There are a lot of changes for St. Mary’s Colgan as it prepares for this week’s Class 2A boys basketball state tournament.
For starters, the Panthers are traveling to a new destination.
Most of the Panthers’ previous state trips have been to Manhattan, but this year, they are headed for Gross Memorial Coliseum on the Fort Hays State University campus.
And the third-seeded Panthers (19-3) hold a gigantic advantage over McLouth (18-5) in their quarterfinal game at 4:45 p.m. today.
Colgan is in the state tournament for the 22nd time in the past 24 years — 2001 and 2016 are the years it failed to qualify — and has reached the semifinal round 16 times. Head coach Wayne Cichon, who has a 627-220 record in 36 season at Colgan, has guided the Panthers to five state championships — most recently in 2008 — and seven second-place finishes — most recently this past season.
The Panthers have played in a dozen 2A championship games since 1996 and made nine consecutive championship game appearances from 2002-2010, winning titles in 2002, 2005 and 2008.
By contrast, McLouth is in the state tournament for the first time since 1960, when it lost in the first round of the Class B Tournament at Emporia’s Civic Auditorium.
McLouth’s 18 victories this season are the most since the 1955 team that finished fourth, also at Emporia. The school’s only other state appearance was in 1919 when it lost to Ottawa 21-12 in the first round in Lawrence at Kansas’ Robinson Gymnasium.
McLouth is coached by Steve Lilly, who earned his master’s degree at Pittsburg State and was an assistant for the Gorillas under Gene Iba.
Both teams have played strong schedules this season. The Panthers have played 12 games against Class 3A teams or higher, and two of McLouth’s five losses have come against undefeated Maur Hill, the top seed in the 3A bracket.
Colgan averages 50.3 points per game and allows just 38.5. The Panthers are shooting 51 percent from the field and 33 percent from the 3-point arc compared the the opposition’s 44 percent overall and 27 percent from distance.
Two Panthers average in double figures — 6-foot-6 senior forward Aaron Higginbotham (19.1) and 6-1 senior guard Matthew Lomshek (10.5). Lomshek also leads the team with 6.4 rebounds and 2.1 steals, and 5-9 senior guard Cal Marquardt (7.0 points) averages 3.8 assists.
Senior guards Dalton VanBecelaere (5.8) and Whit Dungan (1.7) complete the starting lineup, and Andrew Lomshek leads the bench production at 3.1 points per game.