Banquet closes chapter on season
Boys’ basketball team reflects on winning campaign with stories, gifts
Tonganoxie High School boys' basketball coach David Walker said he would do his best to end Monday's team banquet before spring break.
It's difficult to blame Walker for being long-winded.
The Chieftains finished the season at 12-11, marking the first time Tonganoxie has posted a winning season since 1991-92.
The team also won a Sub-state game for the first time in more than 10 years and played in a Sub-state final for the first time in more than 15 years.
"It's been a fantastic year and a fantastic journey," Walker said.
The banquet had the usual end-of-the-season essentials a few tears, some laughs and player recognition.
Walker, who fought back tears on a few occasions, thanked the seniors for their leadership and told the team it assembled a strong season.
"These guys accomplished a heck of a lot," he said.
Assistant coach Andy Gilner recited a few paragraphs from Rick Pitino's book "Full-court Pressure," the story of the Kentucky Wildcat basketball team that went from probation to almost knocking off Duke in the 1992 NCAA Elite Eight.
Walker said Tonganoxie's seniors Bryan Gurss, Jordan Glenn, Matt Alexander, Thomas Gilner and Kraig LaRosh reminded him of Kentucky's seniors sticking with the program from the rough moments to the better times.
The banquet also brought a few chuckles.
Seniors gave the coaches cowboy hats and police toy playsets because they're prone to joking around.
Coach Gilner was also presented a chair that he could throw around, as Texas Tech coach Bobby Knight has done in the past.
"A lot of people say he looks like Bobby Knight," Thomas Gilner said about his father. "A lot of the JV players think he is Bobby Knight."
The chair also had a technical foul count for Gilner to tally his T's.
Walker wanted to give the seniors their jerseys, but knew the team budget wouldn't allow it.
Instead, Walker, Gilner and freshman coach Brandon Parker presented players with replicas of their jerseys that Walker's parents had assembled in wooden frames.
Season accomplishments were also announced at the banquet, as Gurss was named all-Kaw Valley League first team. The senior also received his third letter in basketball.
"I didn't know if it was five or six," Walker said.
Overall, the Chieftains finished the season in a three-way tie for fourth place in the KVL.
Tonganoxie's average score on the season was just slightly on the positive side. The Chieftains held a 57.6-56.2 advantage and also outrebounded opponents 29-26.
Tonganoxie shot 51 percent from two-point range on the season (449-875) and 22 percent on three-point attempts (69-317).
The team was also at a 63 percent clip at the free-throw line (210-332).
Gurss led the team in individual scoring, averaging 14.6 points, while Walker was at 8.9, Glenn scored 6.6 and Gilner 6.1. Gurss, one of the team's tallest players, was also the team leader in assists with 75 on the season. Jon Gripka dished out 54 assists and Walker had 49.
The Chieftains will return three of its top seven scorers next season, and Walker knows his seniors will be missed.
"They have to move on to bigger and better things," Walker said.
Final team leaders