By CONOR NICHOLL
Colby girls’ basketball coach Tom Stephens has seen the Eagles improve throughout his three-year tenure.
“Our team is getting more cohesive as we go,” Stephens said in December.
The Eagles had struggled for several winters before Stephens, a veteran of more than 30 years of coaching, took over Colby. The program finished 11-11 and 14-8 the last two years. However, last winter, Stephens’ daughter, Jill, went down with a season-ending injury after Colby opened 5-2.
“At first, they were kind of apprehensive about how much stuff they had to learn, but I think they are getting better with it, and they can run a whole bunch of stuff,” coach Stephens said.
This winter, Colby continues to grow in the system, is healthy and more experienced. The blend has yielded multiple milestones and one of Kansas’ more surprising starts. Last week, Colby continued its excellent season with a pair of wins versus ranked foes. On Jan. 7, the Eagles won at rival Hoxie, 52-26. Three days later, Colby earned a marquee 52-49 victory at GWAC foe Scott City.
That is the only loss for Hoxie and Scott City. In the Dec. 23 Kansas Basketball Coaches Association rankings, Scott City was ranked third in 3A, Hoxie was ninth in 2A. Colby had just entered the poll at seventh.
After the wins, Colby has shifted up to fifth in 3A. Scott City is sixth, and Hoxie is seventh. The Eagles (9-0), Nemaha Central (8-0) and Riley County (6-0) are the only undefeated squads in 3A girls, according to MaxPreps. NC is ranked No. 1 and Riley County is seventh.
Colby and Scott City (7-1) are both in the Cimarron sub-state. The Eagles ended an eight-game losing streak versus SC, according to MaxPreps archives. The Eagles last beat SC, 36-31, on Jan. 8, 2016.
Last year, Colby defeated Hoxie, 52-38. Before then, the Eagles had lost four straight to the Indians. The pair were longtime Northwest Kansas League rivals.
On Dec. 17, Colby won 47-31 at Hays High, which ended a seven-game series losing streak versus the Indians.
On Tuesday, the Eagles beat rival Goodland, 39-18, the second win versus the rival Cowgirls this year. Colby features seniors Jill Stephens, point guard Hallie Vaughn and Brittany Foss. Vaughn and Foss are both four-year starters. On Dec. 14, Colby defeated Goodland, 41-24, to win the Goodland Topside Tipoff, the Eagles’ first title in the tournament since ’07.
In the Scott City victory, Stephens collected 15, Foss had 13 and Vaughn scored 11. Colby was plus-12 on the glass, according to Western Kansas News. Against Hoxie, Vaughn tallied 16, sophomore Brooklyn Jones scored 15, and 12 by Stephens.
Versus Goodland on Tuesday, sophomore Kennedy Stanley tallied a season-high 12 points, according to Colby broadcaster Jackson Schneider. Goodland is 3-5. Colby has won seven in a row in the series.
“When we are open, we are going to shoot it, and it has been one of our strengths, but we can get it inside, and we can score there, too,” Vaughn said.
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