THS returns experienced core in 2003-04
All signs point to improvement for this year's Tonganoxie girls basketball team.
The Chieftains are coming back from a 10-11 season last year, a three-game improvement from the previous season before when THS graduated five seniors.
Tonganoxie returns with nearly the same team as last season. Only Laura Korb and Jennifer Reischman were lost to graduation.
And this season won't be an introduction between coach and team. Randy Kraft begins his second season at THS after coaching more than 20 years at Colony-Crest. Kraft said year no. 2 at Tonganoxie has been efficient from the start.
"They know what we want and what we expect," Kraft said. "Younger kids know from last year what we want and what we do. It makes it easier for the younger kids coming in."
Tonganoxie returns this season with plenty of seniors. Kelly Breuer, Amanda Chenoweth, Sarah Holliday, Katie Jeannin and Michelle McWilliams return for their final seasons, while Addie Heim and Madison Weller are the Chieftains' top juniors.
With so many players returning, one weakness from a year ago has become a strength this season.
"Last year we didn't have any experience coming in," Kraft said. "This year we have a lot of experience. "We have good senior leadership. I expect that to carry through."
One of those seniors said the team has had a fresh start with preseason practice.
"We had a lack of playing with enthusiasm at the beginning of the year," Holliday said. "But we got to know the freshman and sophomores and we click this year."
Tonganoxie is a small team overall, but with junior Heather Deaver and freshman Ali Pistora complementing Heim, the Chieftains will have more size. Still, height could be a weakness this season.
"It's got to be stronger than last year," Kraft said about the size. "And we're still probably shorter than most teams overall.
That's when perimeter shooting comes into play, according to Holliday.
"We still lack in height, but we have people who can make outside shots," Holliday said.
After finishing in fifth place last season and handing Kaw Valley League champion Immaculata its lone conference loss, the Chieftains will look to challenge again this season.
Kraft expects De Soto, Bonner Springs and Santa Fe Trail to be the league's top teams. The coach also looks for Mill Valley to build on last year's late-season run.
"De Soto, they return a lot," Kraft said. "They should be pretty tough.
"Bonner's not really rebuilding this year, but did lose a bit. They still have speed."
THS opened the season Monday with the Anderson County Tournament in Garnett. The team played Central Heights on Monday and will play again in the tournament on Thursday and Friday.
Kraft faced Central Heights when he coached at Colony-Crest. However, Kraft didn't face the school in his last few years at CCHS despite the school's being close geographically.
"It will be a tough tournament," Kraft said Sunday.