By CONOR NICHOLL
On Jan. 29, Spearville girls’ basketball entered the Southern Plains Iroquois midseason tournament third place game with a 7-5 record. The Lancers had a four-point loss to Jetmore-Hodgeman County, which eventually completed the regular season 20-0 and ranked first in Class 1A, Division I. As well, Spearville fell in overtime at 3A Hoisington, which won a tournament and went 13-7.
Plus, the Lancers took a pair of losses to Coldwater-South Central, which finished 17-3 and ranks No. 10 in Division I. Spearville also had a three-point loss to Ness City.
In the third-place game, Spearville used its balance, depth and junior point guard Taegen Pedigo to pull away from Montezuma-South Gray, 52-30, at Dodge City’s United Wireless Arena. Spearville had limited practice that week because of snow days.
“Their record coming into this doesn’t show good of a team they really are,” South Gray coach Mindy Stilwell said.
All 11 players scored for a Lancer squad that, at the time, had no girl averaging double figures. Spearville finished 8 of 12 from long range, including 4 of 5 from junior Tessa Kuker, a 3-point specialist.
“We played one of our best games all season,” coach Todd Cossman told SIK. “We won every quarter, which is kind of one of our goals. We try to take it quarter by quarter, so I am just proud of how everybody stepped up. We had a lot of kids come off of the bench and get us some points. Just an all-around great effort.”
Eight players delivered a steal, paced by four from junior Cameron Offerle. Pedigo finished with eight assists, and junior Kristen Huston had one of her better games with eight points, three steals and no turnovers.
“Each game is kind of like a little different how we want to match up versus teams,” Cossman said. “I mean, we have got some kids who can shoot. We have got some really good defenders. We have got some really good passers, drivers, so it’s just trying to find that right balance each game.”
Offerle and junior Tawney Krominga were first team all-state volleyball selections for Spearville’s state championship winning Class 1A, Division I squad in the fall. Offerle, Krominga and senior Anna Stein are key players in volleyball and basketball. At the time, South Gray, with four freshmen among nine varsity players, was 10-3 with two losses by a combined three points. Spearville finished plus-eight on the glass, including 14 rebounds from Stein.
“Anybody can go off and put up a great game,” Stilwell said. “They are very balanced. They have got a great point guard in Pedigo, and Houston does a great job, handling the ball, too. Very well-rounded team. A team full of juniors and seniors.”
Including the SG win, Spearville is 8-2 since. The Lancers have won three straight, including a 60-44 win against a quality Minneola team last Friday when Stein delivered 22 points and eight rebounds. Spearville stands at 15-7. The Lancers are part of the 1A, Division I sub-state in Montezuma. Six of the seven squads are 12-10 or better. Spearville is the No. 3 seed behind South Central and Kiowa County (16-3). Spearville has split with Kiowa County this winter.
On Friday, Spearville plays Kiowa County, and South Central faces Meade (11-8) in the sub-state semifinals. This is possibly the deepest sub-state in the classification, and one of Kansas’ best for all classes. Spearville is one of the bigger darkhorses in the postseason with its talent and Pedigo, who ranks third for all classes in assists per game (5.7). The Lancers were a preseason top-10 squad.
The 14 teams that reached a state volleyball final last fall have combined for a 205-76 (73 percent) record in basketball. Like Spearville, many of the top volleyball players are involved in basketball. Nine teams won at least 15 games.
“We have got all the pieces we need to make a run,” Cossman said. “For us, it’s a process. We just want to be able to play the best basketball you can at the end of the season. If we are doing that, we are going to be in great shape.”
Pedigo trails only Blue Valley’s Jadyn Wooten (5.9) and Linn’s Megan Beier (5.8) in SIK’s exclusive release of statewide statistics earlier this week. Last season, Pedigo again ranked in the top-five in all classes with 5.8 assists per game. She currently has 279 career assists, which is already the most for any Spearville player since at least 2005. Pedigo has a chance for 400 career assists.
Pedigo already has more career assists than elite recent Spearville standouts Ehlaina Hartman (156) and Alissa Heskamp (212). Hartman plays for Emporia State, Heskamp at Barton CC. Pedigo has also fought through an ankle problem in midseason. Cossman labeled Pedigo “a dream to coach,” along with a girl who plays hard on defense and a really high basketball IQ.
“She just does a really good job of seeing everything,” Cossman said.
On Monday night, Cossman confirmed to SIK that Spearville is as healthy and “playing as well as we have all season last couple of games.” Stein has 22 points in each of the last two games. In those contests, Spearville has tallied 41 and 38 point from the posts.
“Been doing a great job of playing inside out,” Cossman said.
Overall, Stein has 10.5 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.7 steals per contest. Kuker has 8.9 points per contest, including 55 of 150 (37 percent) from 3-point range. Spearville is 112 of 380 (29 percent) from beyond the arc. Last season, Kuker hit 45 treys with 40 percent from beyond the arc. She is one of Kansas’ top 3-point shooters.
Spearville was 17-5, including 84 of 281 (30 percent) from beyond the arc last winter. That year, the Lancers had 58 possessions, .83 points per possession and .70 points allowed a possession.
This season, Spearville has played at a higher place with 64.4 possessions a game and .59 points allowed a possession for an excellent statistical defense. However, the Lancers have .75 points a possession, mainly because of lower shooting compared to last season. Spearville has made 36 percent of 2-point shots after 42 percent last winter.
“Teams know we can shoot,” Cossman said. “We have got multiple kids that can make 3s.”