ov ^ *&&**• • The Sauna J B-ll Abilene gets the nod in NCKL By ROD LAKE Sports Writer This school year could be an unusual one at Abilene High School where basketball traditionally has taken a back seat to football. Although the Cowboy football team finished second in the North Central Kansas League, they managed to finish just over .500 with a 5-4 overall record. But now the usually football-crazed town of Abilene will turn its attention to basketball — and for a good reason. The Cowboys, under the direction of second-year head coach Scott Stein, were an almost unanimous choice to win the NCKL title this season and many coaches feel Abilene could have one of the best Class 4A teams in the state. But the Cowboys will get severe challenges from wren-rival Chapman along with several other viable contenders. Stein helped turn the Abilene basketball fortunes around last year and at the same time brought a renewed enthusiasm for basketball in a town where the conversation usually centers around football. After a slow start last season, the Cowboys finished with a flurry and compiled an 11-1 league mark and nearly defeated Sacred Heart in the finals of the regional tournament. With the return of five lettermen, including one starter, the Cowboys appear to be the team to beat in the NCKL again this season. Craig Stromgren, a 6-3, 175-pound senior, returns after seeing starting duty last year. Stromgren tossed in almost 14 points and hauled down 10 rebounds a game last year. Stromgren will probably be joined on the wings by Troy Harding, a 6-foot senior. Jason Schenck, a 6-foot junior, will handle the point-guard duties while seniors David Walters (6-3, 175) and Tim Holmes (6-5, 190) will give the Cowboys strength at the post position. Other candidates for starting positions include Mike Hoover, Mike Kaiser and Tim Day, all of whom saw some varsity action last year. "We'll have very good team quickness, good skill people, good team height and great competitors," Stein said. "Our weakness is our lack of returning starters but we should have a good shot at finishing high." Weed back for Irish Both Stein and Clay Center coach Lynd Thompson picked Chapman to win the conference title. The Irish will return the biggest — and possibly the best player in the league in 6-2 Mike Weed. "Mike should be one of the top big men in the state," Irish coach John Sanborn said. "He has good shooting range and he has improved his strength and Sanborn, in his 15th season as the Chapman coach, will have three other lettermen returning from last season's 12-11 club. "We have very little experience returning so we'll need considerable help from the underclassmen," Sandborn said. "Weed is the only real veteran returning." But the Irish will have returning letter winners Rodney Anderson and Dan North Centra/ Jesch, a pair of 6-1 seniors, along with Eric Londeen, a 5-9 guard, to add needed experience. Anderson had a couple of 20-point performances last season against Clay Center and Sacred Heart so Sanborn is counting on the senior swingman to develop into a team leader. Big Bulldogs A tall Marysville team is also a contender. The Bulldogs will have four players over 6-3. "With our size our game will be inside. We should horse the boards, make the outlet pass and be able to break a lot," said Marysville coach Larry Pfeifer. "We don't have a lot of quickness, or pure shooters with our size, so our game must be posting up inside and try to get the easy shot." Returning lettermen Brian Taphorn and Jeff Luedders should lead the Bulldogs' inside game. Taphorn is a 6-3,185- pound senior swingman while the 6-4 Luedders will line-up at forward. Jim Vineyard, a 6-0 senior, is the other returning letterman. Although Concordia won Just one game in 19 tries last season, most coaches feel the Panthers will be a greatly unproved team. "It will take some time to recover our health after being critically ill last year," said fifth-year head coach Erik Rasmussen. "Last year we started out with no lettermen. At least we have five lettermen to start with this season." Those five are all seniors — center Shannon Sis, forwards Mike Bauman, Mark Nordell, Quinton Ostrom and guard David Gieber. "Our weakness appears to be the lack of height and any proven offensive punch," Rasmussen said. "Our lettermen were solid performers but none has proven himself as outstanding as of yet anyway." Raiders return On paper, Wamego appears to have a good chance at surprising the favorites. Seven senior lettermen, including six who saw some starting action last season, are all back. "This group of seniors has always known success. They play as well together as any team I've ever coached," said Red Raider mentor Dale Doll. "Lack of height could hurt us but the players will make up for it because they're winners." Chris Barnes, the only full-time returning starter, tops the list of prospects. Barnes is a 6-2 forward. He'll probably be joined by either Don Holmes or Dane Ditto at the other forward. The guard positions will be manned by either Pat Daylor, Mike Barry or Tom Burgess. The Raiders will not have any true centers on the team. At Clay Center, Thompson will face a rebuilding year as no returning starters and only one letterman are back from a 134 team. Brad Grinage, a 6-1, 165-pound senior forward, is the only Clay Center player to earn a letter last year. Thompson will build his team around Grinage and Rick Wietharn. Both players had good seasons on a junior varsity squad. Belleville will have two returning starters from a team that finished 7-13 a year ago. Football standouts Pat Damman and Scott Morehead, will probably lead the Buffs on the hardcourt as well. The two are a pair of 6-0, 170-pound seniors. Damman will play guard and Morehead will line up at forward. Damman was an all-league performer as a junior averaging 13 points and six rebounds a game. Guards Kenton Mai and Kyle Holmberg, along with center Doyle Dreesen, also return after lettering last season. The 6-4 Dreesen will have the inside track on the starting center position. Coach Ken Ebert said the Buffs will have good quickness but will need to improve on last season's 41 percent field goal shooting percentage. Sweaters that make the man. Lord Jeff's Shetland Crew Neck is a traditional favorite. It is knit from rare Shetland wool. So it is exceptionally comfortable and resilient. This sweater brings out the best in every man. Available in many handsome colors. . 112N.SaataFe Men's Wear D*wat*wa, Saliva Opea Moada.v A Tkwsday Evert** Till *•• p. 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