Chieftain boys hope to utilize varsity experience
THS basketball schedule
Dec. 6 — at Lansing
Dec. 13 — vs. Ottawa
Dec. 17 — at Piper
Dec. 19 — vs. Anderson County
Jan. 7 — vs. Bishop Ward
Jan. 10 — at Basehor-Linwood
Jan. 14 — at Bonner Springs
Jan. 17 — vs. Turner
Jan. 20-25 — Tonganoxie Invitational
Jan. 31 — vs. Atchison
Feb. 4 — vs. Lansing
Feb. 7 — vs. Mill Valley
Feb. 11 — vs. Basehor-Linwood
Feb. 14 — vs. Piper
Feb. 18 — at Turner
Feb. 21 — at Bishop Ward
Feb. 25 — at Mill Valley
Feb. 27 — vs. Bonner Springs
March 3-8 — Sub-state (TBA)
When the Tonganoxie High boys tip off their upcoming season, they’ll do so with one of the most veteran varsity rosters in recent memory. That experience will be needed early and often, as the Chieftains’ slate is chock full of high-caliber opponents.
Eight games against 2013 state qualifiers highlight the Chieftains 2013-14 schedule, which will get under way in less than three weeks.
Jack Dale will look to lead the offensive charge after averaging a team-best 14 points per game as a freshman a year ago. He led the team in scoring in nearly every game last season, but according to coach Shawn Phillips, there’s plenty of room for improvement in Dale’s second high school season.
“Hopefully we’ll see him be more consistent,” Phillips said. “He’s a year older, a year stronger and a year smarter in the system, so hopefully we can have higher expectations for him. He doesn’t have to do it all on his own, though. I think we’ve got some other guys who can carry the scoring load a little bit as well.”
Other regular starters back this season are seniors Tyler Ford, Eric Tate and James Grizzle. Ford, who missed two games last season with an injury, likely will handle starting point guard duties in his final season. He averaged 5.4 points and led all returning players with 2.8 assists per game as a junior.
The Chieftains must replace 2013 grad John Lean, who started every game at guard. Lean was second on the team with 9.1 points per game and led the team with 3.8 assists per game.
Tate started 17 games and averaged five points and 3.1 rebounds per contest. Meanwhile, Grizzle had 18 starts, averaging 7.9 points and 5.1 rebounds.
Phillips said rebounding will be a point of emphasis this season. Senior Eric McPherson was the team’s leading rebounder last season with 5.4 boards per game. As a team, the Chieftains pulled down 31.9 rebounds per game, compared to 33.8 by their opponents.
“We lost a couple games last year because we got dominated down in the post,” said senior Ben Johnson, who played in all 21 games last season. “If you can win inside, then you can win.”
Johnson and junior Jared Sommers saw significant time off the bench last season, but will look to play more prominent roles in 2013-14. Juniors Carl Hecht and Greg DeVeau will also vie for time in the post after predominantly playing on the junior varsity squad a year ago.
The Chieftains will face some stiff competition right away, as they open with four straight games against 2013 state teams. They’ll start things off Dec. 6 at Class 5A runner-up Lansing, then host defending 4A champion Ottawa a week later. The schedule also includes meetings with 4A qualifiers Piper and Anderson County before winter break.
“We’ve got a tough schedule, so we’ll really see where we stack up,” Ford said, “I think we’re up for the challenge.”