Bison cast shines in opening victory
IMPERIAL -- McCook High School put its cast of boys basketball characters on stage for Act One Thursday night at Chase County.
Several members of the Bison supporting cast played key roles in a 58-42 victory over the host Longhorns.
McCook head coach Tim Garcia is hoping to have a solid team this season, with a veteran headliner and a host of steady performers, including a pair of big men to patrol the paint and talent in the backcourt.
Junior Connor Larson played his role as the leader of the team. Larson lead the Bison with 14 points, including three shots from beyond the 3-point arc, and a team-high 7 assists. Mark Nichols added 13 points and Nate Crick had 12 in his first basketball action in three years.
"I think everyone did a pretty nice job of accepting their role," Coach Garcia said. "Connor's got to shoot more. Connor passed up a lot of wide-open shots on the perimeter.
"What he has to understand is that his shooting is going to make his passing better. (Connor) hitting those perimeter shots is going to open up the zone for our post players to them to get the entry passes and score more.
"With Conner, he has to put the ball up a little bit more, I feel. For him, 20 shots a game is very realistic. He needs to work on getting to the (free throw) line. Overall, he led us. He took care of the ball for us, handled it in tight situations, and shot fairly well. So I'm pleased with his performance."
Tye Smith, a 6-1 senior seeing his first varsity action for the Bison, had 8 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
"Tye Smith is the epitome of a role player," Garcia said. "He's doing everything we've asked him to do. Tye is deceptive. People don't understand, number one, how strong he is number two, how well he can leap, and number three, how quickly he gets off the floor. When he gets two hands on the ball, it's not coming out of his hands. He's a strong kid.
"I am not surprised by Tye's performance whatsoever. As a matter of fact I think Tye could have scored a little bit more for us. I think he passed up some open shots and looked to overpass the ball."
Garcia was happy with Crick's performance. The 6-3 senior did not play basketball the past two seasons, but the layoff didn't seem to have an adverse affect. In addition to his double-digit scoring, he also had 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
"Nate Crick's kicking himself in the teeth for missing these last two years," Garcia said. "I know he regrets his decision, but you know what, that's part of being young, we make those decisions when we are kids.
"The best thing though is he's learned from it, he's back on the team, and he's giving us a kick off the bench. He's playing very well. He's a smart kid. He knows basketball. He's in the right place at the right time a lot. He's a good rebounder for us, long, lanky."
Everyone knows their roles
The McCook coach hopes his team can continue to put on a team performance as the season progresses.
"Overall I think all of our kids did a nice job tonight," he said. "I think they played their roles well. We just have to keep working on accepting our roles, playing our roles, and we just have to keep working on our defense.
"Our defense has to get better, our offense will continue, our defense has to improve. We will face better teams offensively in the future, we can't afford to give up the second and the third offensive rebounds. We've got to crash the boards better, and just overall defensively we have to improve our game."
Garcia credited Chase County with a strong effort.
"I said all week that this was going to be an improved Chase County team," he said. "This wasn't going to be a team that was going to come out here and lay down, and we knew that. I preached that. I preached it to the media, I preached it to my team. Coach (Carl) Zuege has some nice players on his team. They work hard, they never give up. They have a great spirit and a great will about them and he has a lot to be proud of with these kids. They are going to win a lot of basketball games this year."
A 3-pointer by Larson and a shot by Nichols gave McCook an 18-10 lead after one quarter. The Bison scored eight unanswered points to start the second period to up the cushion to 26-10. Chase County answered with six straight points to end the quarter on three field goals by junior Alex Strand.
A pair of baskets by McCook senior Dustin Parde and another by Smith boosted the Bison to a 39-23 lead midway through the third quarter. Chase County trailed 47-33 after three periods, but the Longhorns had another rally. The hosts scored six unanswered points early in the final quarter on a pair of free throws by Tanner Stromberger followed by field goals by Daniel Regier and Stromberger. McCook answered with Crick's shot from the lane following a huge offensive rebound by Parde, then Larson's 3-pointer from the top of the key. Chase County got no closer than 14 points the rest of the way.
Strand led the Longhorns with 12 points and Stromberger added 10 points.
Coach Garcia said his team left some points on the floor, and he was not pleased with his team's defensive effort.
"When you look at our offensive output, I'm happy with the number," he said. "We could have had a lot more. We could have had a good 25 or 30 more points if we just hit some shots, hit the shots we should be hitting. And that will come in time. I'm not happy at all with the number that we gave up. I understand that this is a scrappy team and that Chase County did a nice job in scoring. A lot of those scores, we gave them second and third opportunities on the offensive boards, wide open uncontested shots, things that we cannot afford to be doing.
"I know it's only game one. But those are things that you have to nip in the bud right away. So we're going to get right right back in the gym (Friday) night. We have to start preparing for the Topside Tip-off in Goodland, Kan., next week."
The Bison will face Wray, Colo. next Thursday in the first round of the Kansas tournament. Coach Garcia describes the Colorado team as a tough, scrappy squad similar to Chase County, with probably a little more potent offensive game.
McCook boys 18 8 21 11 -- 58
Chase County 10 6 17 9 -- 42