The Pittsburg High School girls began their season with a 41-26 loss to Labette County, marked by 19 first-half turnovers, a scoreless second quarter and 28 turnovers overall.

The Pittsburg High School girls began their season with a 41-26 loss to Labette County, marked by 19 first-half turnovers, a scoreless second quarter and 28 turnovers overall.

"My big issue this game was turnovers," Pittsburg head coach Kim Peterson said. "We had (28) turnovers and that's more than double what we should have in a high school game. We're going to be doing a lot of drills that require us to be strong with the ball, take care of the ball at practice."

After two losses to open the season, the Purple Dragons (ranked No. 7 in Class 4A by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association) have won 10 straight games and considerably improved their ballhandling skills. Over a five-game stretch, from a 69-54 win over Neosho (Mo.) to a 42-33 win over Girard in the Wilson County Classic semifinals, Pittsburg averaged 11.4 turnovers.

Tonight, Pittsburg opens Southeast Kansas League play at home against the Labette County Grizzlies, a doubleheader starting approximately at 6 p.m.

Senior forward Skyler Muff leads Pittsburg with a 14.0 scoring average, highlighted by a career-high 24 points against Coffeyville and 19 points on perfect 8-for-8 shooting against Columbus. Her best games include 12 rebounds against Girard and Fredonia, as well as five assists against Neosho and five blocked shots against Coffeyville and Parsons.

Senior post Mariah Forrest scores 7.7 points per contest, proving a highly capable inside player if she can avoid foul trouble. She garnered a season-high 17 points on 8 of 9 shooting against Neosho.

Senior guard Mackenzie Spresser leads the Pittsburg perimeter attack with 7.3 points per game. She had four points, four assists, five rebounds and six steals against Neosho, one of Pittsburg's best all-around team performances.

Junior forward Lizzy Willis averages 7.0 points, increasing her scoring average by .8 after 16 points (her season high) in the championship game of the Wilson County Classic. She had eight assists against Columbus and seven against Arkansas City, plus 11 rebounds against Chanute and 10 boards against Coffeyville.

Tiara Ford paced Labette County (10-3, 1-0 SEK) in that Dec. 2 matchup with 18 points, nine rebounds, nine steals and six assists, just a couple numbers away from a triple-double achieved with points, rebounds and steals. Shelby Foister added 14 points, as two Grizzlies accounted for 32 of their 41 points.

Since the 2006-2007 season, Pittsburg and Labette County have played 11 times with the Grizzlies winning all 11 games.

On the boys side, Pittsburg enters tonight with three straight losses to Labette County, including a 54-50 score in the season-opener.

The Grizzlies led 19-11 after one quarter and 27-19 at halftime, never trailing Pittsburg and benefiting from their good start when Pittsburg made its second-half assault on the lead.

“I think the start of both halves will be critical as they usually are,” Pittsburg head coach Kiley Roelfs said, “but Labette has always been a team that plays better when they can get out of the gate quickly.”

Dontae Johnson scored 13 points in his Labette County debut, matched by Chase Dodworth in the scoring column. Jonny Krewson and Lee Reliford gave the Grizzles four scorers in double figures, with 12 and 11 points respectively.

That was a different Pittsburg team on Dec. 2. Key seniors Joe Wimmer and Brandon Smith were in street clothes and both coaches and players were feeling their way through team roles and playing time early in the season — integrating new additions like Stefon Rich and Drew Lyons and new varsity players like Tanner Ellis and FeDor Lomax.

“Yes, I think our guys have a pretty good feel for their roles on the team and have grown more comfortable with each other as the year has progressed,” Roelfs said.

Pittsburg (7-5) closed out December with four straight wins, then began January with three straight tough losses against Coffeyville, Neosho and Parsons before winning three of its last four games prior to league play.

After placing fifth in the Wilson County Classic (a 60-54 first-round loss to eventual champion Independence derailed any hopes of a finish higher than fifth), Pittsburg enjoyed a week off from games while the rest of the SEK opened league play Friday night.

“I thought we had a productive week of practice,” Roelfs said, “but you never know for sure until you lace them back up again for real.”

Just like Pittsburg, Labette County (6-7, 1-0 SEK) has lost some tough games — 44-42 to Parsons, 64-63 to Coffeyville, 69-65 to Carl Junction (Mo.) and 70-67 to Winfield — and won three of its last four games, including the league opener against Columbus, 61-30.

Against Columbus, the Grizzlies led 20-8 after one and 42-16 at halftime. Johnson poured in a game-high 25 points — including 10 first quarter, 12 second — and made four 3-point shots. Reliford added 16 points.

High School Basketball schedule
Altoona-Midway at Marmaton Valley
Baxter Springs at Galena
Chetopa at Uniontown
Fort Scott at Coffeyville
Frontenac at Riverton
Independence at Columbus
Iola at Chanute
Labette County at Pittsburg
Northeast at Oswego
Southeast at Colgan
Southern Coffey County at Crest
St. Paul at Pleasanton
Wellsville at Jayhawk-Linn

Storylines: The Colgan and Southeast girls both look to rebound from losses — Colgan lost 61-46 to Girard on Friday and Southeast opened with Crawford-Neosho-Cherokee League losses last week to Baxter Springs (49-43) and Frontenac (55-42).

Southeast (9-5, 0-2 CNC) began its season with two losses, won nine straight games and now endures a three-game skid with a pair of home losses to Frontenac. Colgan (7-4, 1-1) started its season 1-3, but improved over the course of January under first-year head coach Abby Farabi.

The Colgan boys (10-3, 2-0) try and stay undefeated in league play, while their Southeast counterparts look for their first CNC win.

The Frontenac boys (8-5, 1-0) have a rematch against Riverton — the Rams have the best record in all the CNC, 13-0 and 2-0 in league play —from the Lancer Classic title game on Jan. 20. Riverton won 47-31 on the strength of a 22-8 fourth-quarter advantage.

The Frontenac girls (12-1, 1-0) can extend their winning streak to 10 games and keep pace with CNC rivals Girard and Baxter Springs in the standings.

The Northeast boys (10-3, 4-0 TRL) and girls (6-7, 2-2 TRL) start a tough week on the road with the Oswego Indians tonight, followed by games against Jayhawk-Linn (Thursday) and Frontenac (Friday).