Part III of III: “All we wanted to do was play basketball” – inside the South Gray basketball culture as coach Mark Applegate passed John Locke with win 732

Mark and Mindy Applegate after a basketball game. (Photo submitted)


On Tuesday, Montezuma-South Gray head boys’ basketball coach Mark Applegate improved to 8-0 this season and won career game No. 732. SG defeated Minneola, 61-40.

Just before Christmas break, Hill City coach Keith Riley won his 732nd career game. They both passed John Locke, who captured 731 career victories in a Hall of Fame career mainly at Natoma.

Locke held the all-time coaching basketball wins record from his retirement in 1979 until 2012 when Olpe girls’ coach Jesse Nelson broke the mark.

Nelson, Bishop Miege girls’ coach Terry English and Coldwater-South Central coach Tim Rietzke are the top-3 on the all-time coaching list. Nelson and English coached girls and retired after last season. Rietzke is still active and has primarily coached girls in his career.

Riley and Applegate stand 1-2 all-time in Kansas history for career wins by a primarily boys’ basketball coach. Entering Tuesday, Riley had 733 victories.

Parts I and II can be found on the Sports In Kansas website: Part I focuses on Riley’s career, and Part II is an oral history from former players, opposing coaches, assistants and many others who know Riley and Applegate.

Below are stories about coach Applegate’s career and his wife Mindy. She passed away in November after serving in numerous roles, including South Gray’s “basketball mom.”

Since the start of the ’05-06 season, Applegate is a remarkable 356-40 (90 percent), per MaxPreps archives. By winning percentage, it is one of best runs for any sport in Kansas history.

Applegate, who left coaching for a year in the early ‘80s, was a part of the formation of South Gray high school in the early ‘90s. He has served 40 years with the Montezuma school district. He has four state titles, one undefeated season, and five runner-ups, all since 1993, the season that changed the program.

13 stories on Applegate:

1. Career similarities between John Locke and Applegate

Locke retired the year before Applegate took his first coaching job, a one-year stint as the Jewell football coach. Locke finished his career with a 731-203 record, per the Osborne County Hall of Fame. Applegate has 223 losses in his career.

Locke went to state 14 times, won three state titles and had two undefeated seasons, one boy and one girl team. Locke won back-to-back state crowns in ’57-58. Natoma’s 51-game winning streak, which occurred from ’57-59, is sixth-longest in Kansas boys’ basketball history, per Kansas historian Carol Swenson.

Applegate has appeared at state 16 times, with four state titles, including back-to-back crowns. His longest winning streak is 39 games, which is top-15 all-time in state history.

2. Mindy Applegate played a highly instrumental role in the South Gray boys’ basketball program – “She’s their basketball mom”

Mark’s wife, Mindy, passed away on Nov. 21, 2021 at the age of 59. She graduated from Protection High School and played college basketball at St. Mary of the Plains in Dodge City. In 1987, Mindy started to teach at Montezuma. She taught seventh and eighth grade English and junior high P.E. She coached multiple junior high sports.

On July 2, 1988, Mindy and Mark married. They had two sons, Gabe and Eli. Since 2001, Mindy had served as a Southwest Plains Regional Service Center in Sublette as an educational consultant, per her obituary. Mark choked up multiple times when he discussed his wife.

“Mindy cherished her time with family and friends,” her obituary said. “Whether keeping the scorebook or cheering in the stands, Mindy was considered the ‘Basketball Mom’ for her sons and many other athletes. For over 30 years, she served as Mark’s assistant not only in life, but also on the sidelines. Grandsons Andrew and Declan also found a special place in her heart.”

Since the mid-2000s, Mark would always put his medal around Mindy’s neck.

“She was their basketball mom,” Applegate said. “She would help. We would have kids struggle in the classroom or things like that, and she would help tutor them. We would have them over at the house, and we’d feed them, and she would help them with their grades, and she was an amazing person.”

Mindy’s Twitter account, @swpmindy, was filled with tweets, retweets and likes regarding South Gray boys’ basketball and southwest Kansas athletes. Her last tweet came on March 13, 2021 when she posted “Go Rebels” after SG beat Ness City in the Class 1A, Division I final four.

“Mrs. Applegate had a great basketball mind but more importantly heart for kids going through the program,” Garrett Love, South Gray’s all-time leading scorer, said. “She would host meals for teams and had thoughtful insight & support to offer kids as well. She will be missed by so many. With her being such a big part of basketball, not having her there has to be so hard for Coach. We all miss her but can’t imagine the loss he’s feeling.”

Mark plans to continue keep coaching.

“My wife and I were talking about retirement,” Applegate said. “But now that she’s passed, I don’t know. I don’t have anything else to do. So I don’t anticipate it anytime in the near future.”

3. Mark will face his son for the first time on Feb. 22

On Feb. 22, Mark Applegate will face his son, Eli, the first-year head boys’ basketball coach at Spearville. Eli had previously served as Cimarron girls’ coach. It marks the first time Mark and Eli will coach against each other.

Mark became emotional when he thought about the meeting.

“It will be fun,” Mark said. “It will be. He’s a special kid. Growing up, he loved to be in the gym. Both of them did. Gabriel did, too. But honestly Gabriel liked football and track more than he did basketball, which was fine. That’s great, too. Eli loved basketball. He did. He went out for football and track also and had good careers in those. But from the time he could walk, I mean, he was in the gym with me. He just grew up around it.”

Eli has been most impressed with his dad’s ability to discuss the mental part of basketball and become interested in his players’ lives.

“The way that he is able to continually shape his team into what he wants them to be, and that’s on the court and off the court,” Eli said. “Obviously, he does a great job on the court, but I think he does just as good a job off the court and being able to relate to those players. Being able to have a really good relationship with those players.”

4. Applegate is known for his fast pace

Applegate has enjoyed remarkable success with state titles in ’97, ’07, ’08 and an undefeated season in ’18. He has taken second five times: ’93, ’96, ’10, ’17 and last winter to Olpe. South Gray finished 24-1 in ’20-21 and became the last Kansas boys’ team to lose last year.

Last season, South Gray averaged 68.8 points per game with 61 possessions a contest for 1.12 points per possession, per Digital Scout statistics and SIK research. That is both a fast pace and high-octane, efficient offense.

SG shot 47 percent from the field, 32 percent from the 3-point range and took 37 percent of its shots from beyond the arc. A few Kansas teams, notably 3A Hugoton, took 40 percent of more of its shots from 3-point range, but SG is certainly on the high end.

Additionally, South Gray shot a remarkable 142 more 3s than its opponents and finished 153 of 476 for the year. According to the 23 available games on Digital Scout, SG shot more treys than its opponents in all but five of them.

South Gray plays with its quick tempo, though doesn’t turn the ball over. The Rebels had turnovers on just 14.7 percent of possessions. SG had single-figure turnovers in 12 games, including four in a state semifinal win versus Ness City.

SG’s offense was statistically better than Little River, a 1A-I final four squad that featured Jayden Garrison, a career 2,000-point scorer, a two-time classification player of the year and consensus top-5 all-classes player.

Little River averaged 1.08 points per possession, had turnovers on 14.5 percent of possessions and 58 possessions per game. LR had 29.6 percent of its shots as treys, well under South Gray.

“I believe the reason Coach Applegate is so successful year after year is his ability to connect with his players and the amount of trust we had in him and he had in us,” Sean Jantz, a star in the mid-2000s, said. “I’ve had many basketball coaches throughout my playing career and Applegate by far kept the game simple and never “over-coached” a game or an opponent.”

Applegate is a remarkable 9-1 in final four games, according to Swenson. Since 1993, South Gray has made 16 state appearances. Applegate said SG has consistently played at a high pace since ’05-06 when the program elevated another level.

“The last thing that I want to do is try to control everything that happens on the floor,” Applegate added. “And we just try to teach kids to make smart decisions, and then obviously, they are not going to make all good decisions, but we just try to teach them from those bad ones that they make that we have got to make a better decision here beyond.”

“We like to play like anybody else,” Applegate added. “We like to get up and down the floor fast, because that’s what kids want to do. That’s what’s fun. But we have had teams that we couldn’t do (that). We have gotten slowed down, and we have had to control the ball, control the game.”

Recently, Applegate voted against a shot clock, a hot button topic in Kansas high school basketball. Applegate believes that most teams play fast enough so a shot clock doesn’t factor.

“In most high school games, it’s not,” he said.

Mark and Mindy Applegate at son Eli’s wedding. Eli is currently the head boys’ basketball coach at Spearville.

5. Applegate briefly left coaching – and nearly moved to Texas

Applegate graduated high school in 1975 from Le Roy. He went to Butler County for a semester, and Allen County for 1.5 years. Applegate went to Tabor College for a year, and then finished at Emporia State in 1980. Most of those years, Applegate ran track.

Applegate was at Jewell High School, near Beloit. He served as head football coach for one year, in 1980. Jewell opened 4-0 and finished 5-4. The 1980 Belleville Telescope reported that Applegate’s squad had a “spate of injuries.” It marked just one of two winning seasons by Jewell in the ‘80s, per the Kansas Football History database.

Jewell last played football in 2007 and is no longer a school. Multiple former Jewell coaches have taken administrative roles.

Fred Winter coached Jewell from ’01-’03. Winter coached, either as head or assistant, at several other places, including Hays High, Natoma, Horton and Valley Center. Winter is currently a Hays High assistant principal.

In the last two years, Eric Burks served as Jewell’s head coach in ’06-07. Burks is the veteran president of North Central Kansas Technical College. Burks’ children have been elite athletes at Beloit High School.

Todd Bowman served as Jewell’s head coach in 1995. He is currently Phillipsburg’s principal. In addition to his coaching duties, Applegate is an assistant principal with South Gray.

“I was probably the worst football coach in the history of the game of football,” Applegate said with a laugh. “We weren’t very good. I stayed there one year. Our kids were better than what the coach was, I will guarantee you that, and I learned real quick that that wasn’t the sport that I knew to be coaching.”

Applegate then went to work as a welder at the Wolf Creek plant, near Le Roy. He was not sure if he would go back into education. Applegate welded for a year.

He missed coaching. He saw the job opening at Montezuma, applied and came out for the interview. Applegate then returned to Wolf Creek. He had put in for a transfer to Corpus Christi, Texas. Applegate was about two weeks away from the transfer and hadn’t heard anything from Montezuma.

“This was like late June, early July,” Applegate said. “I mean, it’s real late in the year back then for hiring teachers. It got to be about mid-July. Finally, I got a phone call.”

Montezuma asked Applegate if he would take the job. He became head basketball coach in his first year, ’82-83. He also served as head junior high boys’ basketball his first nine years.

“Later on, I thought I must have been the last person left,” he said.

Applegate was planning to stay three or four years. He stayed four and met Mindy.

“The rest is history,” he said.

Mark Applegate passed John Locke with 732 career victories. Locke has multiple signs regarding his Hall of Fame careeer in Natoma. (Photo by SIK).

6. Rudy Loewen still vividly remembers his first encounter with Applegate

Rudy Loewen has lived in Montezuma since 1970 and served in many roles, including teacher, newspaper editor and on the school board when South Gray was formed. He distinctly remembers meeting Applegate. The Loewens and Applegates later became great friends for decades.

Here is Loewen’s account of meeting Applegate:

“In the early 1980’s, I was crossing the street to attend a ‘happy hour’ at a neighbor’s house. An old Chevy was driving down the street and it stopped and a young man named Mark Applegate was asking directions to the high school where he was going to interview for a teaching and coaching position,” Loewen wrote. “He was single and had on a powder blue leisure suit of some kind, fitting to the times, I suppose. The tail pipe on the car was held in place with baling wire and bounced off the street periodically. I gave him directions and continued to the backyard happy hour. Upon arriving, I was asked who was in the car and said it was a young man applying to be our new basketball coach. My exact words were: “My God, I think we’re in trouble.”

Well, little did I know what was to follow. That unlikely coaching candidate has become a Kansas high school coaching icon and somewhat of a legend throughout the high school coaching ranks in the state.”

Mark and Mindy had helped Rudy when his first wife passed seven years ago. Rudy is doing the same for Mark currently.

“I am so thankful that he is able to immerse himself in coaching this year,” Loewen said. “And so, he is getting along pretty well, even though he just lost Mindy a couple of months ago.”

7. The 1993 team changed the program’s trajectory – “It just exploded from there, it really did”

1992 marked the first season that Montezuma and Copeland, located 11 miles apart on US-56W, joined to form Montezuma-South Gray High School. The towns are in separate school districts. Copeland is USD 476, and Montezuma is USD 371. Both towns have an elementary school. Copeland has the junior high. Copeland has 310 people, Montezuma with 975.

Montezuma had made the sub-state championship game several times under Applegate and had posted multiple winning seasons.

However, Montezuma had not made state since 1969. It had not won a state championship since 1955, per Kansas historian Carol Swenson. Copeland had finished second in 1988.

However, Copeland didn’t have as much talent by the early ‘90s and the program had a less experienced coach than Applegate. Loewen was on the school board. He said the joining of the schools helped boys’ basketball “enormously.”

When the schools formed South Gray, the board allowed the student to select a mascot and colors. The student body had to elect a student president. All the students voted, with probably two-thirds of the student population from Montezuma. They elected a Copeland person, who also was on the basketball team, for student body president.

“That said something to me right there that these guys were going to get along,” Applegate said. “They did, and they always have. It’s just a unique situation that we have.”

In 1992, South Gray posted a losing record, one of three sub-.500 teams under Applegate. The next year, Applegate had no player taller than 6-foot-1. Applegate said the team was “really quick” and “could really shoot the ball.” South Gray pressed a lot.

South Gray played in the early season tournament in Minneola before Christmas break and opened 6-0. Applegate looked at this assistant and said, ‘You know, we are pretty good.’”

South Gray faced Ingalls four times and won the league game and the postseason contest. At state, SG beat Rexford-Golden Plains, 59-50, in the state quarterfinals. In the semifinals, the Rebels defeated Norwich, 64-50. Applegate defeated Norwich coach Mike Klaver, who has spent nearly 40 years with the Eagles. Klaver led Norwich girls to a state runner-up last winter. In the finals, Baileyville B&B beat South Gray, 62-55.

“A good group of kids that really played together really well,” Applegate said.

After the semifinal win, Applegate went out and ate with Mindy.

“I was just kind of looking out into space and she said, ‘What’s wrong?’,” Applegate said. “I said, ‘I can’t believe I am playing for a state championship.’ So it was a good group of boys. And they did – they kind of started the tradition.”

The squad featured Wayne Dotts, currently a highway patrolman in Hays, and Eric Jantz, who has been the Holcomb Recreation Director. Mike Foskuhl was a really good athlete.

“It just exploded from there, it really did,” Applegate said.

8.  1997, the first state championship team

In 1996, South Gray again finished second and fell, 81-71, to Sylvan-Grove in the 1A championship with largely a junior team. The following year, Applegate knew the Rebels were going to have a good squad.

Applegate put South Gray into the Dodge City Tournament of Champions for the first time. The long-running TOC is arguably Kansas’ most prestigious midseason basketball tournament. Montezuma is 28 miles from Dodge City on US-56E. It’s highly rare that a 1A school plays in the TOC.

Senior-laden South Gray lost the TOC games, though the worst defeat was 10-11 points. In 1A, the losses put South Gray as a middle of the pack state squad. In the final, SG beat Marais des Cygnes, 65-62, and finished 26-2. Mike Wall was a key player.

“We had some size,” Applegate said.

9. The back-to-back titles with Eli Applegate and a talented group

South Gray was loaded in 2007-2008. Applegate had SG back in the Tournament of Champions. SG dominated its pre-TOC schedule. In its first TOC game, South Gray beat Derby, 56-48. At the time, Derby had the state’s largest enrollment.

In the tournament semifinals, South Gray fell, 55-37, to 6A Dodge City, the Rebels’ lone loss that winter. In the third-place game, SG beat Wichita South, 57-50.

SG never had another contest within single figures until a 56-48 semifinal victory versus Goessel. Then, South Gray beat Centralia, 45-41, in the championship game. SG finished 27-1 with five seniors, including Logan Hedlund and Sean Jantz.

“The core team from 05-08 won two state championships and we literally only ran one play, a simple screen and motion play called “Kansas,’” Sean Jantz said. “Today when we guys get all together it’s a running joke how in the world did we win so many games with one play but looking back on it that was the brilliance of Applegate. It was the same plan every game. 

“He allowed all of us including me to just play, create, shoot without fear,” Jantz added. “Every single one of us was relaxed on the court, not afraid to make mistakes because Applegate was a friend to all of us. When you allow kids to play without fear, obviously as we proved, great things happen.”

The group had five juniors: 5-10 Andy Skinner, 6-2 Brandon Koehn, 6-3 Clyde Redger, 6-4 Todd Unruh and 6-5 Eli Applegate. On the ’07 squad, Sean Jantz was first team all-state 1A by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association (top-five) and second teamer Eli Applegate (top-10).

The next season, South Gray finished 25-3 and beat Hanover, 49-42, in the 1A championship game. SG lost all three TOC contests, to Wichita Heights (63-54), Hutchinson (53-46) and Wellington (65-55). Other than the TOC, South Gray had four close games, a seven-point win versus Sublette on Feb. 12, a four-point victory against Moscow on Feb. 23, the 44-43 state semifinal win versus Colony-Crest, and the Hanover victory.

Eli was first team all-state, while Redger was a second team pick.

“That group of guys, we were all so tight, because even now, we are still really tight, and we still keep up with each other and everything else,” Eli said.  “… We just had played so much basketball together.”

10. Applegate’s success was well-known throughout Kansas – even by opponents

In 2012, South Gray reached state for the seventh straight season, this time the Class 1A, Division I state tournament in Emporia. South Gray faced Hoxie, which had limited state basketball tradition. At that point, Hoxie had made one final four in 26 years. Hoxie coach Aaron Dardis was aware of the tradition disparity.

Before Hoxie left the hotel to come to Emporia State University’s White Auditorium, Dardis had his team watch a clip from Tombstone, one of his favorite movies. The clip showed Wyatt Earp, played by Kurt Russell, going into the Oriental saloon.

“(Earp) takes over the spot of the guy who owned it and pushed around everybody for a few years,” Dardis told me in 2012. “I said, ‘We are going to take that same approach. We are not going to back down. We are going to go right at them from the very start.’ ”

Hoxie won the game, 68-59, and eventually took third. It marked one of the rare state quarterfinal losses of Applegate’s career. The next season, the Indians finished second. It still marks the best two back-to-back seasons in Hoxie boys’ basketball history. Dardis has since coached against Applegate at Sublette and Meade and is currently at Oakley.

11. South Gray has a basketball tradition like Smith Center football – “We are the South Gray Rebels”

Mike Miller graduated from Stockton High School and went to Fort Hays where he is still on multiple all-time leaderboards. Miller has served as a bank president in Montezuma. He grew up near Smith Center football and coach Roger Barta.

“What they have done at Montezuma is very similar to what Smith Center did for football,” Miller said. “Smith Center was a powerhouse year in and year out. What they have been able to accomplish is an attitude in the community, and when kids grew up, they are around that atmosphere.”

“They just grow up expecting and knowing that they are going to have a good basketball team, and they are going to win a lot of games and confidence is 80 percent-plus of the whole deal,” Miller added. “Don’t get me wrong now, coach Applegate has had a lot of talent come through that little 1A school, but like any coach, you have got to be able to control and assemble that talent and get kids to play together.”

Both of his sons, Jackson and Clifton, have been South Gray boys’ basketball standouts. Jackson and Clifton were ball boys for South Gray at the 2007 state tournament.

Jackson and Clifton Miller as South Gray ball boys in 2007. Both became SG standouts. Photo submitted by Mike Miller

Mike has watched South Gray’s excellence grow. Southwest Kansas generally does not have boys’ basketball coaches stay at a school for a long time.

It’s stunning South Gray’s record against teams from its immediate area. Per MaxPreps archives since 2004, these are SG’s records against Southern Plains Iroquois schools:

Sublette 25-1, Satanta 24-0, Minneola 24-0, Deerfield 24-0, Hodgeman County 23-0, Ingalls 22-0, Ashland 21-2, Spearville 20-6, Bucklin 17-0, South Central 17-2, Meade 15-6, Pawnee Heights 12-0.

“We are the South Gray Rebels, and we are going to be dang good at basketball every year, and kids grow up wanting to play basketball,” Miller said. “…To find a good coach in southwest Kansas at a 1A school is definitely a luxury, and South Gray-Montezuma, they are really lucky to have had him as long as they had.”

Miller said someone can drive by the gym on a Tuesday night, and there will be 15 cars.

“Kids in there playing basketball, and nobody told them,” Miller said. “Nobody is making them do this. They just do it on their own, and that that’s culture that I am talking about that gives South Gray the ability to have kids come in every year, whether we think that last year’s talent graduated and we are going to have a down year. But every year, they come in, and here we are winning games. I mean, it’s just really amazing the run that they have had here, and it just continues.”

Jackson played at Coffeyville CC and is currently finishing up his career as a reserve for Fort Hays State University basketball. As a senior, the 6-foot-7 Jackson helped South Gray to a state runner-up showing to Hanover. The next year, Clifton helped SG post its lone undefeated season. Jackson played football his freshman season. Then, Jackson elected to play basketball year round.

“They would play in the summer league either in Dodge City, Sublette or both,” Mike said. “But the key to the whole deal is, aside from the scheduled games that coach Applegate would put together for them, these kids would call each other and meet at the gym on a Wednesday night at 8 o’clock, and play tell 10:30.”

Many times, Mike saw Applegate become emotional when talking about Mindy.

“Basically, every time I heard that guy speak to a crowd, whether it be parents, fans, he always would deflect a lot of the success over to wife, Mindy,” Mike said. “And every year, at our awards banquet, he would get up, and he would start talking, and then he would thank Mindy, and he would choke up – every year.”

12. Garrett Love is South Gray’s all-time leading scorer – after he watched South Gray as a youngster

In the ‘90s, Love was a Montezuma grade schooler around the time when Applegate won his first championship. Love dreamed of playing for coach Applegate when he got older.

“One of the things Coach Applegate did that paid the longest dividends was building up the basketball culture & excitement with our younger kids,” Love said.

Applegate put on a camp and clinic, and then worked with the Rec to have a third week of basketball.

“For a small community like South Gray was a great opportunity for grade school kids,” Love said. “As we got older, all we wanted to do was play basketball and if we weren’t practicing or in season, Coach was always up for opening up the gym for us. That’s one of the great things about building a winning basketball culture like Mark Applegate did is that the younger kids are always watching the older kids playing and it makes them want to put that extra time in, too.”

Love played at Washburn University after he set South Gray’s all-time scoring record. In the last several summers, Love hosted youth camps at South Gray with former KU and K-State players, such as Frank Mason, Devonte Graham, Mitch Lightfoot, Dean Wade, Barry Brown, Udoka Azuibuke and others. Love finished with 1,399 career points and played for South Gray from 2002-06.

Love has had great professional success. He was a former Republican member of the Kansas State Senate from 2011-17. Love was the youngest state senator in Kansas history at the time of his election.

“Garrett couldn’t jump very high, and he wasn’t real fast, but he could shoot the ball,” Applegate said. “I mean, he could shoot the 3, and he could play underneath, and he got a lot of rebounds. He just found himself in the right place at the right time a lot of times.”

Love still remembers coach Applegate telling his teams “to never count yourself out.” Applegate focused on “control what you can and not worry about the rest.” In Love’s sophomore year, South Gray trailed by 20 to a quality Deerfield team. South Gray came back to win.

“He never gave up, so neither do his players,” Love said.

13. The undefeated season of 2018

I covered South Gray all three games at the 2018 state tournament. South Gray finished 26-0 and won the Class 1A, Division I state championship with a 65-54 win versus Hanover. SG had senior forward Gilbert Peters, the classification player of the year and a consensus top-five all-classes player. Peters is currently playing at Fort Hays State University.

This is South Gray’s lone undefeated season. While the other state title teams faced stiff competition and losses in the Tournament of Champions, the ’18 squad rolled through its schedule. In the finals, SG led by 17 late in the third quarter before Hanover cut to six. Applegate has always stressed staying even keeled.

From ’07-18, South Gray and Hanover met up five times at state. SG held a 3-2 record.

“I was just glad that we maintained our poise, our composure and held onto the ball,” Applegate said at the time.

Peters finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds, and Clifton Miller enjoyed a standout game with 24 points. The state championship and 43-37 win versus St. John in the state semifinal were SG’s lone two contests closer than 18 points all season. South Gray was spurred by the loss to Hanover in the state title game the year prior.

 “It was motivation from the first practice of the year,” Applegate told me of the title defeat. “We wanted to take it one step further.”

Plus, South Gray changed its defense and permitted 34 points a game.  SG has run a matchup zone. Last year, the Rebels used a 3-2. After Jackson Miller and standout point guard Lucas Skinner graduated, the Rebels moved to a 2-3.

“Our defense has really been our strength all year,” Applegate said. “… Our guards play really good defense out there. Of course, you’ve got somebody like Gilbert protecting the lane, it really helps.”

It marked the first time Applegate had ever coached versus then-St. John coach Clint Kinnamon, who won five state titles with SJ and is now at Wichita East. SG was on pace to set the state record for average margin of victory.

“That’s what everybody said all year is ‘You haven’t had a close game and when you get up in the state tournament, you are going to play competition, and you are going to fold,’” Applegate told me after the semifinals. “….These guys didn’t fold tonight. They didn’t fold.”

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