By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
Riverton Rams coach Zach Martin is already starting to feel the expectations that come with being picked to win the CNC.
“There is some excitement and some buzz around the school and around the community a little bit,” Riverton coach Zach Martin said to the fellow coaches who gave his Rams the top distinction. “This isn’t going to help temper expectations at the corner store too much. That’s not going to help me out, but the kids are excited about the upcoming season.”
Riverton received six of eight first-place votes and 48 total points in the CNC boys basketball preseason coaches’ poll. The boys’ and girls’ polls were released by 99.1 FM ESPN The Ticket on Monday at Watco Companies during a luncheon hosted by the radio station.
St. Mary’s-Colgan and Frontenac received the other two first-place votes with the Panthers (38) edging the Raiders (37) by one point for second place in the voting. Girard (35), Galena (21), Columbus (21), Southeast (16) and Baxter Springs (8) completed the poll.
The Rams finished 18-3 last season and return unanimous all-CNC performer Greyson Spriggs.
“This is my 11th year in the conference and this could be the most competitive it’s been from top to bottom,” Martin said. “It’s going to be tough. There are a lot of teams having experience coming back like us. We’ve beefed up our schedule a little bit … Hopefully, those tougher games in the preseason will help us in our conference schedule.”
Colgan, which finished 18-5 last year, returns some height, led by all-CNC 6-foot-4 post player Dyson Dechant.
“I think this year is going to be one of our bigger teams overall,” Colgan coach Wayne Cichon said. “I don’t think we have the tallest kid we’ve ever had, but we have more kids who are 6-3 or bigger. I think that’s going to be a big factor, and our quickness is going to be tremendous.”
The league gained one school and lost one from last year as Columbus joined the CNC and Erie departed for the Tri Valley League.
Even though the Titans are new to the CNC, Columbus coach Jeff Renn is familiar, having competed at Southeast in high school.
“The SEK was absolutely a great place to be with great coaches and great competition, but the move for me is nice because I grew up playing Colgan, Frontenac, Riverton and so on,” Renn said. “And it will be nice to see our kids have local competition. Within 45 minutes, we can get anywhere and be home at a decent time.”
Frontenac earned six of eight first-place votes in the girls’ poll. The Raiders, which received 48 points, are coming off a 20-2 season and return 10 of their top 12 players. Frontenac will move up to Class 4A this season.
“I think it’s exciting to get the respect from the other coaches,” Frontenac coach Jeremy Rakes said. “We do return a large core of our team. We won the league last year, and it’s nice to be able to get picked to defend that.”
Girard received the other two first-place votes and was second with 43 points. Baxter Springs (35), Columbus (26), Colgan (25), Southeast (24), Riverton (11) and Galena (10) finished out the poll.