PITTSBURG -- Southeast Kansas League coaches predicted tight races in girls' basketball championships race in pre-season polls released at the KSEK-FM 99.1 The Ticket media conference here Monday.
Fort Scott's girls were picked to win the league even though they didn't get most of the first-place votes. Chanute, picked to finish second, got three top votes while the Tigers, Labette County and Independence each got one. The top four teams were within 4 points of each other in the tabulation.
Tiger girls finished tied for fourth with Iola in what was a nine-team league last season. Iola is now a member of the Pioneer League while Columbus has joined the Crawford-Neosho-Cherokee League. Parsons won the league but doesn't return a lot and has a rookie head coach, Bridgette Kendricks. Parsons was picked to finish last in what is now a seven-team league.
Labette County was picked to third second behind the Tigers and Blue Comets followed by Independence, Pittsburg, Coffeyville and Parsons.
While the Tigers were just 8-13 last season, they return three seniors and two junior starters. The seniors are Sidney and Shelby Maycumber and Hannah Tourtillott. The junior starters are Breanne Lawrence and Katren Rienbolt.
Armstrong, echoing the sentiment of most of the coaches that the league will be tough, said he filled out his ballot several times and had different predictions each time.
"I had a hard time filling it out," he said. "This is a very competitive league."
Chanute was the league's only State Tournament qualifier last season, making it in Class 4A. The Blue Comets finished the regular season 8-12 before sweeping through the Louisburg Sub-State. His team lost three seniors but returns four seniors and two juniors who he expects to contribute as he continues to build the program.
Labette County finished tied for second with Pittsburg in the SEK last season, 16-6 overall. Assistant coach Heather Wilson, filling in for head coach Kristi Snider, said that's where the staff expected the Grizzlies to be picked. Even with senior Michaela O'Brien returning to lead the team, the coaches are thinking of this as a rebuilding year.
Independence was 8-13 last season. Head coach Dale Reynolds said most of his players return although there are just two seniors. Pittsburg coach Kim (Peterson) O'Bray said that though her team lost two post players, the Purple Dragons have a core of returning varsity players who played a lot of minutes.
The last two teams have new head coaches. Coffeyville finished eighth last season with an overall record of 4-17. New coach Eric Flaton will have 6' 1" senior post Abby Herkelman to build around. Defending champion Parsons (17-6) lost most of its experienced players and will rebuild behind Kendricks, who is a former Viking herself