From the start of the season, the Osborne boys figured there was a good possibility the Bulldogs would have to go through a tough Northern Valley squad to make it to the Class 1A state tournament.
When that time came, the Bulldogs were ready, turning in a strong outing to remain unbeaten with a 61-47 win over the Huskies in the sub-state final last Saturday at Barton Community College.
Northern Valley, last year’s Class 1A Division II state champion, entered the game 22-2.
“Really, to begin the year, we kind of anticipated we’d have a good chance to play them,” Osborne coach Jamie Wolters said. “We just were hoping we could avoid Central Plains somehow because they’re as good as probably anybody in the smaller classes for sure.
“(The Northern Valley) game was one we kind of looked forward to from the beginning of the year. I thought we played really well.”
The No. 2-seeded Bulldogs (23-0) will meet No. 7-seeded Lebo (18-5) at 3 p.m. Thursday in the first round of the 1A tournament at United Wireless Arena in Dodge City.
Wolters said the key against Northern Valley was a solid defensive effort.
“We really worked on not helping off the shooters and making sure we’re helping from the right spots,” he said. “And then offensively, we have two really good posts in there and they really didn’t have an answer for that.”
With Osborne returning several key members off last year’s team that reached the 1A Division I tournament, Wolters said this season has gone smoothly for the Bulldogs.
Osborne is led by Darnell Holloway while other key players with state experience include Darrien Holloway, Kade Miller, Jordan Wherry and Steele Wolters.
“We had a really similar team come back from last year,” Wolters said. “We had basically five starters coming back from last year. When you got that kind of experience coming back and the same system in place, it’s kind of easy to pick up where you left off. For the most part, I think we’ve done that.
“We were short on practices to begin the year and we’ve definitely improved as the year’s gone on, especially defensively. I feel like that’s probably one of our strengths right now.”
Lebo advanced to state with a 55-53 win over Randolph-Blue Valley in the sub-state final.
“I know they’re fairly aggressive and they like to press all over — aggressive man to man,” Wolters said. “And they’re really well-coached (Dwayne Paul). He does a really good job of making the kids take a lot of charges. They’re in the right spot at the right time, so we’re really going to have to move the ball offensively.
“When we get by our guy we’ve got to know there’s a second line of defense and we’ve got to break that. We’ve got to be able to be under control and drive in there and make a play off of that.”
If the Bulldogs advance, they will take on the winner of Hanover (24-1) and St. John-Hudson (21-4) in the semis.
Central Plains (25-0) is the top seed and will open against Macksville. The other quarterfinal pits Caldwell vs. Elbing-Berean Academy.