LINDSBORG — The Smoky Valley boys were happy to make state last year and now that they’ve made it again this season, Viking coach Doug Schneider is hoping it becomes an annual occurrence.
“It's truly a joy to make a return trip to state,” said Schneider, whose basketball team takes a 15-7 record and No. 7 seed into its first-round game with 21-1 Holcomb at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Emporia. “I am so proud of all of our young men who have paved the way over the years to get us to the spot we are in now. It's great to have a group of players that believe in what we are doing and believe they are capable of making it to the state tournament on a regular basis.”
Schneider says you won’t find many fields much tougher than the grouping at White Auditorium.
“This is truly a phenomenal field of teams as the (No.) 8 seed still has 14 wins and the top two seeds have 21 each,” Schneider said. “It is going to be a great week of basketball and whoever wins will be extremely deserving.”
The Vikings have drawn one of those 21-win teams in Holcomb.
“Holcomb is a very good basketball team with great height and solid talent as their 21-1 record shows” Schneider said. “We know we are going to have our work cut out for us to stop all the weapons they have. We are going to need to bring our A-game right out of the gate and hopefully our rigorous regular-season and league schedule will have us prepared to face whatever they bring us.”
The Vikings are led by junior guard Nick Reinert, who averages 16.7 points a game and has a high of 36. Brett Heitschmidt, another junior, chips in with 11.5 points and leads the team in rebounding at 5.9, just ahead of junior Jacob Adams, who scores 9 points and pulls down 5.5 rebounds.
Rounding out the lineup are seniors Ryan Weldy (6.7 points) and Ross Schrag (3.9). Ben Weldy has provided a spark off the bench by averaging nearly 5 points a game and others Schneider can call on are Zach Able and Caine Wing.
The Vikings are on the side of the bracket with a lot of tradition. Historic power Topeka Hayden (16-6) and Rock Creek (18-4) will clash in the game right after Smoky. In the bottom of the bracket, Frontenac (14-8) takes on probable tourney favorite Wichita Collegiate (21-1) at 6:30, with Wednesday wrapping up at 8:15 as Pratt goes up against Burlington in a duel of 17-5 teams.
If Smoky Valley wins on Wednesday, it plays at 4:45 Friday.
• WEDNESDAY’S SCHEDULE •
3:00 — Smoky Valley (15-7) vs. Holcomb (21-1)
4:45 — Topeka Hayden (16-6) vs. Rock Creek (18-4)
6:30 — Wichita Collegiate (21-1) vs. Frontenac (14-8)
8:15 — Burlington (17-5) vs. Pratt (17-5)