Otis-Bison girls in surprising start
By CONOR NICHOLL
La CROSSE -- Otis-Bison freshman Taylor Regan is an "impressive" athlete at 5-foot-9. She has speed, size, length and the ability to see the floor and pass well.
Regan moved to Otis-Bison in fifth grade from Andale, where she played on various Wichita and MAYB teams.
"I have been playing for a long time," she said. "I have been playing for about eight years now. I have had really good coaches, so I have just gotten a lot smarter on the court."
Regan has helped Otis-Bison open as one of area's biggest surprises. The Cougars are 4-2 during the holiday break, and won the Fairfield tournament for the first tourney title in coach Richard Schmidt's eight seasons.
"It was probably the greatest feeling that I have had in awhile," senior point guard Annie Kraisinger said. "From the past three years that I have played basketball at Otis-Bison, we haven't done well at tournaments. It's just great to turn around my senior year and win the tournament."
Just before the break, Otis-Bison defeated La Crosse 43-30, the Cougars' biggest win in the Rush County rivalry since Jan. 12, 2007. Regan finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
"Very impressive for a freshman," La Crosse coach Laron Nordstedt said. "She can shoot the ball well and just overall skill-wise -- shot fake, one dribble, pull up and can handle the basketball. For a tall girl, that's a big asset, a big advantage."
Otis-Bison could make a run at the program's fourth state tournament appearance and first since 1990. The Cougars won five contests last season and went 11-11 two years ago behind forward Janel Tammen, one of the area's top players.
"The past years, we haven't had the great seasons, but this year, we have really came up with a great team," Kraisinger said. "I can't wait to see how far we get with it."
When Schmidt first started with Otis-Bison, the Cougars had a strong team. However, Class 1A wasn't split into Division I and Division II. Otis-Bison, one of Kansas' smallest schools, had to play bigger schools and lost in the sub-state finals to Claflin, which went on to win the 2005 state title.
"That team was really good, but they were all seniors," Schmidt said. "This team is pretty good, and they are all young."
Kraisinger is the lone senior who logs significant time.
"What is so good about our team is our teamwork that we put together," she said. "When we all play great, we have a great game. We all pass the ball to each other. No one is out there for themselves. We are all out there together."
Schmidt didn't know "what to expect" from Regan when Otis-Bison started practice. Schmidt immediately saw Regan was one of the more talented players and has started as a freshman since the first contest. Regan has averaged 12.5 points per game.
"I have really been pleased with her," Schmidt said. "She has got a very good attitude. She just grew up basketball. She was very good in junior high. I didn't know how much she would take to transitioning to high school. I just threw her in there, and she has done very, very well."