DODGE CITY -- The season may be over, but for the Great Bend Middle School 8th grade A-team boys’ basketball team, the excitement is still going strong.
The No. 5 seeded Panthers defeated Dodge City Middle School 41-33 in the Western Athletic Conference middle school tournament championship game to earn the title, “League Champs.”
The Panthers converted seven of eight free throws, proving to be very valuable points in a tight game Great Bend (11-5) swept all three meetings with the Cardinals.
“I was concerned about Dodge’s 1-3-1 defense. It caused us problems earlier in the year and it proved to be difficult for us once again,” said Great Bend coach Dale Kuhlman. “I’m very proud of this team for what they have accomplished this season. We had tough losses in the middle of the season, but they never quit on me or themselves.”
Even with the Cardinal’s tenacious zone defense the Panthers had a balanced scoring attack led by Mathew Moeder’s 11, Braden Vratil’s 8. Madison Regehr and Blaike Parsons each added six points.
The MSWAC Tournament started Feb. 28, when the Panthers shocked Garden City Horace Good Middle School 41-38 in overtime. The upset victory avenged a loss to Horace Good the previous week.
Great Bend’s Braylon Council scored 15 points and Noah Jerke added 13 pts. The rebounding was led by Mathew Moeder and Madison Regehr. The Panthers jumped out to a 13-point lead behind multiple 3-pointers. Horace Good rallied to force overtime.
The Panthers continued their upset ways March 2 with back-to-back overtime wins 45-44 over the Hays Middle School Falcons. The Panthers lost to Hays the previous week by 14 points.
“I knew we were in for a battle,” Kuhlman said. “They beat us with 3-point shots the last time we played them. This
go-around, I told the boys we were playing man-to-man defense. If we lost, it wasn’t going to be with them hitting a bunch of 3s.”
Kuhlman had a hunch that Hays might look past the Panthers after beating them the previous week. No. 2 seeded Garden City Kenneth Henderson Middle School was also upset in the first round.
Braylon Council scored 20 points and Braden Vratil added 10 and Noah Jerke seven. Mathew Moeder and Madison Regehr dominated the glass.
GREAT BEND B RUNNER-UP — The Great Bend Middle School B basketball team qualified for the championship game, only to lose 41-25 to Hays Middle School. The Great Bend B team finished with a 13-3 record.
The Panthers started MSWAC play with a 40-15 quarterfinal victory over Liberal Eisenhower. Andrew Trendel and Baily Reed led the scoring. Justin Ward, Kaiden Esfeld and Skylar McMullen led the rebounding effort. The Panthers played a strong defensive game.
Defense pushed the Panthers past Dodge City Middle School 17-11 in the semifinals.