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Morning Sun
  • After purple-white scrimmage, PHS hopes inside presence can lift teams

  • Pittsburg head coach Kiley Roelfs already sounds like he’s in midseason form, his voice cracked from a combination of a cold and the wear and tear from two weeks of practice.

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  • Pittsburg head coach Kiley Roelfs already sounds like he’s in midseason form, his voice cracked from a combination of a cold and the wear and tear from two weeks of practice.
    The Kansas high school basketball season tips off Friday night and Pittsburg hosts Louisburg. Roelfs cannot recall a previous hoops meeting between the schools since he’s been PHS coach and his tenure began in 1999.
    “I don’t think we’ve played them for a long time,” Roelfs said after Tuesday night’s Purple and White Scrimmage. “It will give us a different look.”
    Pittsburg girls head coach Kim Peterson-O’Bray begins her second year Friday night and she’s already demonstrated she's more comfortable in the position. Peterson walked amongst the crowd during the boys scrimmage Tuesday night and distributed order forms for PHS basketball T-shirts.
    “We’re at an advantage because we are comfortable with each other,” Peterson-O’Bray said. “We played in the summer. We’ve gotten a year under our belt. We’re getting to know the system. I think it can also be a disadvantage because the other teams have seen what we have, they’ve seen my coaching style. It will be interesting to see how this second year goes for everybody.”
    The Pittsburg boys return senior inside players FeDor Lomax and Stefon Rich — Lomax stands at 6-foot-3 and Rich 6-8. The inside bookends could be a strength for Pittsburg and like former St. John’s basketball coach Lou Carnesecca said, you can’t teach height.
    “It needs to be a major strength,” Roelfs said. “There’s no doubt. If it’s not a major strength for us, then we’re doing a lot of things wrong. There’s no question about that and I think our guys understand that. We’re going through the process the first couple weeks and I think our guys have figured it out even more. I thought they did a nice job of establishing that (inside game) and it’s stuff we have to try and carry over to the game on Friday.”
    Meanwhile, on the girls side, Pittsburg graduated both its strong inside presences from last season 17-5 team, Skyler Muff and Mariah Forrest. On top of that, another potentially strong interior presence, senior Brianna Maxwell, will be out 2-6 weeks recovering from knee surgery.
    “She’s hoping for 2 weeks because that’s the minimum amount of time to recover from her knee surgery but you never can tell,” Peterson-O’Bray said. “We’re hoping that she can start practicing during Winter Break.
    “We’ve got some people who have normally played guard or forward in the past and they’re now going to have to help us down low. They (Lizzy Willis, Alaura Short) may not have the height but they do have the strength. They’ll probably be banging around down there and we’ll try and do the best we can. We’ve got Bethanne Elliott, who has a little bit of height and then we’ve got some freshmen coming up who might be able to help us out in that area.”
    Page 2 of 2 - On the boys side, Pittsburg graduated a large senior class and this year’s varsity crew features seniors Lomax, Rich, Spencer Bernhardt, Tanner Ellis, Nick Vacca, Kaleb Owens, Elijah Hisaiah, Montrel Boyd and Blerim Selimi.
    “That’s obviously good for the program,” Roelfs said. “We feel really good about that. It’s not always easy playing time wise and figuring out those kinds of things but it’s a good problem to have. I like this group of seniors. They’ve done a nice job of doing things over the offseason and then in preparation here as we head for our first game. I think they’re a good group of kids that wants to do well. I think they’re excited about playing.”
    In the girls scrimmage, Lizzy Willis, Katy Short and Alaura Short all finished in double figures. Katy Short started playing more and more her freshman year last season and Willis came on strong last season with her all-around game.
    “She did a good job tonight,” Peterson-O’Bray said of Katy Short. “We saw some flashes of her capabilities. Hopefully, she’ll be able to take the reins and lead our team in terms of our guard play and our intensity.
    “I think Lizzy has the potential to do it all. She can pass, she can rebound and she can help us down low. She’s really strong. She has a real good shot from the outside — 12-14 foot area, perimeter, baseline shot. But she also has good moves inside the paint, post moves or driving into the lane. I look for her to be an all-around utility player.”
    The girls also return junior point guard Mercedes Vogel, who broke into the starting lineup during her freshman season.
    At the recent Southeast Kansas League coaches’ luncheon, Roelfs expressed his enthusiasm for the return of the double round-robin in league play and Peterson-O’Bray showed her surprise that her fellow coaches picked her team No. 5.
    Roelfs: “I’m excited about that. I think SEK game nights are just a lot of fun as a coach and the players and for the fans. I think it’s a great way to establish a true champion, to have everybody play each other home and away. It just makes for a lot of fun.”
    Peterson-O’Bray: “I was a little surprised. I can see where people might put us a little lower because we did lose our inside presence. We do have Brianna Maxwell, we have Bethanne Elliott, we have Lizzy Willis so I feel like we do have people who can step up and fill those roles. With the amount of returners that we have, especially with our guards, I feel like we still have a really good chance of doing some great things in the SEK.”
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