Lancers continue work for state run

By JOCELYN SHEETS
Register Sports Editor

Register/Jocelyn Sheets
Defense is a major component in the success of the top-ranked, undefeated Crest High’s Lancers. Here senior Travis Buck defends a drive to the lane by a Madison High player in last Saturday’s Class 1A substate championship game. A game that Crest won 44-28 to earn a second straight berth in this week’s Kansas Class 1A Boys’ State Basketball Tournament in Hays. The other Lancer players ready to help defensively are Brandon Newton (21), Todd Johnston (23), Bryan Newton (32) and Dakota Milner (20).

Watching game film, practicing on fundamentals and the all important running, running and running were on the agenda for Crest High’s Lancers this week. It was business as usual for the Lancers.
But underlying it all is this week is different than the rest of the 2008-2009 regular basketball season. It’s state tournament week and the Lancers prepare for another run at a championship.
Crest is one of three undefeated teams going after the 2009 Kansas Class 1A Boys’ State Basketball Tournament championship. The Lancers have been top-ranked throughout the season as they piled up their 25-0 mark.
On Thursday, the top-seeded Lancers open state tournament play against No. 8 seeded Centralia (19-6). The teams tip off at 3 p.m. at Fort Hays State’s Busch-Gross Coliseium in Hays.
Monday the Lancers were found in the dark watching film from their Kansas Class 1A Substate Tournament championship game. Recognizing the aspect of the game they need to improve on during practices this week heading into the state tournament.
“Hey, guys, look, it is the state tournament. Enjoy it,” said Travis Hermreck, Crest boys’ head coach, to his players Monday.
Earlier, Hermreck said a year ago when Crest sent a team to the state tournament for the first time since 1991, there was so much put on “winning it all that I really don’t think the kids really enjoyed it. They need to revel in the experience because it doesn’t come along many times in a player’s career — a trip to the state tournament.”
The Lancers went into last year’s state tournament with the No. 1 seed and came away with the third-place trophy. Expectations have been high for the 2008-2009 Lancer team.
Crest returned four of its five starters from a year ago. The Lancers are led by 6-3 senior forward Brandon Newton, 6-1 senior guard Todd Johnston, 6-foot senior guard Dakota Milner, 6-6 senior post player Travis Buck and 6-1 junior guard Bryan Newton plus 6-3 junior forward Zach Stinnett. Those six players saw plenty of state tournament play a year ago.
“To expect anything,” Buck answered when the Lancers were asked what they had learned from last year’s state experience. “We have to be ready for anything and everything.”
“Last year when we played South Gray (in the semifinals), we weren’t very efficent on offense. We need to work for the good shots and play defense like we have all season,” said Johnston. “Our help-side defense is key for our success.”
When do the Lancers apply the pressure defensively?
“Every play,” said Brandon Newton. “We just need to play basketball the way we’ve played it all along.”
“One game at a time,” Stinnett said.
Game one features the Lancers against the Centralia High Panthers, who lost to South Gray, the eventual state champion, in the first round of last year’s state tournment.
“They have a good big kid. They are quick and athletic,” Hermreck said. “There are teams in the state tournament with a few losses that you might not want to see this first round. We know that there were nights we probably should have lost if we were playing in a different area of the state.
“This is as good of a state tournament field at the 1A level as I’ve seen. Centralia is the best No. 8 seed in a 1A state tournament that you can find.”
Centralia is led by 6-5 senior post player Ben Steinlage, the only starter off last year’s state team. The Panthers have 5-10 senior guard Patrick Bramhall, who is an outside threat. Senior forward Cameron Alderfer is 6-2 and junior forward Evan Whetzel is 6-4.
“We just have to practice on the same things we’ve been doing all season. Approach the state tournament knowing we have to be ready to play every possession, every game,” Johnston said after the substate win Saturday. “We have to be patient and slow down when we aren’t executing well offensively.”
Hermreck, who was a junior on the 1991 state tournament qualifying team, shared with his players last year the importance of focusing on the task at hand and preparing themselves for each game.
“But I want these young men to enjoy themselves out there, too,” he said.
Besides Crest and Centralia, two-time defending champion South Gray (24-1) and second -place finisher Hanover (25-0) are back in the field. Thunder Ridge from Kensington is the No. 2 seeded team at 25-0 and Hanover is No. 3. Defending champion South Gray is seeded fifth and Macksville (23-2) is No. 6 seeded. Quinter is 24-1 and seeded No. 4 while Goessel is 20-5 and seventh-seeded.