Winter season full of accomplishments
This year has been a good one to be a Chieftain winter sports fan. And, with the spring sports season getting ready to begin, it's time to take a look at what the winter sports teams have achieved this season.
The wrestling team thrilled fans with several dominating performances.
The girls basketball team took us all on a ride as first-year coach Leslie Foster and her new team adjusted to one another.
The boys basketball team, in its second year under Coach Mike Webb, showed that it had heart as it recovered from a slow start to win seven in a row at one point.
On the mats, the Chieftain wrestling team pinned down its most successful season in recent history, earning an 8-3-1 duel record and finishing in the top four in each of its four tournaments including a second-place finish at its own tournament.
The team took second at the Kaw Valley League meet on Feb. 10 behind Santa Fe Trail.
With the second place victory, the Chieftains avenged an early season loss to rival Basehor-Linwood, edging the host team by five points.
The second-place finish is the best the team has posted at league in a decade. Four years ago, in Coach Bill DeWitt's first season as the team's coach, Tonganoxie finished in last place.
But things got even better for the Chieftains at the next weekend's Class 4A Regional tournament at Holton.
At regionals, Tonganoxie finished sixth in the tournament and qualified six wrestlers for the Class 4A Wrestling tournament last weekend in Wichita.
And while the Chieftains probably would have liked to have done better, taking six wrestlers to state is a testament to how far DeWitt has brought the team in the four years he's been its coach.
Two of the qualifiers, seniors Mike Andrews and Tony Miller, went to state last year. Fellow senior Willy Altman also made the cut, along with underclassmen Josh Ferris, Chad Starcher and Steve Adcox.
For the girls basketball team, which finished its regular season 8-12 and will play its first-round Sub-State game tonight at Perry-Lecompton, the season has been one of ups and downs as players and coach figured each other out.
The Lady Chieftains started the season out strong, and were hovering near the .500 mark midway through the season.
But the team saw several games slip away, and by late January its record had dropped to three games below .500 at 6-9.
And though the team only finished the regular season winning two of five games, that five-game stretch saw the Chieftains implement a new defense that has given all of their opponents hassles and that has kept Tonganoxie in every game.
In fact, the team beat Mill Valley last Friday in its final game of the season, capping a three-game week and giving the team momentum for Sub-State.
Foster said before the season started that one of her goals for the Chieftains was to beat league power Santa Fe Trail, which the team did by a score of 47-22 on Feb. 16.
In the second year of Webb's tenure as Tonganoxie High School's boys basketball coach, the team finished an electrifying season with a 9-12 record.
Although that record isn't quite as good as Webb's first-year finish of 10-11, he said this year's team showed how good it could be in the middle of the year, when it took third in its own tournament, and rocketed from there into a seven-game winning streak.
During that mid-season up-swing the boys team went 8-1 including a win over the top seed of the Tonganoxie Invitational Tournament Oskaloosa.
The Chieftains' one loss in that period came against Eudora in the second round of the tournament, which Eudora went on to win.
During the course of the season, several Chieftains stepped up to lead the team to victory.
Senior Scott Breuer was the team's leading scorer, pouring in 20 or more points on more occasions than I can remember.
Senior Matt Needham and Junior Bryan Gurss both eclipsed the 20-point mark twice.
Webb said that seniors Mark Gepner, Kyle Rodell, Breuer and Needham had been the team's heart and soul this season.
"It's hard not to be dedicated to the seniors," Webb said. "I feel like they always came in and led this team."
To all Chieftain winter athletes: good job. To all Chieftain spring athletes: good luck.