots to go through the net.

Coach Mestl sees growth opportunities for the current edition of the Lady Plainsmen. He believes that underclassmen Tori Osler and Shalee Pollard can develop into effective two-way post players, and that the guards need to snag more than their share of rebounds for the team to stockpile wins.

North Platte St. Pat’s and Hershey will threaten to swipe the Lady Plainsmen’s crowns at the district level, and Cambridge and Sutton again lurk at the state level.

“If we can keep the areas of concern under control, and find ways to score, we should have a great chance for an outstanding season,” Coach Mestl says. 

Basketball action starts at 5:45 p.m. on Friday night at the Perkins County High School gym.