PITTSBURG -- Coffeyville and Labette County were voted into a first-place tie in the KSEK-FM 99.1 The Ticket's pre-season Southeast Kansas League poll released Monday morning.
Coffeyville, which qualified for last year's Class 4A State Tournament along with Fort Scott, received four first-place votes while Labette County picked up two. The Grizzlies finished 10-12 last season.
The Tigers, 18-5 last season after finishing third in the SEK, picked up the other first-place vote. Independence followed in the voting with Pittsburg next, then Chanute and Parsons bringing up the rear in the now-seven-team league.
Parsons and Independence were co-champions last season. But as Viking head coach Mike Krull put it: "We lost everyone," noting that about 5.1 points and 3.1 rebounds per game return this year.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the poll, Coffeyville's new head coach, Tyler Thompson, inherits a team that finished 16-7 and returns four seniors, including James Newton.
Labette County finished finished tied for sixth with Coffeyville in league play but was 10-12 overall. Veteran coach Brad Smith said he has four returning starters but only one senior, Dontae Johnson.
Fort Scott head coach Jeff DeLaTorre, whose 2011-12 squad finished third in the State tourney, said he tried something different this year and held the first practice early in the morning with 24 players in the top three classes reporting.
"I want to remind whoever did that (give the Tigers a first-place vote) that we lost six seniors and have one returning starter," DeLaTorre joked. "But we have a lot of kids who are excited that this is their turn."
That one starter, incidentally, is point guard Johnathan Stark. There are several others who received some varsity time but not an extensive amount.
Independence was 15-7 overall last year but head coach Marcus Lanning said his team will be looking to find a few more points since the Bulldogs lost three starters. He promises his team will be disciplined and solid on defense.
Pittsburg finished fourth in the SEK last season and was 12-9 overall. Head coach Kiley Roelfs says he has most of his forwards back from last season but will need guards to step up.
Chanute was eighth in the SEK and 3-18 overall last season under Max Ruark. Parsons was 20-3 but lost to Coffeyville in the Sub-State final played on the Golden Tornado's home court.