The Chieftains’ fab five
Seniors trying to lead Tonganoxie to third state appearance in five years
Randy Kraft doesn't have to make a speech to the Tonganoxie High girls basketball team regarding expectations for the 2007-08 season.
Chances are everybody associated with the program knows the expectation level of this year's Chieftains and their five seniors.
"They're always high, of course," senior forward Liz Baska said.
They should be, especially considering what Kraft has done in his six years as THS coach.
Kraft has compiled a 93-25 record the past six seasons. The Chieftains have won the Kaw Valley League four straight seasons. In those four seasons, Tonganoxie has made two trips to the Class 4A state tournament, in 2005 and 2007. THS finished fourth both times.
Tonganoxie will return two starters -- Baska and senior guard/forward Shannon Carlin -- from last season's team that went 23-3.
The Chieftains' other seniors will include Tracie Hileman, Christy Weller and Cara Carlisle.
Kraft said the starting lineup wouldn't be set in stone in the days leading up to the first game at 6 p.m. Friday at Basehor-Linwood.
Chances are every senior will start except for Carlisle, who would still see extensive minutes off the bench. Kraft said THS was deep enough to play eight or nine players per game.
Junior Chrissie Jeannin likely will start at point guard for THS. The junior played shooting guard last year.
"She's shooting the ball better," Kraft said of Jeannin. "It's always nice to have a point guard who can shoot. Playing the two last year got her to be more of a scorer."
Tonganoxie should have several scorers this season, but Baska and Carlin should be the main ones. Baska averaged nearly 10 points and four rebounds per game last season. Carlin averaged eight points and nearly five rebounds.
The only THS player to average more points than Baska last year was former KVL first-teamer and McDonalds All-American nominee Ali Pistora, at 12.7. This season, Baska will be a jack-of-all-trades on the floor.
"Liz is a post player we sometimes play at point guard," Kraft said. "She's a great passer. She sees the floor really well. She's got an overall game. We'll have her defend the point guard one game, then the post the next game."
Junior Roni Grizzle likely will back up Baska in the post.
Carlin will be the Chieftains' slasher. The senior has the ability to penetrate the defense, drive the lane and get to the foul line.
"She can be one of the best players in the area," Kraft said of Carlin. "She has the tools for it. Up until this year, she was an outside player. She's dramatically improved going to the basket. We'll use her in a lot of different ways."
Expect the Chieftains to maintain their fast tempo on offense and defense.
"Ever since I came here, we push the ball and play pressure defense," Kraft said. "None of that is going to change."
Kraft stresses defense so much that he announced to his players in the first week of practice that they wouldn't see the floor if they didn't play defense. The Chieftains mostly play pressure, man-to-man defense.
"We like to be quick, aggressive and physical, and just outwork everyone else," Baska said.
As for another state appearance, Kraft said he wanted to focus on the league before he had any thoughts of state.
"We'd just like to win as many games as we can," Kraft said. "I think every team has a goal to make it to state. We'd like to first win our league and then advance. We've won our league four years in a row. We'd sure like to make it five."