By CONOR NICHOLL
On Jan. 24, Scott City defeated Goodland, 51-37, in the semifinals of the Orange and Black tournament in Colby. SC sophomore Brynn McCormick delivered 14 points.
In the championship, SC faced GWAC rival Colby in a matchup of top-10 teams in Class 3A. On Jan. 10, Colby defeated Scott City, 52-49, for the Beavers’ first loss. This time, SC picked up a 53-48 overtime victory.
McCormick scored a team-high 18 points as Scott City finished 11 of 14 from the foul line. Seniors Emily Weathers and Lyndi Rumford tallied 16 and 10, respectively.
The Beavers captured the 35th annual Colby tournament for the third time in school history, second in the last three years.
Scott City collected multiple Orange and Black honors. Weathers and Rumford each earned all-tournament team. The 5-foot-10 Weathers has signed with Emporia State basketball and has cleared 1,000 career points. Rumford has inked with Barton County basketball. Senior Madison Shapland, known for her defense, picked up all-academic honors.
They also announced McCormick as tournament MVP.
“I honestly wasn’t expecting it at all whatsoever,” she said. “When I heard my name called, I was super, super excited, and I kind of jumped up and looked back at my coaches like, ‘Did they really just say my name?’ But our league has some very, very talented seniors, and I was surprised they decided to give it to me.”
The championship encapsulated Scott City’s depth, excellent free throw shooting and an improvement from McCormick. Helped by her mom’s guidance, a strong work ethic and playing basketball against boys, she has become one of the state’s top sophomores.
After the regular season, McCormick was at 12.6 points and 3.3 rebounds a contest. She made 32 regular-season treys, including seven in a loss to Colby on Jan. 10. Only nine other KSHSAA sophomores average at 12 points a contest, according to MaxPreps. Only eight others had sunk more 3s, a group that includes Salina Central’s Aubrie Kierscht and Andover Central’s Brittany Harshaw, who lead top-eight 5A squads.
The Beavers, led by fifth-year coach Sarah McCormick, Brynn’s mother, stand at 18-3 after a 67-36 opening sub-state win versus Kismet-Southwestern Heights on Monday. SC was ranked fourth in the final 3A coaches’ rankings.
In one of the winter’s leading storylines, the McCormicks are one of many highly successful teams who have a father or mother either as head or assistant coach with a daughter on the squad. The group includes Central Plains, Cunningham, Otis-Bison, WaKeeney-Trego, Haven and Cheney, all ranked in the top-eight in a class.
Scott City is the No. 1 seed in the Cimarron sub-state and advanced to Friday’s semifinals against No. 4 seed and host Cimarron (14-7). On the bottom half, Holcomb and Goodland will face off after upsets in the first round. Holcomb beat Colby, which was ranked sixth in 3A, though played much of the second half of the season without star senior Jill Stephens, who suffered a knee injury. As well, Goodland beat Hugoton.
Class 3A features a pair of undefeated teams with Nemaha Central and Riley County, and then a high number of two- and three-loss squads: Phillipsburg, Eureka, Cheney, Frontenac, Haven, Halstead and Sabetha.
The classification also has plenty of 1,000-point career scorers with SC’s Weathers, Cheney’s Kylie Scheer, Haven’s Faith Paramore and Halstead’s Karenna Gerber. However, the Beavers have a blend of height, experience and free throw shooting that’s tough to match.
All three losses (Colby, Hugoton and Goodland) have come against teams Scott City has beaten. Additionally, SC has consistently had double-figure performances from Weathers, McCormick and Rumford. Entering sub-state, the trio averages between 11.9 and 14.6 points a contest, according to Western Kansas News. McCormick leads with 6.5 rebounds a game.
Last year, Weathers led with 13 points and seven rebounds, while Rumford was at 13 points and five rebounds. McCormick finished with nine points, 4.1 rebounds and three assists a contest as a freshman.
Additionally, Scott City, like the championship win, has excelled at shooting free throws. Before Monday’s game, Scott City averaged 72 percent on free throws. Versus SWH, the Beavers went 22 of 32 (69 percent) from the foul line. It marks one of the best free throw percentages for a season in state history.
For many years, the team free throw percentage mark was 70.4 percent from Olathe South in 1993. In ’09-10, Hill City broke the record at 71.96 percent. The following year, Hill City upped the record to 73 percent. Central Plains bested it at 75.4 percent in 2017 and still holds the record, according to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame. However, Scott City could finish as one of the few teams in state annals to be above 71 percent.
This season, only Andover Central (70 percent) is above 68 percent, according to teams that report statistics to MaxPreps. Before Monday, Rumford was at 79 percent, McCormick 76, and sophomore Amber Latta at 76.
“We have a lot of experience on our team, because these girls have been on varsity since their freshman or sophomore year, and I think we have some really, really good leaders,” Brynn said. “Even the girls who maybe don’t play as much, they are extremely encouraging, like if one of us is having a bad game, they will always pick us up, and I feel like that’s part of the reason why we have so much success is because they push us hard every single day.”
Before coach McCormick, Scott City had encountered many years of struggle. However, McCormick came from a winning tradition.
She was at Cheney from ’92-95. The Cardinals reached the state tournament every winter. McCormick went to Independence Community College as Indy finished as the ’96 junior college national runner-up. McCormick played her final college year at Emporia State, and the Hornets reached the Division II Final Four.
Keitha Adams served as Indy’s assistant coach on the national runner-up squad. Brandon Schneider was the longtime ESU coach and later won a national title with the Hornets. Adams and Schneider are currently the head coaches for Wichita State and Kansas women, respectively.
Coach McCormick talks with Adams on a pretty frequent basis on help to fine tune the program. As well, Scott City has used a run-and-jump press that McCormick learned from Schneider.
Notably, McCormick led Garden Plain for five seasons, including a state runner-up showing. Brynn served as student manager for the tradition-laden Owls. She was in the locker room daily and assisted with tasks, including filling up water bottles.
Brynn said the time on the bench “really helped” her understand the game better. She listened to the coaches give instructions for certain situations. Garden Plain has continued its success, including back-to-back girls’ state titles in ’18 and ’19 and the volleyball crown in ’18.
“Their team was typically very athletic, and everybody would always strive to be their best all the time, and that’s just kind of how it’s always been in Garden Plain, though,” Brynn said. “The same families live there, and so they are taught, ‘OK, well you are going to go out for basketball, and you are going to work really hard.’ And I think that’s kind of helped me growing up.”
Brynn, currently a 3.95 GPA student at Scott City, also took first place in the state in the third to fifth grade division of the Kansas Book Festival Writing Contest in 2015. McCormick, who has long enjoyed writing, had the topic: If you had to change a state symbol, what would it be and why?
“I wrote about our state grass, because I thought it was weird that our state grass was blue grass when clearly we grow wheat everywhere,” Brynn said. “Wheat is technically a type of grass.”
In spring 2015, McCormick’s husband, Brad, became the Scott City principal. Scott City has 21 total wins in the previous five years. In her second season, the Beavers went 14-11 and earned the state bid. McCormick captured Garden City Telegram’s Coach of the Year.
This winter, Scott City returned all five starters from a 17-7 squad that lost to Norton in the first round of the Class 3A state tournament. It marked the third straight year the Beavers reached state – the only three state showings in program annals.
“I know she denies it, but I think she is a big reason why our program has just evolved so rapidly in the past few years,” McCormick said of her mother. “And the girls in Scott City have always had potential. They have always been very athletic. I think they needed someone to help them out a little bit, and now they are seeing, ‘Oh, we can do this,’ and so now instead of it being such a surprise when we go to state, it’s more of an expectation now.”
Brynn, the oldest of three, said her mother has given her choices.
“I used to be really shy,” Brynn said.
When she was little, Brynn told her mother she didn’t want to do gymnastics. Her mother said OK.
“The next thing I realized I was really missing out, and I wanted to try,” Brynn said.
Brynn rejoined gymnastics.
“She is giving me the option if I wanted to be good at this, she will support me,” she said. “But if not, I can do something else.”
The family eventually moved to Scott City. Once, Sarah was fixing her daughter’s shot. Brynn told her mother she wanted to “be really good” at basketball.
“I am going to have to do this,” Brynn said. “No one else is telling me that I have to do it.”
In her eighth-grade year over the summer, McCormick frequently played pickup basketball with the Scott City boys. She and Weathers were the only girls who participated.
“When I was a freshman playing with them, I kind of surprised them a little bit, but oh man, it’s hard keeping up with them,” she said. “…They are probably not going to pass you the ball, because you are a girl, and so you just have to go get it yourself. And so I tried to get as many rebounds as I could, as many steals as I could, so then I can score, and then usually I get the ball.”
As well, Sarah has given her daughter ball handling drills.
“She gives me the option,” Brynn said. She goes, ‘You can work on these if you want, but you don’t have to.’ And when I do, I go up to the gym, I work on those for about 20-30 minutes, and then I go work on my shot.”
Brynn has wanted to improve on her ball handling and has started to go to Garden City on Sundays. She and her sister, Peyton, have worked with a private coach.
“When I was little, my handles used to be all I had, and so I kind of sat back on working on those for awhile,” she said. “But then I knew OK, I can’t completely ignore them anymore, because these girls are older and faster and stronger, so now if people are going to start guarding me like a shooter, I am going to have to adjust to that.”
You have an extremely experienced team. What’s it like to play with those girls?
“The girls I am playing with right now, all of their parents have the same mindset. They want their kids to be the best, and work hard in everything they do, and that shows obviously, because during the summers, we have open gym at 6:30, and then we go straight to weights afterward. We work in the afternoon, and then we have summer league in the evening, and then we go to bed, and start over the next day.”
What stands out the most about your team?
“We have super long length, and we are fast, every single one of us.”
What was it like being your mom’s manager at Garden Plain when she coached there?
“OK, if you want to help me, she goes, ‘You have got to do whatever I say and you have to stay out of the way,’ and basically that’s what I did. But I was in a locker room with them everyday, and helping fill up their waters, and so it’s kind of helped me learn how everything worked.”
Scott City recently got a new gym. What is that like?
“The goals we shoot on are like the ones at the state tournament. They don’t swing down. They are roll out basketball goals. … I feel like that’s really going to help us in the long run, because our court now is a college-sized court instead of a high school court, and so now I think we are more conditioned to do our press, and I feel like that has really helped to our advantage.”
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
“I am hoping that I can go to college and play basketball and I want to be an athletic trainer, because I love sports. I love being involved in sports, and I love to help other people do what they love to do.”
What is your favorite subject in school and what is your GPA?
3.95. Probably English or World History. “I love weights.”
What’s your most favorite place to eat?
“My grandparents used to always take us to IHOP when we were little. It’s probably still IHOP. I love going to IHOP.”
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