By CONOR NICHOLL
Pittsburg St. Mary’s Colgan boys’ basketball is one of Kansas’ most tradition-rich programs.
The Panthers have 38th-year coach Wayne Cichon, who has more than 620 career victories. From 1996-2018, Colgan reached 12 state championship games and won five titles. In ’19, a large senior class helped the Panthers to a state final four showing in 2A, per Kansas historian Carol Swenson.
Then, the Panthers had to completely retool and posted 4-17 and 9-12 marks the last two seasons.
This year, Colgan is unranked in 2A, though has quietly showed improvement through the season’s first month. The Panthers beat Columbus, 65-49, in the season opener on Dec. 3.
Colgan beat a pair of Missouri schools, Jasper and Liberal, by scores of 48-16 and 79-40 on Dec. 7 and 10. On Dec. 14, Colgan lost, 50-47, to Baxter Springs and ended the pre-holiday schedule at 3-1.
Last season, Colgan fell, 66-59, to Columbus to open the season, and then had close wins versus Jasper (58-49) and Liberal (46-38). The Panthers eventually lost, 45-39, in overtime to Erie in the playoffs.
This winter, Colgan returns second team all-league senior Jalen VanBecelaere, and honorable mention senior Nick Ison. Overall, the Panthers have seven seniors. Additionally, SMC has seniors Beau Wilson, Aidan Fleming, Kaden Vogel, Stu O’Brien and Bryce Simon.
VanBecelaere picked up Class 2A first team all-state returner this fall. He was also first team all-district at the Flex position and second team all-league running back.