Trego wins third straight Purple & Gold Tourney Title
WaKEENEY, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - WaKeeney-Trego graduated key starters Libby Frost and Gracie Pfannenstiel off its 23-1 team that set a bevy of school records, including single season victories.
While the Golden Eagles are known for defense, Frost and Pfannenstiel ranked first and third in assists. They combined for 119 and helped the Golden Eagles stand sixth for all classes in assist to turnover ratio, according to MaxPreps statewide lists.
Junior Madison Walt is a key returner who had previously played off the ball. Among the Golden Eagles’ top players, Walt and senior Tillie Malinowsky are Trego’s tallest at 5-foot-10. However, Walt has significant summer experience with Western Kansas Elite. Plus, junior Caroline Brungardt is out with injury.
Walt has become the primary point guard and delivered an excellent performance in a 53-31 home victory Saturday versus Hoxie in the Purple and Gold Tournament Championship game. WaKeeney-Trego, ranked No. 4 in Class 2A, improved to 4-0 and won the tournament for a third straight season.
Walt finished with 11 points, including three treys, along with seven assists and five rebounds. Her first two 3s gave WaKeeney a 6-2 lead four minutes into the game.
“We couldn’t get anything on the inside early, and she hit a couple of big 3s to get us started,” coach Shelby Crawford said. “Handled the ball pressure well, made some solid passes. She is developing into a nice point guard. She would rather be off the ball, but she is filling that role for us and is just better and better every game at it.”
The Golden Eagles committed just six turnovers, including two very late when Walt was out of the contest and the game decided. Hoxie coach Jared Dowell was impressed. WaKeeney never trailed, led 12-8 after the first, 25-14 at halftime and 37-23 entering the fourth. Hoxie dropped to 2-2.
“She ran things well,” Dowell said. “We had all kinds of defensive problems tonight, not being able to cover. We ran 2-3, we ran some 1-3-1. We ran man, and they execute so well.”
WaKeeney yielded a balanced effort. Senior Lili Shubert, a returning first team all-state player, delivered 15 points. Malinowsky recorded 10 points, three steals and two blocks. Malinowsky, told to not pass up shots from Crawford, sunk a pair of third-quarter treys. She was 3 of 16 from long range as a junior.
Senior Emma Day had nine points and six rebounds. Walt and the seniors are highly experienced players, and Trego continues to have excellent production from its sophomore duo of Kya O’Banion and Kaylee Walt.
“They’ve been really big, having to fill the shoes of Gracie and Libby is really hard, but I think they’ve done a tremendous job,” Madison Walt said.
Last season, they played 22 combined varsity games and tallied eight points, all from Kaylee. Crawford labeled the sophomores a “pleasant surprise,” especially with summer restrictions from COVID-19.
“It’s almost shocking how far they’ve jumped without much summer ball, because we weren’t allowed to practice in the summer like we wanted to,” Crawford said. “But they’ve really jumped in, bought into our system. I was afraid they’d be passive, because my philosophy is ‘everyone is a shooter on our team,’ and they are looking to shoot, looking to score, and they’re playing tough defense.”
On Saturday, they combined for eight points, three rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals. Hoxie committed 21 turnovers and shot 35 percent from the field. Senior Paiton Rogers paced the Indians with 13 points.
Walt said the court awareness comes from “watching basketball my whole life.” Her family views basketball nearly every day in the winter. She especially sees men’s college basketball and is a huge KU fan. Walt called Frank Mason, a former Kansas point guard and National Player of the Year, her favorite.
In the summer, Walt has played on a WKE team led by well-known Hugoton girls’ coach Emmanuel Adigun. The Eagles are ranked fourth in Class 3A.
“She plays a lot of basketball with some really good players in that program,” Crawford said. “And she plays with good players in our program, but she sees the floor so well, and is just going to get better.”
Adigun has especially worked with Walt on shooting, bringing the ball up the court and defense.
“He’s taught me a lot,” Walt said. “Confidence is one of the biggest things he has helped me with. He just encourages me so much.”
Last season, Walt delivered 6.2 points, 46 assists and a 1.4 assist/turnover ratio. She has played in 52 high school games. WaKeeney has won 12 straight dating back to last year.
“She’s just getting better handling the pressure, seeing the court and picking her spots to score as well,” Crawford said.
On Friday, Walt recorded seven points, five rebounds, three assists and three blocks and helped the Golden Eagles pull away from Hodgeman County.
“Knowing where the defense is, just knowing how the defense is playing defense basically,” Walt said. “Just knowing what we are looking for and what my coach has designed the play for, and my teammates run the floor tremendous.”
On Saturday, Walt had several impressive assists. Midway second quarter, Day grabbed a defensive rebound, who passed to Walt. She found Malinowsky under the basket for a 19-8 advantage.
Early in the third quarter, Malinowsky passed up an open 3 from the right side. Crawford yelled “Tillie, you can shoot the ball.” Later in the possession, Malinowsky sunk a 3 from the top.
“We want everyone to know that they have the freedom to shoot it,” Crawford said.
Later in the third, Shubert picked up a defensive rebound, and fed Walt. She passed to Day in the post just before the defense arrived. Day scored for a 34-21 lead. With 33 seconds left in the quarter, Walt grabbed an offensive rebound, and hit Malinowsky for another trey.
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