Class 1A Division II: Wildcats will get out and run
Published on -3/6/2013, 10:01 AM
By KLINT SPILLER
Be careful watching Sharon Springs-Wallace County boys' basketball games at the Class 1A state tournament. If you take your eye off the action to look at a text or check the time, there's a good chance you'll miss something.
Wallace County (18-5) plays 100 miles per hour and doesn't slow down until the game gets out of hand.
The Wildcats take advantage of teams with limited depth by wearing them down. As soon as a missed shot is collected, Wallace County's players immediately look up the court to make an outlet pass for an easy basket on the other end.
While other teams have had trouble keeping up, it's just the normal pace of the game for Wallace County. The Wildcats have excellent conditioning and depth, at times substituting five players at once.
"We try to wear them down," said Wallace County senior guard Eli Kuhlman. "When you're tired, shots don't fall. When we have legs, our shots are still falling. It makes it easier. The score just keeps going up."
The Wildcats will find out this weekend if the best in 1A Division II can slow them down. Wallace County, the No. 4 seed, will face fifth-seed Colony-Crest (17-6) in the first round at 4:45 p.m. Thursday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
Wallace County head coach Larry O'Connor said he's always coached his teams to play fast, and that's the way he'll continue to coach. After all, O'Connor has seen it work at the Class 1A level before.
He led Brewster to four consecutive state appearances and back-to-back state championships in 2000 and 2001, despite having one of the smallest enrollments in 1A.
O'Connor said this year's squad actually reminds him of those squads.
"We don't have that one big superstar like we did with Jay Reid, but we have a lot of real good players who know how to play the game," O'Connor said.
Due to their fast pace and efficient shooting, the Wildcats have scored a tremendous amount of points this season.
Wallace County averages 71.3 points per game and has scored as many as 91 points in a game so far.
Wallace County gets contributions from throughout its lineup.
Kuhlman scores a team-high 18.4 points per game, but senior guard Gavin Mote and junior guard Cayden Daily are close behind at 14.4 and 11.4 points per game, respectively.
Wallace County's front court is led by junior Clay Schemm, 7.2 points; sophomore Nate Klinge, 7.1 points; and freshman forward Luke Schemm, 6.1 points.
Wallace County has conditioned itself for this pace for years.
"We've been doing that since we were little," Kuhlman said. "That's what we are used to. When teams slow us down, it hurts."
The Wildcats practice and play in the summer at top speed, they practice during the season at top speed and they play all their games at top speed.
"As a junior, senior and even sophomore, you get used to it," Mote said. "It's intensity. You have to come to practice with high intensity, and you can get through it."
In its sub-state semifinal game against Weskan, Wallace County played fast for the first three quarters. Then a minute and a half into the fourth, Wallace County slowed down after gaining a 27-point lead.
After committing six turnovers during the first 25 minutes, Wallace County gave up seven turnovers in the final six and a half minutes.
"We can't slow down and take care of the ball," O'Connor said. "When we slow the game down, we get out of our rhythm. That's when we get in trouble. The kids know once we get the boards, or if they score, it's out and it's gone."
The Wildcats have played a difficult schedule.
They've split with Hoxie, a 20-3 1A Division I qualifier; Oakley, a 17-6 2A sub-state runner-up at Plainville; lost to McCook, an 18-6 mid-sized school in Nebraska that defeated Hays High School midway through the season; lost to Dighton, a 16-7 1A Division II qualifier; and lost to Tribune-Greeley County, a 9-12 1A Division I school -- their one loss to a sub-.500 team.
Otherwise, Wallace County has taken care of business, especially down the sub-state stretch. The Wildcats blew past Weskan (15-6) and Bird City-Cheylin (17-5) to go to state, winning 79-55 and 62-42, respectively.
"We are battle tested," O'Connor said.
O'Connor expects a stiff test from Colony-Crest, led by 6-foot-2 senior forward Kyle Hammond, who averages 21.8 points per game.
"He is one of the better players in the state," O'Connor said. "We'll have our hands full, but I think our team will show up and play well."