1A D2 Thursday recap: Greeley County starts strong in defense of title

Greeley County senior Titus Sherer goes for a steal in the second half of Thursday's round-one...
Greeley County senior Titus Sherer goes for a steal in the second half of Thursday's round-one state game at Barton Community College.((photo by Mike Courson))
Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 11:26 PM CST
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GREAT BEND, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Different levels of excitement opened the boys’ side of the Class 1A, Div. II State Basketball Championships at Barton Community College Thursday. How many points would Jaxson Brandl score for top-seeded Greeley County, and could the Jackrabbits get a running clock? Game two saw the biggest crowd of the tournament thus far as No. 5 seed South Central knocked out Cinderella Stafford, playing in its first state tournament in 76 years.

No. 1 Greeley County 56, No. 8 Southern Cloud 33

The Jackrabbits played giant killers last year, knocking off Hanover with a last-second shot in the state championship game. This year, Greeley County is the giant. The Rabbits entered the state field with just one loss to Northern Valley - a game where they made just five of 34 3-point attempts. The Jackrabbits led Southern Cloud by 31 points until a pair of free throws with just three-tenths of a second left in the third prevented a running clock in the fourth.

“I’m trying not to let the kids assume that role,” said Greeley County coach Josh Gooch of the new powerhouse role. “Hanover’s been that staple for 20-30 years now. Like I told the kids last year, Hanover was the No. 1 seed. Hanover was the one that was expected to win it all, and we beat them. It can happen. We can’t come in with that mentality that we can’t be touched, can’t be beat, because that’s what got us beat us in January. I’m trying to keep it similar to last year. It’s one game at a time. We want to win the game we’re playing.”

The senior Brandl was the first of three players around Kansas to surpass 2,000 career points this year. He scored plenty early on with 14 points in the opening frame on 3-of-3 shooting from the outside. He added a fourth triple just 17 seconds into the second frame. Even when he missed his first shot from the outside late in the half, junior Isaac Schneider was there to clean it up for a 37-8 Jackrabbit lead.

Brandl had 17 points and five assists in the first half, finishing a big night with 23 points, six assists, and eight rebounds.

“He can fill a stat sheet,” Gooch said. “Tonight, he wasn’t really relied on to score much because I subbed pretty frequently. He just has a knack for the ball offensively or defensively. He knows where to be. He knows where the ball should be. He’s a lot of fun to watch.”

Southern Cloud junior Trenton Welch grabbed a rebound in the final seconds of the third. He gave Brandl his first foul of the night and converted both free throws to stave off the running clock in the fourth. The Warriors outscored Greeley County 23-15 in the second half to keep it that way.

Welch finished with 12 points and four rebounds for Southern Cloud. Levi Cool and Kye Chase each added six points, and Chase also grabbed six rebounds. The Warriors end the season at 12-12.

Last year’s championship hero, sophomore Lincoln Shafer, scored seven points for Greeley County, as did senior Titus Sherer. The Jackrabbits take a 23-1 record into Friday’s semifinal against South Central.

No. 5 South Central 61, No. 4 Stafford 47

South Central led just 24-21 after a competitive first half in front of a packed and rowdy house. The Timberwolves missed just five shots in the second half, shooting 72 percent from the floor to pull away 43-27 by the end of the third quarter. The Trojans turned up the defense and hit a pair of late threes to keep the game interesting but could not complete the big comeback.

Stafford forced several turnovers in the final eight minutes but missed some key shots around the rim. Senior Dakota Rodriguez turned a steal into a 3-pointer with 3:18 remaining. Senior Colson Minks followed with another triple to whittle the gap to 50-42 with 2:45 to play.

South Central freshman Jack Herd answered with the next four points. He added a jumper with 63 ticks left to keep the lead at 57-47 and all but ice the game.

Rodriguez was big for Stafford all night, scoring 14 of the team’s first 27 points. He finished with 15 points, four rebounds, and three steals. Minks added nine points, and junior Brody Kerschenske scored nine points. The Trojans end their run at 18-6.

The T-Wolves play without a senior on this year’s roster. The freshman Herd missed just twice all night to lead all players with 18 points to go with seven boards. Junior Heath Howell was big inside on both ends, missing just three times to finish with 14 points, nine boards and seven blocked shots. Junior Gavin Uhl added 12 points and six rebounds. South Central takes an 18-7 record into Friday’s semifinal game against Greeley County.

No. 2 Axtell 59, No. 7 Bucklin 44

It may be hard to believe Axtell has not made a state appearance since 2018. Thursday night, the Eagles made easy enough work of Bucklin with a 16-8 lead after one quarter and a 32-14 lead by halftime.

Bucklin scored the first four points of the game before Axtell answered with a 16-4 run to close out the opening frame. The three leading Eagle scorers combined to go 16 of 25 from the floor. Senior Isaac Detweiler filled his stat sheet with 13 points, seven assists, six steals, and six rebounds. Junior Grady Buessing chimed in with 13 points and nine rebounds to go with four steals. Sophomore Brandon Schmelzle finished with 11 points and four assists. Axtell takes a 21-4 record into Friday’s semifinal game.

Bucklin shot the ball well at 44 percent on the night, but managed just three of 14 3-point attempts. Junior Andrew Bowman paced the Red Aces in scoring with 11 points. Kaden Tilley and Jaron Lindsay each added nine points, and the senior Lindsay also grabbed eight of the team’s 20 rebounds. Bucklin closes out its season at 15-10.

No. 6 Lebo 67, No. 3 Beloit-St. John’s 45

The biggest upset yet in the Class 1A, Div. II tournaments came in Thursday’s late game. Lebo led just 11-10 after eight minutes before outscoring the Bluejays 36-24 over the next two quarters. With a comfortable lead, the Wolves tacked on nine more points to the margin with a 20-point fourth quarter.

Lebo was already hot on 55 percent shooting from the floor in the first half. The Wolves bumped that to 61 percent in the second half with 40 of their 67 points coming in the final 16 minutes of action.

Grayson Shoemaker was a big reason for that. The junior scored 30 points on 13-of-16 shooting, adding eight rebounds, four assists, four steals, and two blocks to a busy stat sheet. Senior Landon Grimmett added 18 points and four assists, and sophomore Zachary Oswald just missed a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds. Lebo takes a 17-7 record into Friday’s semifinal against Axtell.

Beloit-St. John’s turned the ball over just 15 times but shot just 31 percent from the floor in the game, including a 3-of-24 effort from outside the arc. Junior Daniel Eilert was an exception with 16 points on 7-of-15 shooting to go with seven rebounds. Edward Horinek added 10 points, and Jacob Winkler finished with nine points. The Jays end their season at 18-6.