Fresh off winning six straight games, the Chanute Lady Blue Comets will take their winning streak into the annual Bill Hanson Memorial Tournament.
Chanute’s first game will be versus Cassville today at 4 pm in Mallatt Gym at Pittsburg High School. Friday’s opponent will depend on if Chanute wins or loses, but either way, the game will start at 5 pm; the Lady Blue Comets will either play Kickapoo or Wichita East, either in Mallatt Gym if they lose, or Main Gym if Chanute comes up victorious.
In addition to Chanute (7-1) and Cassville (1-5), Wichita East (3-6) will take on Kickapoo, Pittsburg (3-4) will play Carthage (7-7), and Blue Valley Northwest (1-8) will compete versus Carl Junction (12-0).
But head coach Dustin Fox, of course, has his sights set on the task at hand against Cassville, and said the team matches up pretty well.
“We are the smallest school in the tournament, but we think we can play with them,” Fox said.
Fox said he may use his 1-3-1 defense in an effort to create turnovers. Chanute has amassed 139 turnovers on the year, while averaging 12.1 steals per game.
“If we can turn them over, we feel pretty good about our chances of getting out and getting some buckets in transition,” Fox said. “They have some kids who can put it in the hole. But, hopefully, we kind of disrupt what they want to do offensively, turn that into offense for ourselves.”
The last game Chanute played was versus Parsons on Jan. 14, a game the Lady Blue Comets won 71-31 in Parsons. Since then, Fox has looked at film, running drills in practice based upon what the team needs to do better, while further developing some of the better characteristics of the team: getting out in the break off of turnovers, moving the ball from side-to-side and inside-out, staying sound on defense and letting junior point guard Kori Babcock control the flow of the game.
Already the second leading scoring team in Kansas Class 4A on the girls’ side at 55.6 points a game, Fox has goaded efficient and effective ball movement.
“We think we can play faster, and so that’s been a big focus in trying to move the ball so that we can get even better shots,” Fox said. “And then on the defensive end, just working on the speed of our rotations. Making sure as the ball is in the air, we’re moving and trying to fly around and cause problems for the other team.”
What isn’t a problem is Chanute avoiding the injury bug. Nobody will miss games or is on minutes restrictions because of injury or illness thanks to the long layoff since last week’s game.
But even with avoiding injuries, Fox said it as an advantage and a disadvantage into having such a long break.
“It’s an advantage because it gives you kind of a chance to work on some things and have a little time to focus on you,” Fox said. “It’s a disadvantage because you have a chance to have some rust and you haven’t played a game in over a week. It’s all about how we react to it. Hopefully we turn it into an advantage. There’s always going to be a little bit of rust to kick off there early in the game.”
Last year was the first time Chanute entered the Bill Hanson tournament, and the team went 0-3. But the Lady Blue Comets roll into the tournament this year with confidence thanks to their top playmakers and rotational players on the team.
Babcock leads the way, averaging 20.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.4 steals. Makayla Schoenhofer is at 10.9 points and seven rebounds a game, while Jacey Lewis is at 9.1 points and is a 39 percent three-point shooter on the year.
These student-athletes, along with players Mattilyn Cranor, Brianna Waggoner, and Brinly Bancroft, among others, will do their due diligence in steering this ship in the right direction.