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Trego seniors, buoyed with past experience against boys, with another solid win

Trego Community's Lili Shubert  (Photo: Everett Royer, www.ksportsimages.com)
Trego Community's Lili Shubert (Photo: Everett Royer, www.ksportsimages.com)(Everett J Royer | CIK)
Published: Dec. 11, 2020 at 11:28 PM CST
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WaKEENEY, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Current WaKeeney-Trego seniors Emma Day, Tillie Malinowsky and Lili Shubert are longtime teammates. In fifth and sixth grade, the Trego recreation didn’t have enough girls for a squad. The trio had to play with boys.

The girls elected to join alongside Lili’s twin, Kobi, along with Trevyne Brown and Aiden Gideon. The team often participated in MAYB tournaments in Wichita and developed toughness and chemistry.

The work has yielded an impressive high school career built on defense and rebounding. On Friday, the seniors helped WaKeeney continue a perfect season with a 46-24 home win versus Hodgeman County in the Purple and Gold Tournament semifinals.

The Golden Eagles, ranked No. 4 in Class 2A, improved to 3-0 and have permitted just 31 points per game. Trego finished plus-10 on the glass.

“Us three have really learned a lot about each other,” Day said. “We love to play together. I think growing up playing boys made us a lot tougher, and that’s why we box out as hard as we do.”

All three seniors are key four-year players. Shubert, a first team all-state selection in volleyball and basketball, has more than 1,000 career points. Friday marked her 74th career game. Day has played in 72, and Malinowsky with 64. They are the Golden Eagle lone seniors.

“Shubert and Day were their people that we really concentrated on,” Hodgeman County coach Trent Bright said. “And Shubert is a strong girl. She is going to get her shots, and she did. And those other ones stepped up for them.”

WaKeeney has long spent around full hour of practice everyday just on defense and rebounding.

“We have always done it,” Day said. “We will never stop doing it. That’s what sets the tone for our team.”

Previous coach Donnie Shubert elevated the program with his pack line defense, and Shelby Crawford, the former assistant, became head coach this winter. Notably, Trego runs a box-out drill. Players who don’t get a certain number of rebounds have to run.

“It’s really competitive, and that’s what makes us good,” Day said.

WaKeeney-Trego has enjoyed back-to-back trips to the 2A Final Four and set the school record for scoring defense each year. Last winter, Trego went 23-1 and set a bevy of Golden Eagle marks, including most wins in a season.

The year was halted after the final four because of coronavirus. Trego, like many 2020 Final Four squads, has chosen to recognize the team like a state champion. The Golden Eagles have nine state banners, eight for the school’s state championships (all boys), and the ninth for last March.

This winter, the Purple and Gold has been without fans because of COVID-19 concerns. WaKeeney faces Hoxie in Saturday’s championship game. The Golden Eagles have won back-to-back tournament titles. Start time is 5:30 p.m. for the girls and 7:30 for the boys. The boys’ side, with Kobi, Brown and Gideon as its lone seniors, will play for the title after a semifinal win versus Hodgeman, too.

“I just love having this team and how they are just competitors,” Crawford said. “If they are in a competition, they are going to give their all, no matter who is here.”

Trego has fought through injuries. Junior Natalie Kinderknecht had limited minutes and wore a soft cast on her left hand. She broke a pinkie finger in the season opener versus Dighton. Junior Caroline Brungardt is expected to come back soon from meniscus surgery. Freshman Annabelle Malsam was quarantined because of coronavirus. Crawford was quarantined for about a week before Thanksgiving.

“We have been pretty fortunate right now, and we are just praying it stays that way,” Crawford said.

WaKeeney held the 2-1 Longhorns to 24 percent shooting (8 of 33). Hodgeman made two field goals in each quarter.

“You drive the lane, you have got to be ready for contact,” Bright said. “And then be able to finish through the contact. And they just force you into so many tough spots – where we helped them out a few times, and went right where they wanted us to go, and they were able to get us to turn the ball over.”

Trego never trailed after 4-2, though HC closed to 15-11 with 5:47 left in the first half. However, the Golden Eagles ended the half on a 10-3 run.

“During halftime, we really talked about, we need to be the aggressive team,” Day said. “That’s what we do. We are a defensive team. We are always looking to be the aggressor.”

Shubert collected a game-high 17 points and 10 rebounds, her third straight double-double. She delivered 38 points and 15 rebounds in the opener, and 15 points, 13 rebounds and seven steals in the second contest. Barton County Community College has heavily recruited Shubert and was in town to watch. Shubert led with four assists, and junior Madison Walt finished with three.

“We let them dictate the pace,” Crawford said. “They sped us up early in the game, and we are a good enough team where we should be the one dictating our pace, especially on offense. And they sped us up. Once we slowed down and played our style of basketball in the half court, we had some open baskets, some good cuts, some great finds from Madison Walt, and that was the big difference for us from midway through the second quarter on.”

Day, known for defense, had nine points and nine rebounds. She contributed to several turnovers with her help side defense.

“A complete game by Emma Day,” Crawford said. “…Her feet are so quick, and she can get to the spot just about anytime, and that really helps us, because when we are helpers, our defense is tough.”

HC committed 22 turnovers. Malinowsky tallied nine points in a performance that Crawford called “great.” The seniors combined for eight steals.

“When I was younger, I wasn’t good at offense,” Day said. “But I learned to be good at defense, and then I just picked it up. I see the floor better on defense than I do offense, and offense has come for me, but I have picked up defense before anything else.”

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