Just about every high school basketball team will eventually have a rebuilding year. The good teams find a way to truly build on those seasons. This year, Great Bend will face another rebuilding year after losing its leading scorer from last year’s 5-16 team.
Panther head coach Chris Battin returns for his fourth year on the Great Bend sideline with a 31-33 record. To get back on the winning side, he knows his team will have to protect the ball this year.
“We have to take better care of the basketball,” he said. “We averaged more than 18 turnovers a game, and when you do that, you will lose most games. We lost four games in overtime so we need to learn how to close the door and win the close ones.”
The Panthers have been a defensive squad in past seasons under Battin. Last year, Great Bend allowed less than 51 points a game. Unfortunately, they scored just 43.1 points a night. Scoring will again be a task as the Panthers will be without last year’s leading scorer in Jace Bowman (13.9 ppg, 40 percent three-point shooting).
“It is going to have to be a team effort,” Battin said. “We need to share the ball and get each other open for good shots.”
The Panthers will have three starters back. Five-foot-eleven senior Matt Marshall stepped into the point guard position last year, averaging seven points and 3.1 rebounds a game. Marshall also dished out 40 assists in 2011-12, and came up with 24 steals in 16 games.
Six-foot-two senior Ethan Henderson became a physical force inside last year to lead Great Bend with 7.4 rebounds a game. He was also second on the team with 7.9 points a contest. Seniors Chad Touslee (6-3) and Wyatt Bayless (6-5) also played in all 21 games last year. The duo combined to hit 42 percent of their shots from the floor. Touslee scored 4.3 points a game and grabbed 3.7 rebounds. Bayless averaged three points a game.
Great Bend opens its season Thursday, November 29 at the Hays City Shootout. The Panther schedule includes trips to the other four Western Athletic Conference schools as well as a trip to Class 3A power Hoisington and 4A’s Buhler. The squad will also compete in El Dorado’s Bluestem Classic midway through the season.