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Sports in Kansas: 2021 Boys Basketball Coach of the Year

Maize captured their first ever state basketball title under HC Chris Grill.
By: Conor Nicholl for Sports in Kansas w/ Chet Kuplen
Mar 26, 2021

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Congratulations to the 2021 Sports in Kansas Boys Basketball Coach of the Year Honorees. Coverage is powered by Mammoth Sports Construction, American Implement, Nex-Tech Wireless, Seatbelts Are For Everyone (SAFE), Labette Community College. Voting for Coach of the Year is done by a statewide media panel of over 25 members in the media from every part of the state. Conor Nicholl and Chet Kuplen of Sports in Kansas finalize the selections after counting votes and input around the state. 

2021 Sports in Kansas Boys Basketball Coach of the Year Honors. Full list of Finalists at the bottom of article.

2021 Sports in Kansas Boys All-Classes (1A-6A) Coach of the Year

Chris Grill, Maize (5A State Champions)

Maize ended the season with 14 straight wins for Grill to give the Eagles their first ever state basketball title. He has built a highly successful program with the Eagles. Starting in ’15-16, Maize went 14-8, 13-9, 17-5, 24-1 and 12-9. The 24-1 team featured Grill’s son, Caleb, the consensus top male athlete in Kansas that school year. Caleb has played Division I basketball the last two seasons.

Last winter, Maize was 4-7 after Jan. 24, though finished the year 8-2. Overall, Maize had 62.6 possessions per game. The Eagles scored .969 points per possession and allowed .947 points per possession. Maize had turnovers on 25.7 percent of possessions. The Eagles took 34 percent of its total shots from 3-point range and made 35 percent. Maize also delivered steals on 12.6 percent of possessions.

This year, the statistical profile was much different. The top-three scorers – senior Jacob Hanna, senior Winston Bing and junior Kyle Grill (Chris’ son) – all returned. All four players averaged between 9.6 and 12.9 points per game. Sophomore Avery Johnson, a new basketball starter and quarterback with multiple Power 5 offers, led with 13.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists a contest. Hanna was known for his excellent defense, including against Bishop Carroll.

Maize averaged 58 possessions per game. The Eagles delivered 1.14 points per possession, a highly elite offense, and permitted just .86 points per possession. Maize lowered its turnover rate to 21.7 percent of possessions. Maize took 35 percent of its total shots from beyond the arc, though sunk 40 percent. The Eagles upped its steal rate to 14.9 percent.

2021 Sports in Kansas Boys 6A Coach of the Year

Ryan Phifer, Blue Valley North

Blue Valley North reached the semifinal for the ninth time. BVN had one previous title, in 1997 before the Class 6A crown this winter.

Under coach Ryan Phifer, Blue Valley North finished 21-3 in an upset-filled bracket. North held off Lawrence, 71-63, in the semifinals. Lawrence was 20-1 entering the game and featured Zeke Mayo, the Sunflower League Player of the Year and runner-up for 6A Player of the Year. In the championship, North beat Campus, 67-59. Campus has Sterling Chapman, the two-time 6A Player of the Year. In the quarterfinals, Lawrence defeated Blue Valley Northwest, 52-47. BVNW was the heavy favorite to win after titles in ’17, ’18 and ’19 and a Forever Four last winter.

Phifer, from North Platte, Neb., played college basketball at Mid-Plains Community College and then appeared in 15 games over two seasons for the University of Nebraska. Phifer has served as Blue Valley North head coach since 2006. Notably, BVN was third place in ’10 and ’12, second in ’14 and fourth in ’17. Blue Valley North was a Forever Four squad last winter with a 20-3 mark, 7-1 in the Eastern Kansas League behind Blue Valley Northwest. The final coaches’ rankings came out Feb. 23. North was ranked third behind Northwest and Lawrence.

Sports in Kansas 5A Boys Basketball Coach of the Year

Chris Grill, Maize/Rick Bloomquist, Topeka West (Grill all-classes)

Class 5A was highly balanced throughout the year with depth-laden teams that included Maize, Topeka West, Hays High, Andover, De Soto and Salina South. Maize’s Chris Grill delivered a significant one-year turnaround with the Eagles, and Topeka West’s Rick Bloomquist tied the best finish in school annals.

As well, Bloomquist, a veteran with more than 500 career wins, battled cancer throughout the winter. None of the final four teams – Maize, Topeka West, De Soto and K.C. Washington – had ever won a state title. Maize, which was third two years ago, defeated Topeka West in the championship. Topeka West had made two previous finals, the last coming in 2010.

In the quarterfinals, Maize held off Bishop Carroll, 37-33. BC is known for its deliberate pace. Topeka West won at Hays High, 52-49, and ended the Indians’ 30-game winning streak, the longest in boys’ basketball this season. The game featured two injuries. Hays High senior forward Dalyn Schwarz, the WAC Player of the Year, went down inside the first two minutes with an ankle. West’s Elijah Brooks suffered injury early in the fourth quarter.

COVID-19 yielded geographic sub-states and then a re-seed entering the state semifinals. Maize drew K.C. Washington, which had played just 14 games entering the state semifinals because of a late start from coronavirus. Maize defeated K.C. Washington, 74-58, and then beat Topeka West, 55-43. Maize finished 23-2, and Topeka West was 21-3.

Maize ended the season with 14 straight wins for Grill. He has built a highly successful program with the Eagles. Starting in ’15-16, Maize went 14-8, 13-9, 17-5, 24-1 and 12-9. The 24-1 team featured Grill’s son, Caleb, the consensus top male athlete in Kansas that school year. Caleb has played Division I basketball the last two seasons.

Last winter, Maize was 4-7 after Jan. 24, though finished the year 8-2. Overall, Maize had 62.6 possessions per game. The Eagles scored .969 points per possession and allowed .947 points per possession. Maize had turnovers on 25.7 percent of possessions. The Eagles took 34 percent of its total shots from 3-point range and made 35 percent. Maize also delivered steals on 12.6 percent of possessions.

This year, the statistical profile was much different. The top-three scorers – senior Jacob Hanna, senior Winston Bing and junior Kyle Grill (Chris’ son) – all returned. All four players averaged between 9.6 and 12.9 points per game. Sophomore Avery Johnson, a new basketball starter and quarterback with multiple Power 5 offers, led with 13.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists a contest. Hanna was known for his excellent defense, including against Bishop Carroll.

Maize averaged 58 possessions per game. The Eagles delivered 1.14 points per possession, a highly elite offense, and permitted just .86 points per possession. Maize lowered its turnover rate to 21.7 percent of possessions. Maize took 35 percent of its total shots from beyond the arc, though sunk 40 percent. The Eagles upped its steal rate to 14.9 percent.

Bloomquist is known for turnarounds and has rebuilt Topeka West behind its athletic team, and zone/amoeba defense. Bloomquist has coached TW for eight seasons. He led a seven-win improvement this winter. The Chargers have posted 6-15, 14-8 and 21-3 the last three seasons and won their first-ever outright Centennial League title this winter. West averaged 68 points per game behind seniors Marque Wilkerson, Tre Alexander and Brooks, a junior. Maize was second and Topeka West sixth in the final coaches’ rankings that came out before the bulk of the postseason.

2021 Sports in Kansas 4A Boys Coach of the Year

Ty Pfannenstiel, Louisburg

Bishop Miege, with its bevy of high-level prospects, won its sixth all-time title. Louisburg coach Ty Pfannenstiel took the Wildcats to its third ever final four and first ever trip to the state championship game. Louisburg beat Augusta, 58-55, in the state semifinals. Augusta had reached three straight final fours. Louisburg lost, 94-40, to Bishop Miege in the championship game. Louisburg went 18-7. The Wildcats were fifth in the coaches’ poll as of Jan. 19 behind Bishop Miege, Mulvane and Buhler.

Pfannenstiel had previously served as Oakley’s athletic director, head football coach and head girls’ basketball coach since 2014. He was an assistant for multiple sports at Gardner-Edgerton from ’05-14. Pfannenstiel has been at Louisburg since the ’17 school year. Louisburg was 8-12 last winter and enjoyed a huge turnaround behind junior Julian Margrave and seniors Weston and Ben Guetterman.

2021 Sports in Kansas Boys 3A Coach of the Year

Greg Raleigh, Hesston

Class 3A was probably the most balanced of any final four class as all four remaining teams – Hesston, Thomas More Prep-Marian, Rock Creek and Galena – had a strong chance to win the title. Hesston, which was No. 1 ranked most of the winter, earned its fourth ever state title, first since 2014. Hesston defeated Galena, which made its first-ever trip to a state title game. Hesston finished 23-1 with a 64-55 semifinal victory versus TMP, and a 45-36 win against deliberate Galena in the championship. Raleigh is the MAYB founder and has coached Hesston for 10 years. In the title game, Hesston held Galena to 39 percent shooting. Hesston had a consistent nine-man rotation.

He finished 21-2 last winter and returned six lettermen, including star 6-2 junior Cason Richardson, who tallied 36 points in the state semifinal and 16 in the final against Galena. He and Galena’s Brett Sarwinski split 3A Most Outstanding Player honors at the state tournament. Both Hesston and 2A state champion Hillsboro came out of the highly challenging Central Kansas League that also included Hoisington. Hesston and Hillsboro shared the league title with a loss apiece. Central Kansas basketball is no joke and Raleigh is one of the best in Kansas. 

2021 Sports in Kansas 2A Boys Basketball Coach of the Year

Darrel Knoll, Hillsboro

Hillsboro coach Darrel Knoll entered this season with a 539-207 record in 33 years with the Trojans. Last winter, Hillsboro was a Forever Four team. The Trojans were the No. 8 seed and defeated top-seeded Pratt Skyline, 57-51, in the state quarterfinals. Hoxie was the No. 1-ranked team all winter and entered the final four undefeated before Alma-Wabaunsee delivered a big upset. Then, Hillsboro beat Wabaunsee for the title for its fourth ever championship, first since 1998. Hillsboro was 15-9 last winter.

Hillsboro had key returners with seniors Dillon Boldt and Tristan Reed, along with junior Matthew Potucek and sophomore Brekyn Ratzlaff. Hillsboro went 23-3. In the state final, Matthew Potucek paced Hillsboro with 17 points, while Brekyn tallied 16 and Grayson finished with 14. Knoll won his first title in 1991, and his second in 1995. Hillsboro permitted just 41.8 points a contest and forced 18 turnovers a game.

Knoll also has second place showings in ’92, ’97 and ’99 and three third-place showings. The Hillsboro Star-Journal noted that Grayson’s and Brekyn’s fathers were key players on past Hillsboro state title teams.

2021 Sports in Kansas 1A-I Boys Basketball Coach of the Year

Chris Schmidt, Olpe

Olpe’s Chris Schmidt serves as the longtime head football and boys’ basketball coach at his alma mater. Schmidt and Olpe enjoyed an historic year. Olpe won Class 1A state football in the fall behind an undefeated season and 11-man’s best scoring defense since 2007. This winter, Olpe pulled two upsets at state when it defeated Little River and Montezuma-South Gray in the semifinals and finals, respectively. Those two teams had a combined one loss before the final four. Schmidt became the first coach since Scott City’s Glenn O’Neil in ’12-13 to win both football and boys’ basketball in the same year, per Kansas historian Brett Marshall.

Schmidt won its first-ever state title and played its second championship after a double overtime runner-up finish to Olpe in 2002. Olpe finished 18-3 with a 75-66 victory in the state semifinals versus Little River, and a 54-47 win against Montezuma-South Gray in the championship. Olpe never trailed against Little River in the state semifinals. LR and South Gray had been 1-2 respectively in the polls since December and were the favorites all winter.

Schmidt is 130-33 in 14 years as Olpe football coach, including 2-2 in state football championships. He has coached Olpe basketball for more than 20 years. Olpe had plenty of athleticism and depth, including with Jordan Barnard, a first team all-state pick in both sports. Schmidt practiced on mid-range shots, which proved highly helpful in the state semifinals. Basketball has, by and large, eschewed the mid-range in favor of 3s and layups. Plus, senior forward Chris Olsson transferred in from Emporia and played well in the post, including in the final four and championship. Truman Bailey stepped in off the bench with huge shots down the stretch versus South Gray in the final.

2021 Sports in Kansas 1A-II Boys Basketball Coach of the Year

Cory Jensen, Hanover

After a brief downturn last winter, Hanover rose back to a dominant team this winter with first-year coach Cory Jensen. He took over for Kim Lohse, who won six state titles, the last coming in 2017. Hanover had seven players that could dunk, led by Emmitt Jueneman, the Player of the Year. Hanover reached the final four for the 13th time and captured its seventh championship with a dominant run. The Wildcats finished 24-1 with a dominant run that included an 85-58 semifinal victory versus Almena-Northern Valley and a 52-40 win versus Elyria Christian in the championship game. Hanover finished 24-1.

All three other state final four squads lost at least 10 games as Class 1A split back into two classes for the first time since 2018. Hanover had a plus-11 win improvement after a 13-10 mark last winter. Special consideration was given to Ty Josefiak of Pawnee Heights who took just a nine-player team into the state semifinals for the first time in program history. 

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Sports in Kansas 6A Coach of the Year Finalists

Ryan Phifer, Blue Valley North

Mike Lewis, Lawrence

Chris Davis, Campus

Sam Stroh, Free State

Ed Fritz, BV Northwest 

Sports in Kansas 5A Coach of the Year Finalists

Chris Grill, Maize

Rick Bloomquist, Topeka West

Alex Hutchins, Hays High

Jason Hooper, Salina South

Matt Rice, De Soto

Sports in Kansas 4A Coach of the Year Finalists

Ty Pfannenstiel, Louisburg

Rick Zych, Bishop Miege

Josh Shirley, Rose Hill

Ryan Petty, Augusta

Kurt Kinnamon, McPherson

Connor Bechard, Holton

Phil Jones, Tonganoxie

Mike Abasolo, Mulvane

Sports in Kansas 3A Coach of the Year Finalists

Matt Meyr, Galena

Greg Raleigh, Hesston

Bill Meagher, TMP

CJ Korf, Hugoton

Nate Schmitt, Lakin

Jim Johnston, Rock Creek

Bronson Schaake, Riverton

Sports in Kansas 2A Coach of the Year Finalists

Darrell Knoll, Hillsboro

Christian Ulsaker, Wabaunsee

Nick Pfeifer, Erie

Jake Moss, Hoxie

Michael Massey, Lyndon

Caleb Gatzemeyer, Valley Falls

Sports in Kansas 1A-I Coach of the Year Finalists

Wayne Morrow, Little River

Mark Applegate, South Gray

Brandt Rogers, Ness City

Chris Schmidt, Olpe

Tim Dollof, Wichita Classical

Jim Blackwell, Clifton-Clyde

Sports in Kansas 1A-II Coach of the Year Finalists

Ty Josefiak, Pawnee Heights

Kevin Sides, Northern Valley

Zach Goodrich, Elyria Christian

Cory Jensen, Hanover

Michael Delimont, Logan-Palco

Will Bixenman, Wheatland-Grinnell

Chris Walden, Bird City-Cheylin

Robert Weber, South Haven


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