The gauntlet of Lower Platte Activities Association basketball begins this week.
Six of the LPAA’s girls teams are ranked in the Top 10 as the season resumes in 2022. Sedgwick County is ranked No. 4 in Class 2A, Holyoke No. 5, Yuma No. 7 and Wray No. 9. Plus, Akron had a winning December is just out of the rankings. In 1A, Merino is ranked fourth, and Haxtun No. 10.
On the boys side, Yuma is ranked No. 1 in 2A, Wray No. 3, and Holyoke No. 6. Haxtun is ranked fourth in 1A, while Merino just outside the Top 10.
It’s tough to pick a favorite for the girls league title, though Holyoke and Sedgwick County likely are the ones to beat. Yuma is the likely favorite in the boys race, but plenty of challenges await.
It begins right away for the YHS boys and girls. The Indians open league play by hosting the Haxtun teams on Friday, then welcome Holyoke to town on Saturday for a non-league date. (The return trip to Holyoke later in the season will count in the league standings.)
All four games over the weekend will be Top 10 matchups. Holyoke has non-league home games with Burlington on Friday, while Haxtun will go to Prairie on Saturday for non-league games.
Elsewhere, the Akron teams travel to Wray on Friday, and Sedgwick County travels to Caliche. It is the only league action for those schools this weekend.
Merino does not have a league game until January 14, when the Rams travel to Caliche. Wiggins does not have a league game until January 21, when it travels to Sedgwick County.
The Yuma boys looked like a serious contender during the first weeks of the 2021-22 season.
The Indians went 5-1 in December, their lone loss coming on a late 3-pointer in double overtime against Eaton. They are ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, and No. 1 in the 2A Rating Percentage Index.
“I think most of it was all really good,” head coach Dave Sheffield said. “The energy level was incredible. Our overall effort was great, which with this system you need to have to make it work.”
League play will prove to be a challenge. “I think the LPAA is going to be a pretty solid league,” Sheffield said.
However, the Indians also have plenty of non-league challenges in coming weeks. They host Sidney, Nebraska on January 22, travel to a good Peyton team on January 29, then host Chase County, Nebraska on February 1.
“Week 3 will be a big week with back-to-back games with Wray and Sidney,” Sheffield said.
No doubt the Indians will be up for the challenge.
Yuma’s girls varsity displayed exciting promise while going 4-2 in December against a difficult schedule.
Coach Jeremy Robinson said the first phase of implementing a full-pressure uptempo attack was in December, getting everyone to buy-in on what the Indians are trying to do defensively. He said the second phase now is to focus on transition on offense.
“That’s our best chance of winning,” he said. “We just have to hang around teams, and hopefully the mental tiredness kicks in later in the game.”
The coach noted the Indians need to improve on boxing out, and not fouling so much, particularly on shots. He said those are easy to fix.
Yuma was starting to warm up on outside shooting, making multiple 3-pointers in their final December games, but then came the Christmas break. “Hopefully, they can pick up where they left off,” Robinson said.
The Indians jump into league play Friday when they host Haxtun. The Fightin’ Bulldogs are just 2-4, but Robinson said they played a touch schedule and are better than their record indicates.
Holyoke comes to town Saturday for a non-league game. The Dragons are ranked No. 5 in 2A, and handily beat Wray in December. Robinson said they have five good players, and three of them are good-sized.
“If we get put in a halfcourt game with Holyoke, it’s not going to be good for us, unless we shoot lights out,” he said.
That will be just the beginning of a challenging January and February.
“I think the league, if you don’t show up to play, it’s going to be a long night no matter who you are playing,” Robinson said.