The Kiowa County Maverick Varsity Men ended their season with a 59-52 loss against the Sterling Black Bears in the first round of the Sub-State Tournament on Feb. 25. It was the last for most of Head Coach Nick Perez’s senior-stacked bench and a somewhat anti-climactic finish for an offense-heavy, but inconsistent season.
There were high expectations entering the season.
Perez’s starters were all coming off of solid junior-year performances, including Damien Odle, Rustin Ardery and Caleb Davis.
‘The Big Three’ combined for nearly 67 percent of the offense last season and topped team and league defensive stats.
Trever Powell, coming off of an MVP season QB’ing for the Mavericks Varsity Football team was expected to contribute as well as David ‘Lightning in a Bottle’ Perez, Trever Tyree, Kendall Watson and Mikal Behm.
“I think everyone’s top goal is to get to [the State tournament],” said Perez in a pre-season interview. “We have three goals this season, we want to win the league, go to state and win at the Larned tournament. These are our goals. We’re taking one game at a time, but we want to play our best basketball at the end of February beginning of March.”
The Mavs jumped out a scorching start with a pair of wins against the LaCrosse Leopards (37-35) on the road and the Larned Indians (63-45) in the first round of the Keady Classic League Tournament, but the win was bitter sweet as Odle turned his ankle during the game, an injury he would struggle with for most of the season
“I thought we played just about as good as we could early in the season,” said Perez last week. “Of course we’d like to have that first Macksville game back.”
The first loss of the season came in the second round of the Keady Classic League Tournament against the Macksville Mustangs in Larned.
The Mavs redeemed themselves with a 61-59 win against the Mustangs a week later, but the 45-38 loss at the Keady Classic put an early season goal out of reach.
“Beginning of the year I thought we did great, but right after Christmas we kind of struggled,” Perez said. “I think we were complacent a little bit.”
In their first game of the New Year the Mavericks let a 13-point lead over the Minneola Wildcats slip away, in the heartbreaking 52-49 home court loss. “That was tough for our guys to get over,” Perez added.
The Mavericks put together a three game winning streak over the Kinsley Coyotes (64-34), the Ingalls Bulldogs (66-34) and the South Central Timberwolves (46-33) following their loss to Minneola, but stalled in the second round of the SPIAA League Tournament in Dodge City with a 54-33 loss against the unstoppable Fowler Gold Bugs.
Page 2 of 4 - There were highlights in the final third of the schedule including a 64-48 win against the Hodgeman County Longhorns and a 63-19 blowout against the Bucklin Red Aces.
The Mavericks ended their season with a 12-8 record and a number four seed at the Sub-State tournament.
I think we progressed in the right direction,” said Perez. “In a lot of games I think we were right there. A couple of free throws here or there, a few more possessions and our record could have been easily 15-5 going into substate.”
The Mavericks were knocked out of post-season play with a heartbreaking loss against the Black Bears, who rallied after a sluggish first half.
“I’ve got to blame that a little bit on Mother Nature,” said Perez. “We were suppose to host that game and with the snow we had to go to Sterling. So it was really a home game for them.”
But Perez acknowledged the Mavs struggled in the back court against an aggressive Black Bears defense and bounce back offense coming out of halftime.
“Our guys went in and competed but [Sterling] did a better job of getting to their big guy in the second half. We didn’t play our hoop-side defense very well. Our guys, we struggled against pressure defense. Overall, our guys played as hard as they could. I’ve got to give credit to Sterling; they are a good basketball team and they compete with 3A and 4A schools. But I think our guys battled to the end of the buzzer.”
Perez recalled an out of bounds error by a Maverick guard and a third quarter ending Sterling 3-point shot affected the team’s moral. “After that I could feel the momentum start to change a little bit. I felt like we controlled the game up to that point. We gave it all we could, but we came up a little short. But I thought we had a great season and the guys do to.”
The Mavericks were a strong offensive squad this season and had the stats to back it up. Season numbers indicate a team with wide-margin wins and small-margin losses.
In nine of their twelve wins the Mavericks outscored opponents by 10 points or more. In seven of their twelve wins they outscored opponents by 15 points or more and in five of their twelve wins they outscored opponents by 20 or more points.
In contrast their losses were typically within small margins.
In eight of their nine losses opponents outscored the Mavs by 15 points of less. In five of their nine losses opponents outscored them by 10 points or less.
Page 3 of 4 - Their one blowout came against the Fowler Goldbugs on Jan. 25 at the SPIAA Tournament (54-33).
The Goldbugs finished the season undefeated (9-0) atop the Southern-Plains Iroquois District and finished with a 24-1 season record, their only loss a 65-56 squeeker in the 1A Division II Championship Game against the Axtell Eagles (18-8) on March 9.
On average the Mavericks won by 20 points and lost by 10 points over the course of the season.
Quarter-for-quarter the Mavericks had an incredibly consistent offensive season.
Maverick shooters scored 285, 248, 267 and 279 points in the first, second, third and fourth quarters respectively.
Opponent numbers show a slow incline towards later quarters scoring 198, 230, 236 and 274 points in the first, second, third and fourth quarters respectively.
Maverick opponents did most of their damage in the later minutes scoring nearly 29 percent of their offense in the fourth quarter as opposed to scoring only 20 percent of their points in the first quarter.
But, over the course of the season, the Mavericks won 92 percent of their games when they were either winning or tied at the half. The only game the Mavs lost after winning the first half was their season-ending 59-52 loss to the Sterling Black Bears.
The Mavericks were winning 28-27 at halftime.
If the Mavericks were behind at halftime, they were 77 percent likely to get a loss.
Two games, a 45-38 loss against the Macksville Mustangs on Dec. 17 and a 51-37 win against the Fairfield Falcons on Dec. 18 were tied at the half and skewed the results.
The Mavericks went 5-3 at home, 4-3 on the road and 3-3 in neutral play.
They finished 5-4 in Southern-Plains Iroquois District games, finishing fifth behind Fowler (9-0), So.Gray (9-1), Ashland (7-3) and Minneola (7-3).
Kiowa County was second in overall league season points (1,107) behind only Fowler (1,378) and ahead of Minneola (1,044), Ashland (1,069) and So. Central (594).
The Mavs ranked thirteenth in 2A Division basketball, with an average 52.7 points-per-game (PPG), ranking number 60 statewide.
The loss at Sterling was a bittersweet farewell for seven Maverick teammates, who will graduate this year.
With Odle, Ardery, Davis, Perez, Tyree, Behm and Watson gone, the Mavericks will turn to a younger group of players next season.
“Trever Powell and Corbin Vandenhoek got a lot of varsity minutes this year,” said Perez. “Michael Tedder, Payton Miller, Dylan Jacks, Aaron Heft, Landon Davis and Cole Kendall; those guys got a ton of junior varsity minutes this year. I think that was the best thing for them, playing as much as they could. Some of these kids got beat up [on the court] in JV pretty well this year, so I think next year they’re going to do the beating up,” laughed Perez.
Page 4 of 4 - With a varsity bench overflowing with seniors, many of the promising sophomores and juniors played significant minutes in junior varsity games.
Perez said even though some of them may have limited varsity experience, being able to play lots of JV minutes has upped their game.
“Powell, Tedder, Vandenhoek I think you should look for those guys to be leaders next year,” said Perez. “Add in Davis, Heft, Miller and some other guys in the post and we’re looking pretty good. Miller is the Energizer Bunny out there; when Heft is on top of his game he can make a difference and Kendall’s a shooter. They all play hard, that’s something we can look forward to.”