In the fall of 2013, Alexa Rogers took over a Stockton High School girls’ basketball program that had won just nine games the year prior.
In her first year running the program, things didn’t get any better. The Tigers won just five games in a season that ended with a first-round exit in Class 2A sub-state play.
Four years later with a more talented roster, Rogers got Stockton somewhere it hand’t been in nearly 20 years — the state tournament.
Stockton, which collected 20 wins, made its first state appearance since 1999 when it won a loaded Osborne sub-state by blowing out Thunder Ridge, 72-47, to make it to Gross Memorial Coliseum.
The 20 wins was a 10-win improvement over a season ago, and of course a 15-win improvement since Rogers’ first year as head coach.
For her effort, Rogers was named the top girls’ coach on the HDN All-Area basketball team for 2017.
In the past, “Stockton had an, ‘Oh, we lost, no big deal,’ type attitude after we’d lose,” Rogers said prior to the team’s state appearance. “We’d be satisfied with a loss and not hungry for a win.”
That attitude, though, she said has changed. While the trip to Hays ultimately ended in a 61-53 loss to perennial state power Olpe, the eventual runner-up, it was just Stockton’s fourth trip to the postseason finale in school history. It was the first in Class 1A; the previous three had come in Class 2A, and only one of those trips resulted in a postseason victory.
The Tigers did it this year with a mix of the high-scoring ability of junior Haven Hamilton, freshman Jill Stephens and freshman Shae Griffin and the use of full-court pressure, which created some easy scoring opportunities. The Tigers had just one senior on the roster in Emily Conyac, who stepped up big in the postseason run. The Tigers averaged approximately 56 points per game and played in the gauntlet of the Mid-Continent League which featured Class 3A state third-place finisher Thomas More Prep-Marian and Class 2A state qualifier Hill City. The Tigers had two losses to TMP and one to Hill City (the season-opener). That was it prior to the first-round exit.
The slate also included a three-point win against 1A Division II qualifier Golden Plains and two wins against up-and-coming Plainville.
“Being in the MCL, you go out every Tuesday — and not saying other leagues aren’t tough, too — but there’s a tough battle,” Rogers said before state.
The state run, and a good showing in the ever-tough MCL might be just the beginning, though, for a talented group led by Rogers. Stockton graduates Conyac, but should bring the bulk of its team back next year.
“I hope the girls enjoy the experience,” Rogers said just before the Tigers lost to Olpe, a team that had 26 state tournaments under its belt. “I know I am. I hope to continue this trend and be back down (in Hays) for several years in a row.”