Girls look the role early in the season
The Yuma High School girls basketball team certainly looked the role of contender during the opening weekend of the 2017-18 season.
Yuma, ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, opened the 2017-18 season by rolling past Frontier Academy and Highland while winning the Canine Classic for the second consecutive year, last weekend at Highland High School in Ault. However, coach Bob Rahm warned it is early in the season.
“If we continue to play as a team, move the ball, it’ll make a big difference,” he said.
The Indians now cross state lines to play in the Topside Tipoff Tournament in Goodland, Kansas. The Indians won the Topside two years in a row before finishing second to archrival Wray last season. The Yuma County foes could meet again Saturday, but Rahm pointed out there was a lot of ball to play before then.
“We’ve got to win our first game first,” he said. “We just need to take it one game at a time.”
The first one is today at 4 p.m. against Norton, Kansas, which nearly beat Wray in the Topside semifinals last year, eventually placing third, and returns two key players 6-foot and 6-2 from last season.
Also on Yuma’s side of the bracket are Burlington and Goodland. Win or lose, the Indians plays at 6 p.m Friday. Potential game times Saturday range from 11 a.m. for the seventh-place game to 5 p.m. for the championship.
On the other side of the bracket, Wray opens against McCook, Nebraska, at 2 p.m., and Colby, Kansas, plays Wallace County, Kansas, in the day’s final game.
The Indians will be aspiring to keep improving this weekend in Kansas.
“Our execution of our offense has to get better,” Rahm said. “We were still able to get baskets out of it, but didn’t run it like we were supposed to. It’s still early, though, it’ll get better.”
Just as last season, the Indians opened their 2017-18 campaign in the Canine Classic against Frontier Academy. Just as last season, the Tribe had little trouble dispatching the Wolverines, winning 79-20.
Yuma started out in a full-court press, but Rahm called it off with 3 minutes left in the first quarter and the Indians leading 25-2. They still scored 11 more points in the quarter, and led 54-9 by halftime. Nine of the 11 players on the roster played in the first half.
The Indians led 71-13 after three quarters, and everyone saw plenty of playing time in the second half. The new “mercy rule” was in effect in the fourth quarter as Yuma led by more than 40, resulting in a running clock.
“I was really happy with our guards in that first game,” Rahm said. “They played really well for that being the first game.”
Yuma shot 62 percent, making 36 of 58 shots, despite making only three of nine 3-pointers. The Indians made just four of 10 from the charity stripe. The Indians had 24-6 rebounding advantage, recorded 24 assists and 24 steals while committing only 13 turnovers.
Cody Robinson led the way with 18 points, five assists, four rebounds, and four steals. Reagan Nolin made two of four from beyond the arc, finishing with 14 points, four assists and three steals, Kyle Rayl 13 points on six-of-seven shooting, and three steals, Chasey Blach 11 points, six rebounds and four assists, Avery Whitehead eight points, four steals, three rebounds and three assists, Viri Escobar seven points, six steals and two assists, Sarah Leifheit six points, two rebounds and two assists, Lisa Bustillos two points and two rebounds, Lainey Mekelburg two rebounds and two assists, Ema Richardson three rebounds, and Lucy Day also played.
The Indians played without senior Kenedy Roth, who will be out at least until after the Christmas break due to an injury. They also started Saturday’s game without senior Avery Whitehead, who was late to the game while taking a college entrance exam.
Yuma hardly missed a beat, though, with Leifheit getting her first start in place of Whitehead, and responding with a strong effort.
The Indians were facing the host team Highland Huskies, who also cruised in their first game. Highland has been a strong team the past several years, and look to have some promising talent in place again this season.
Yuma started out a little slow, but eventually got on a roll, turning a 12-4 lead into a 30-11 advantage by halftime.
“I was a little nervous before the start of that game, but the girls really responded,” Rahm said.
The Indians were dominant in all facets of the game in the first two quarters.
Highland came out with more hustle and intensity in the third quarter, cutting a bit into the Indians’ lead. However, Whitehead, who arrived during the second quarter, hit back-to-back 3-pointers, and Robinson sank one from behind the arc in the final seconds of the third for a 48-19 lead.
A Whitehead trey early in the fourth staked the Indians to a 55-19 lead, and the Indians cruised from there to a 57-23 win.
Yuma shot 43 percent, including making five 3-pointers. The Indians had 19 assists and 17 steals, and committed only eight turnovers.
Blach had a double-double with 14 points and 16 rebounds, along with three assists and two steals, while Whitehead had 13 points, making three of five 3-point attempts, and four steals, Robinson 12 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals, Rayl six points, seven assists, three rebounds and two steals, Leifheit six points and three assists, Nolin six points, three rebounds and three assists, Escobar four steals and Bustillos one steal.
“We’re a lot deeper this year,” Rahm said. “Thank goodness. With the injury and some other stuff going on, depth is a good thing to have.”