When Hesston High’s girls won the Class 3A state basketball championship last year, coach Matt Richardson didn’t think it could get any better than that.
But it did.
After going 25-1 last year, there’s only one way the Swathers could one-up themselves.
And they did.
With Saturday’s 54-40 victory over previously undefeated Cimarron at the Hutchinson Sports Arena, the Swathers completed a perfect 26-0 season.
“We started the season with high expectations, but I don't think anyone thought we would work our way back without a loss,” said Richardson, whose team beat some really good clubs during its run, including a sub-state finals victory over Lyons, the team it defeated in last year’s state title game.
The Swathers did lose some valuable seniors after last year, but his top offensive players did return.
“With the core of our scoring back, and new roles to fill, it was fun to watch our kids respond to new situations,” Richardson said. “We began to understand we could defend anyone, and control the boards and our bench began to give major contributions taking stress off the returners.”
The Swathers, despite a tough schedule, overwhelmed their opponents, defeating such bigger-school teams as Buhler (which finished fourth in 4A Division I) and Emporia. They routed Galena (51-25), Sabetha (53-28) and Cimarron (54-40) at Hutchinson as they were impressive at both ends of the floor.
“Scoring became just another part of our unselfish attitude,” Richardson said. “We didn't stress about a winning streak and just continued taking one game at a time. Unselfishness led to us shooting 50 percent from the field and average 53.2 points per game, while our defense went to work only giving up 27 percent and 29.2 points per game.”
The Swathers graduate four seniors, including Richardson’s multi-dimensional daughter Caylee.
“It was an awesome year to be a Swather last season and then to follow it up with this season with Caylee graduating,” Richardson said. “What a capstone for her high school career.”
But he was quick to point out that seniors Kelsey Unruh, Jessanna Nebel and Audrey Winslow were key components as well.
“Our seniors end with a varsity record of 88-10 in the last four years,” Richardson said.
The Swathers do have some key players coming back. His other daughter, Cami, will be the team’s pinwheel next year and Katelyn Hageman came on, including a 14-point game off the bench during the postseason. There are some other players who have been patiently waiting in the wings for their chance and they’ll get it next year.