HESSTON — Greg Raleigh would gladly take a repeat of history.
A year ago, his undefeated Hesston boys opened the Class 3A State Tournament by outlasting Wichita Collegiate, 61-53. That served as a springboard for the Swathers, who went on to complete a 26-0 season.
The Swathers aren’t undefeated going into this year’s state event at Hutchinson’s Sports Arena — they’re 21-2 — but they again open with Collegiate, which is 20-3.
“It’s a tough first-round draw,” Raleigh said. “I think 3A is very loaded this year. Scott City moving down (from 4A, D-II) and Sabetha and Wellsville are very good. Riverton is the No. 8 seed, so there are no weak teams in the field.”
The Swathers lost standouts Wyatt McKinney and Ryan Schadler from last year’s perfect team that featured four double-digit scorers, but they have kept right on rolling. There’s still balance evident as three players average in double figures — 6-2 senior guard Grant Raleigh (17.2), 6-2 senior guard Tyler McCartney (16.4) and 6-0 junior guard Scott Duerksen (10.2).
Rounding out the lineup are springy 6-1 senior forward Justin Smith (5.4) and 6-4 junior center Levi Cafferty (5.2, 5.4 rebounds).
The Swathers have a deep bench, including 6-0 junior Garrett Roth, 6-1 junior Jon Weber, 5-11 sophomore Zach Esau, 6-4 junior Grant Dahlsten and 5-7 sophomore Zach Vogt. While there’s not a senior on the bench, it does bode well for the future.
If the Swathers win, they’d be matched against either 22-1 Sabetha or 15-8 Riverton at 8:15 p.m. Friday.
On the other side of the bracket, Scott City is 22-1 and should breeze against 19-4 Cheney. Osage City (21-2) and Wellsville (19-4) meet in the other game.