On Tuesday, Syracuse defeated Wallace County-Sharon Springs, 49-43, in a road contest. The win moved Syracuse to 14-4 under first-year coach Kendra Fyler. It has marked the Bulldogs’ best season in more than a decade.
Syracuse has captured back-to-back 13-win seasons, including a 13-10 season last year. Before 2016-17, the Bulldogs had struggled for many winters with the last winning mark a 13-9 showing in ’09-10.
For this first time this week, Syracuse moved into the Class 2A rankings at No. 9 in a wide-open classification where every squad has at least two losses. Even this week, every 2A ranking changed from last, except for No. 1 WaKeeney-Trego Community, which was unranked at the start of the season.
Last week, WaKeeney was first, followed by Alma-Wabaunsee, Garden Plain, Jefferson County North, Jackson Heights, Inman, Sedgwick, Johnson-Stanton County, West Elk and Pittsburg-St. Mary’s Colgan.
This week, Trego is followed by Garden Plain, Jefferson County North, Wabaunsee, Inman, West Elk, Colgan, Jackson Heights, Syracuse and Allen-Northern Heights.
Syracuse is the No. 1 seed in the highly competitive Meade sub-state, arguably the deepest sub-state in the classification. Five teams are 9-9 or better. Stanton County stands 13-4, Meade is 13-6 and Sublette is 11-6. Syracuse, Stanton County and Meade have all been ranked this year. Syracuse has made four state appearances all-time with the last in 2003, according to historian Carol Swenson.
Syracuse went 6-1 before the holiday break with just a 28-18 loss against Eads (Colo.) on Dec. 8 in the Border War tournament. On Jan. 4, the Bulldogs fell, 32-31, to Meade and lost 53-50 in overtime to Elkhart in the Hi-Plains League tournament.
However, Syracuse has enjoyed several quality victories, including against 40-37 against Lakin on Jan. 17, and 52-44 versus Stanton County on Jan. 19.
Since a 43-40 overtime loss at Stanton County on Jan. 25, Syracuse has captured five straight wins. Last Friday, Syracuse defeated a solid Sublette squad, 57-47.
Fyler had been a Garden City assistant the last two seasons before she took the job in April 2018. She was also at Fowler for a half a year, and served as a student assistant at Bethany College. Fyler replaced former coach Bryce Simon. Fyler (nee Austin) was a four-year player at Bethany College after she came from Wheat Ridge (Colo.) High School. The 5-foot-8 Austin was a first team and second team all-conference basketball player and second team all-KCAC in volleyball for the Swedes.
The Bulldogs graduated its top two scorers and rebounders with Kendi Keller (10.3 points, six rebounds) and Emily Finlay (7.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, team-best two steals per game). Key reserve Kate Plunkett graduated, too.
Syracuse had four returning starters, all between 5-foot-4 and 5-foot-6 and three are seniors and team captains. Last year, Alexis Coleman delivered four points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists, and Olivia Coleman had 3.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists. Riley Baker delivered 3.3 points and 3.9 rebounds. Junior Carly Kullot had 4.3 points and 2.2 rebounds.
Four key reserves were back: seniors Keziah Hemphill, junior Areia Bustillos and sophomores Kate Riley and Jayden Mitchell. The quartet combined for 8.2 points and 6.2 rebounds a contest.
This winter, Syracuse again has balanced scoring with all seven regulars between 9.1 and 3.7 points. Syracuse has different players lead in key statistics. Riley paces with 9.1 points, and junior Margo Stum leads with 5.2 rebounds. Alexis Coleman has 1.3 assists, one of five Bulldogs who collect an assist a game.
The 5-foot-9 Stum, who averages 5.1 points, has made a big improvement from last year where she played in nine games with zero points and two rebounds.
Compared to last year, Syracuse has enjoyed a nice improvement in 2-point shooting, going from 34 percent last winter to 42 percent this year. The Bulldogs have committed fewer turnovers with miscues on just 24 percent of possessions, around four percent fewer compared to last year.
The Bulldogs collect 10.2 steals, a better mark than last season. Syracuse offensively average .78 points per possession and .52 points allowed per possession. Last year, the Bulldogs were approximately averaging .67 points per possession and .59 points allowed per possession.
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