By CONOR NICHOLL
Jetmore-Hodgeman County’s Trent Bright has significantly elevated the Longhorn girls’ basketball program in the last three years. Jetmore and Hanston form Hodgeman County High School. Before 2021, neither program had made state since ’05 or reached a final four since ’01.
This season, Hodgeman County posted a 17-3 mark and won the Southern Plains Iroquois regular season title for a third straight year. The Longhorns have significantly upped its offensive efficiency and 3-point shooting behind junior Morgan Ruff and senior Malynn Beil. Hodgeman County has made 99 treys – the Longhorns sunk a combined 108 in the last two years. The defensive efficiency has remained steady all three winters.
Hodgeman County is ranked ninth in Class 1A, Division I by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association. However, the top-three Division I teams, Little River, Central Plains and Pretty Prairie, are all in the same sub-state. Hodgeman County headlines the Kinsley sub-state as the No. 1 seed.
On Thursday, HC faces Kiowa County in the sub-state semifinals. The other semifinal is Spearville (16-5) and South Gray (14-6). All four are SPIAA teams. Hodgeman County split two meetings with Spearville. Hodgeman County defeated Kiowa County by 33 on Feb. 10 and beat South Gray twice. The Longhorns went 10-1 in SPIAA regular season play.
HC girls are again a state contender.
On the boys’ side, Hodgeman County (14-6) is in the Kinsley sub-state semifinals, along with South Gray, Kiowa County and Spearville. HC junior Owen Reece has averaged 18 points per game in his career and scored his 1,000th career point on Jan. 27. Reece was an honorable mention all-state selection last year.
In the last two seasons, Bright has led the Longhorns to back-to-back Class 1A, Division I final fours. That included an undefeated regular season last winter. Hodgeman County won the SPIAA regular season and conference championship last year. Two winters ago, HC collected the regular season crown and was tournament runner-up.
Bright’s two final four teams were significantly built on athleticism, rebounding, defense and turnover creation. The 2020-21 squad posted a 20-5 record. The Longhorns scored .72 points per possession and allowed .57 points a possession. HC shot 34 percent from the field and 22 percent from 3-point range (37-165). HC scored 45 points a game and allowed 35.
Last season, HC was a superb rebounding team. HC had a remarkable plus-14.8 rebounding margin a contest. The Longhorns scored 50 points a game and permitted 35.
Hodgeman County had four seniors as key players, notably Kaylee James, Grace Shiew and Hayleigh Burke. James, an outstanding track athlete, was considered the team’s best on-ball defender. Shiew and Burke combined for 11.5 rebounds a contest.
HC had .83 points per possession and permitted .58 points a possession. The Longhorns grabbed 37 percent of available offensive rebounds. The Longhorns had 35 percent shooting and 26 percent from 3-point range (71-275).
HC graduated three of the top-five scorers. In ’21-22, Beil had 12 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists a contest. Ruff had 10.3 points, four rebounds and two assists per game.
This year, HC has upped to 40 percent shooting and 31 percent (99-315) from 3-point range. Hodgeman County has 62 possessions per game, .88 points per possession and .59 points allowed a possession.
HC has a 23 percent steal rate and grabbed 35 percent of available offensive rebounds.
Ruff has a complete line of 17.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.9 steals and 2.7 assists a contest. Beil has 13.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.6 steals per game. Ruff and Beil have combined for 81 3s and 35 percent from long range.
Seven others have played in at least 19 games: senior Jessie Ruff, freshman Taylor Bamberger, junior Casey Schaffer, junior Alexis Bradshaw, sophomore Blake Dansel, freshman Kylee Reece and freshman Ashlynn Beil.
While Hodgeman County hasn’t matched the rebounding numbers of last season, the Longhorns are still quite strong statistically on defense. HC has permitted 37 points per game. HC has a plus-5.9 rebounding margin per contest. The Longhorns have outrebounded all but four opponents, per SIK research and Digital Scout boxscores.