By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
Expect competitive league races in the SEK for the 2012-13 season. The coaches certainly do.
Three boys teams received first-place votes, and Coffeyville and Labette County finished tied atop the preseason coaches’ poll. On the girls’ side, four teams received first-place votes, and only four points separated No. 1 Fort Scott and No. 4 Independence.
The polls were released by 99.1 FM ESPN The Ticket on Monday at Watco Companies during a luncheon hosted by the radio station.
Coffeyville and Labette County each received 31 points in the poll with the Golden Tornado tallying four first-place votes, while the Grizzlies received two. Fort Scott, which received the other first-place vote, was third with 26 points. The poll finished with Independence (20), Pittsburg (18), Chanute (14) and Parsons (6).
With only seven schools in the league this year after Columbus and Iola departed, each team will play each other twice.
“You put those seven names up there … It’s cliché, but from top to bottom you’re talking about teams that have had lots of success,” Pittsburg coach Kiley Roelfs said. “There are a lot of SEK titles for all of those seven schools. It’s going to be very competitive. Parsons is picked to finish last even as good as they’ve been through the years. It’s going to be tough. There’s no doubt in my mind. The fact that we go through it twice this is going to make it exciting, but it also will make it more competitive.”
Tyler Thompson takes over the Coffeyville program for longtime coach Dan Wall, who led the Golden Tornado to the Class 4A state basketball tournament last year. Coffeyville will be led by James Newton, who earned honorable mention all-state honors as a sophomore.
“First place, that’s a lot to live up to,” Thompson said. “I don’t know if I’d put us close to that right now. Hopefully, in January and February, we’re getting there.”
Labette County returns four starters from last year’s 9-12 team. Fort Scott will cope with the loss of six seniors from last year’s team, which finished third in 4A.
Pittsburg returns some inside experience with FeDor Lomax and Stefon Rich from last year’s team that finished 11-9.
The girls’ poll was even more competitive. Fort Scott, with one first-place vote, received the top pick with 24 points, but Chanute tallied three first-place votes for 23 points. Labette County and Independence each receive one first-place vote for 22 and 20 points, respectively. Pittsburg (16), Coffeyville (11) and Parsons (10) finished fifth through seventh in the voting.
The Purple Dragons were fifth, despite finishing 17-5 last year. Lizzy Willis returns after earning third team all-SEK honors in 2011-12.
“Our expectations are very high,” Pittsburg coach Kim Peterson-O’Bray said. “Fifth place I don’t really feel like that does our team justice. I don’t really put a whole lot of emphasis on the polls, but I do think using that as a motivator can work in our favor.”