By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
St. Mary’s-Colgan’s success at the Class 2A level is indisputable.
The Panthers won five state championships — 1996, 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2008 — and played in 11 state title games.
In its second season of 3A, Colgan’s boys basketball team wants to reach similar heights in the larger classification after falling in the first round of the state tournament last year.
“That’s the desire,” said Colgan coach Wayne Cichon, who has directed the Panthers to 12 consecutive state tournaments. “We not only want to recognize what past teams have done in the 2A tournament, but we want success at this level. The kids are determined to show they belong in this Class 3A.”
The seventh-seeded Panthers (17-5) face the second-seeded and two-time defending state champion Scott City Beavers (22-1) in the first round of the Kansas 3A tournament at 3 p.m. today in the Hutchinson Sports Arena.
Colgan certainly faces a challenge against the Beavers, whose only loss came to Class 6A Wichita North in overtime.
“They are powerful inside,” Cichon said. “They shoot the ball well from the perimeter. They’re very athletic. They are a very confident group.”
Scott City has plenty of reason to be confident. The Beavers returned four starters from last year’s championship team. Many of the same athletes also helped the Beavers capture a state championship in football last fall.
The Beavers are led by 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior Drew Kite, who averaged 19.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.6 blocks through 20 regular season games.
“Kite is going to be a big factor in the game,” Cichon said. “He has a strong inside presence, and we will have to try to lessen what he does on a regular basis. He’s averaging almost two blocks a game. We can’t be intimidated.”
Scott City has three others who averaged in double figures during the regular season. Senior guard Brett O’Neil averages 11.9 points, 8.4 assists and 3.8 steals. Sophomore guard Trey O’Neil contributes 10.7 points, and 6-4 senior forward Joseph Meyer averages 10 points and 5.1 rebounds.
The Beavers, who typically rotate seven players, put up 71.7 points per game.
“Teamwork is our strength,” Scott City coach Glenn O’Neil said. “They really trust each other. They communicate well on defense.”
Scott City typically utilizes either a full-court or three-quarter court press and then drops back into a matchup zone defense.
Colgan, which plays as many as 11, will try to use its depth as an advantage.
“You never know how it’s going to play out,” Cichon said. “But we hope that will be a factor in our favor.”
Senior 6-4 forward Dyson Dechant leads the Panthers with 18.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Senior guards V.J. Piccini, Conner Dayton, C.J. Russell and senior forward Tieler Commons join Dechant in the starting lineup.
Off the bench, sophomore guard Austin Commons averages 12.1 points and junior forward Luke Marquardt registers 10.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.3 steals. Guards Tucker Hoffman, Grant Normand and forwards Ian Duncan, Christian Cedeno and Chase VanBecelaere also figure to see time.
Colgan has shown the ability to play different styles. The Panthers beat Bronaugh 87-56 during the Tony Dubray Classic in Liberal and held off Seneca 43-42. Strong defense ignited a 74-54 win over Riverton in the sub-state championship on Saturday.
“The key may be tempo,” O’Neil said. “I’ve heard different things about Colgan. I hear they like to push the pace and use their depth as an advantage. And I’ve heard that they can slow the game down and be really patient.”
Today’s winner will be guaranteed two more games and will play the winner of Seneca-Nemaha Valley and Wichita Independent in the semifinals at 4:45 p.m. Friday.