By CONOR NICHOLL Cnicholl1@gmail.com
Elkhart has consistently been around .500 or better in the previous five seasons. The Wildcats were 11-10, 11-10, 15-7, 10-12 and 10-11 in that span. This year, Elkhart returned the bulk of its scoring and has no seniors.
Elkhart has already surpassed last year’s win total and delivered a milestone moment with a 51-50 win last Saturday against Syracuse in the Hi-Plains League championship at Garden City Community College. Sophomore Jenni Forbes sunk a game-winning buzzer-beater trey from the left side of the top of the arc. The 3 provided Elkhart its first tournament title since 1977.
Forbes delivered a career-best 19 points, including 4 of 6 from long range. On Monday, Elkhart defeated Wichita County, 61-34. On Thursday, the Wildcats won at Walsh (Colo.), 51-34. Elkhart is 11-3 overall, has collected seven straight contests and moved to 8-0 against Kansas teams.
For the second straight year, junior Chevelle Ralstin has delivered a double-double. Ralstin averaged 12.3 points and 10.3 rebounds a game. This year, Ralstin has delivered 11.9 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.9 steals and 1.4 blocks, all team-bests. The 5-foot-7 Ralstin ranks eighth in Kansas in rebounds per game, according to MaxPreps statistical rankings.
Forbes is at 9.5 points and 7.4 rebounds a contest, up from 3.3 points and 6.5 rebounds last year.
Junior Carrie Runkle is at 8.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Elkhart has four players at 5-10, including Runkle. Ralstin and Runkle are the team captains.
In addition to the Syracuse win, Elkhart owns a quality 63-60 double-overtime road game versus Cimarron on Dec. 20.
On Jan. 23, the Wildcats beat Stanton County, 54-45, in the league tournament semifinals. Cimarron is 9-4, and Stanton County, a state qualifier last year, is 8-4. Elkhart was 1-16 in the last 17 contests versus Cimarron since March 2007.
Elkhart is marginally better across the board in many categories compared to last winter. In ’18-19, the Wildcats scored .692 points per possession and allowed .677 per possession with turnovers on 34 percent of possessions. Elkhart had 10.5 steals per game and shot 13.6 free throws a contest.
This year, Elkhart is up to .767 points per possession and permitted .610 points per possession. The Wildcats are down to turnovers on 29 percent of possessions. Elkhart has 11.6 steals a contest and averages 15.8 free throws per attempt. The Wildcats are at Moscow on Friday.
Elkhart will host its own sub-state that features Spearville (11-0), Syracuse (9-3) and Stanton (8-4), according to KSHSAA records. Spearville is ranked fifth in 2A by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association.