GRAINFIELD — Will Bixenman stepped into a good situation.
When you have a player the caliber of Chandler Ostmeyer, what’s not to like?
The first-year head coach of the Wheatland-Grinnell boys’ basketball team has one of the top players in the state in Ostmeyer, and that was no more evident than Friday night’s 66-29 rout of out-manned Western Plains/Healy in Grainfield.
The 6-foot-4 do-everything player scored 33 points in the victory in limited minutes. That included 3-pointers. That included buckets inside the paint. That included rebounds. That included blocks.
Oh yeah, and that included dunks.
“This is my first year coaching him, and I was actually an assistant coach a few years ago with Brendan Ptacek,” Bixenman said. “All credit goes to Coach Ptacek. He’s done it all, and I don’t have to do much. But Chandler is one of the best leaders I’ve been around. He gets his teammates ready to play, and he leads by example. He makes everyone better, and he contributes. We can’t ask for more from him.”
On Friday, Ostmeyer could have done more, but it wasn’t needed against a Western Plains team that was limited to only five players.
Still, the senior dominated the game in every facet — much as he’s done to every opponent this year.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Ostmeyer said. “Each week, we go out and say, ‘We know what we need to do.’ But we also have to have a lot of fun doing it. If we’re not having fun, then it’s not worth being out there. I think that’s one of the main points we have going into each week.”
Ostmeyer is one of the state’s top players regardless of classification. Entering Friday’s game, he was averaging 22.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per contest.
“It’s pretty easy with the help of my teammates,” Ostmeyer said. “Kyler (Haffner), our point guard, he sets the offense up perfectly. Then we have shooters like Zach (Gillespie) who just knocks down 3 after 3, then steps in and knocks down a two. That just opens it up for me. Once they start closing in on me or running a box-and-one, we just throw it in to Wyatt (Mong) and Trev (Zarybnicky), and they go to work on the inside. It really opens things up for me.”
Ostmeyer set the tone again Friday, opening the game with a near dunk on an alley oop from sophomore point guard Kyler Haffner, who finished with seven points.
He’d go on to score 20 points in the first half and played sparingly in the second half, which featured a running clock during the fourth quarter.
“He’s really worked hard. He’s been able to shoot the ball since junior high, but we’s worked on being a complete-package player,” Bixenman said. “He’s patient and lets the game come to him. Sometimes he gets too hyped up … but you can expect that. He works his tail off, and you can’t ask for anything more.”
Ostmeyer’s 20 points at half were two more than the Bobcats combined for as a team. But he also had several assists and numerous rebounds and blocks.
“That’s just his leadership,” Bixenman said. “And he knows we need that. Some nights we don’t have a lot of scoring from other kids, and he just needs to take over and do that. We shot the ball well tonight. Zach really did, and Kyler distributed it well. He didn’t have to do much. His defense tonight was pretty good, and that helped him tonight.”
Gillespie added 12 points for the Thunderhawks, who improved to 6-5 this year and 3-1 since the Christmas break.
Next up is the WKLL tourney this week, followed by the remainder of the season before the Class 1A Division II sub-state at Sharon Springs.
Winning the sub-state won’t be easy, but it’s familiar ground for Ostmeyer and the Thunderhawks.
Wheatland-Grinnell has qualified for the 1ADII state tourney two of the last three years (2015 and 2017).
As a freshman, Ostmeyer was part of a team that lost in overtime to Caldwell in the first round, while a season ago, the Thunderhawks lost to Hutchinson-Central Christian in the opening round at state.
This year, state is the goal again for the senior who notched his 1,000th career point earlier this season.
“We’ve always had high expectations,” Ostmeyer said. “Out of my past three seasons, we’ve made it to state twice and should have all three years but didn’t. I think that’s always the ultimate goal, and everything is a building block after that.”