Indians about to take first step in league race
It has been awhile for the Yuma High School boys basketball team.
The Indians will play their first game in nearly a month when they travel to Wiggins, Friday, for their Lower Platte Activities Association opener. Ranked No. 4 in Class 2A, they enter the game with a 5-2 record after closing out the season’s first month with a home win over Wray on December 15.
Now it is time to get it all rolling again after such a long layoff.
“Basically getting them back together and back to playing as a team,” coach Dave Sheffield said of the focus after the Christmas break. “That’s especially true with such a long break between games this year.”
Wiggins will enter the game with a 0-1 mark in league play, 3-6 overall, after a 53-21 loss to Sedgwick County in the league opener last week. Sedgwick County, ranked No. 1 in 2A, is 7-0 overall. The Cougars play at Holyoke on Friday. The Dragons are part of the early-season lead in the league race, avenging a big loss to Phillips County-rival Haxtun in December with a 50-39 win over the Bulldogs last Friday, then winning a nonleague game at Wray this past Tuesday to improve to 4-5.
Caliche and Akron opened league play against each other last weekend. Caliche was 5-3 and Akron 4-4. Haxtun is 5-3 overall and hosts Caliche on Friday. Wray, 1-5 overall after December, hosts Sedgwick County for its league opener on Saturday. Akron hosts Merino, 4-4 overall, on Friday in Merino’s league opener.
The LPAA was dominated by seniors last season, when Holyoke beat Sedgwick County in the 2A championship game, and Akron placed fifth at the state tournament.
Sedgwick County lost Chad Mickelson from that team, but still starts five seniors this season. Yuma, though, has returned all but one player from last season’s lineup, and is looking to battle back to the top of the LPAA by the end of the 2017-18 campaign.
“The league isn’t as strong up top as it was last year,” Sheffield said. “I think it’s open this year. (The graduation of so many quality senior players) changes the landscape.”
Yuma showed some promising progress in December, but still have some room to grow in order to reach the level Sheffield expects from this group.
A win over Wiggins will get the Indians off in the right direction in the league battle, leading up to a nonleague game at Holyoke the following Friday.
The Wiggins game is the Indians’ only one in January before the first Rating Percentage Index is released next week. The RPI will be used to help seed the regional and state tournament fields. The eight district champions will be the top eight seeds for the 32-team regional, but their seeding of one through eight will be determined by their RPI.
The LPAA does not seem to feature as many top-level teams as last year, but Sheffield said that fact should not negatively impact the Indians’ RPI as the season progresses.
“It will probably be a wash because there might not be as many 15-to-18 win teams, but there will be more 10-to-11 win teams,” he said.
The RPI and the postseason are not at the forefront of Sheffield’s and his players’ minds at the moment anyway, as they are simply preparing to finally return to game action.
“I just want to get going again,” Sheffield said.