By CONOR NICHOLL
Pretty Prairie 5-foot-11 junior forward McKenna Vogl posted a solid sophomore season with seven points, 8.2 rebounds, two blocks and 1.8 steals per game. She collected first team all-conference. Notably, Vogl was impressive in a leadership role and defensively. Pretty Prairie enjoyed a strong 15-7 year with a postseason loss to St. John. Vogl has a 20-plus inch vertical leap.
“Physically, she is fun to watch,” Pretty Prairie coach Scott Goering said.
However, Goering realized Vogl had to improve the mental side. Goering had “many, many” conversations with Vogl about her capabilities. The talks started freshman year when Goering noticed Vogl’s raw ability. Conversations furthered as a sophomore.
Goering continued the coaching and encouragement. They worked on improving her footwork and ball handling. Vogl wanted to get better, listened well and practiced often. She frequently played last summer with Western Kansas Elite for current Spearville girls coach Todd Cossman.
“She is physically very, very good and capable of doing stuff,” Goering said. “Mentally just as a sophomore, she wasn’t really ready to take the next step.”
In the fall, Vogl recognized her improvement in volleyball. She paced the Bulldogs with a .317 hitting percentage and was second with 166 kills. Vogl achieved a kill on 43.5 percent of swings, an impressive number. Vogl led PP with 50 blocks and earned first team all-conference for a team that returned all of its starters. In 2019, Vogl hit .181 with kills on 33.7 percent of swings.
The volleyball success carried over into basketball. Helped by excellent offensive rebounding, Pretty Prairie is 10-2 and was ranked fourth in Class 1A, Division I in the Jan. 19 Kansas Basketball Coaches Association poll.
Known for ability to score with her back to the basket, Vogl is up to 11.3 points and 9.7 rebounds. She has delivered 2.3 blocks and 1.4 steals on a deep squad that has routinely played 10 girls. Vogl is one of many WKE and Wheat State Elite summer players who have taken nice strides this winter.
PP owns quality wins against Argonia (54-44), Coldwater-South Central (42-22), and Ellinwood (59-43) in December. On Jan. 30, PP earned another strong win, 49-39, versus Attica, a 7-4 squad. Argonia stands at 7-4, South Central is 9-5, and 2A Ellinwood is 8-5. PP won the Fairfield Falcon Classic championship in December.
“She is just a lot more confident in herself, I think this year,” Goering said. “That’s been the biggest factor.”
Pretty Prairie is in the Heart of the Plains League, which has posted a strong season in girls’ basketball again. Norwich is ranked second in 1A, Division I, and Cunningham is fourth in 1A, Division II. Hutchinson Central Christian is sixth in Division II.
Pretty Prairie took its first loss, 32-18, to Norwich on Jan. 15, and fell, 35-27, to Cunningham on Jan. 29. Cunningham has two losses in the last two seasons, the state quarterfinals in March 2020 and a defeat to a non-KSHSAA school this winter. Earlier this year, five of the 10 teams were ranked.
“You have to bring it every night in our league pretty much,” Goering said.
Along with Vogl, Pretty Prairie has featured senior Grace Hendrickson, junior Jorah Harbaugh, sophomore Trinity Kruse, junior Aubrey Young, sophomore Bailey Young and senior Gabi Unruh. Pretty Prairie last made state in 2000, according to Kansas historian Carol Swenson.
“We are physically fairly big as well,” Goering said.
PP is in the Norwich sub-state with Norwich (9-0), Fairfield (7-4) and St. John (7-6), according to KSHSAA records. Goering has looked to re-establish a basketball mentality. Two years ago, Pretty Prairie finished 15-10 and lost to South Central in the sub-state title game. That marked PP’s first season to the sub-state title in many years.
“Getting that winning mentality back is a challenge,” Goering said. “Teams that know how to win expect to win. So teams that don’t, it’s hard to start learning that you should win and things like that, and how to win. But I think slowly but surely we are figuring it out.”
Hendrickson is at 8.1 points and 3.8 rebounds. Harbaugh has delivered 6.8 points, 3.6 assists, 2.9 steals and 2.7 rebounds per game. Kruse collects 6.6 points, while Young and Unruh have combined for 8.7 rebounds a contest. In early January, Goering, a Pretty Prairie alum, called the defense “really solid.”
“Rebounding has been a huge key,” Goering said.
Last season, Pretty Prairie scored .72 points per possession, allowed .54 points per possession and grabbed 30.1 percent of available offensive rebounds. PP averaged 43 points a contest and shot 32 percent from the field, 22 percent on 3s.
This winter, PP went 5-0 in December. After the first month, PP upped its offensive rebounding rate to 40.4 percent, a huge increase.
After 10 contests, Pretty Prairie was at 36.9 percent offensive rebounding rate and bettered its offense to .81 points per possession. PP was up to 49 points per game, including 37 percent from the field, 23 percent on treys.
“Really I just preached effort on rebounding, because defensive rebounding, you have got to do some stuff, but offensive rebounding is more about just flying to the right spot,” Goering said.
SIK has tracked offensive rebounding rates and per possession statistics for years and only highly elite rebounding teams collect more than 40 percent.
Ingalls leads KSHSAA teams with 39 rebounds a contest, according to MaxPreps’ statistical lists. The 8-4 Bulldogs have collected 39.7 percent of available offensive rebounds.
Among other squads, 10-2 Bucklin, a 1A squad similar to Pretty Prairie, is at 30 percent offensive rebounding rate entering Saturday.
Andover Central, ranked No. 1 in 5A and on a 32-game winning streak, collects 34.3 percent of available offensive rebounds. Cheney is top ranked in 3A and has won 23 straight games. The Cardinals have collected 37.2 percent of available offensive rebounds.
Goering has used simple math with his team and rebounding. Even the top teams, like AC and Cheney, don’t make 50 percent of their shots.
“Of course, we want to think it’s going in, but most of the time it’s not to be honest,” Goering said. “So we’ve got to think we’ve got to go get every rebound and every shot, so we’ve really just tried to preach effort and offensive rebounding.”
Goering has taught that if the posts can’t corral the rebound, then try to tip it out for the guards. Pretty Prairie often practices the tip. Some teams don’t have certain players, generally guards, go for offensive rebounds so they can help on transition defense. Goering preaches everyone can go get offensive rebounds.
“We have got several girls that are very fast and athletic,” he said.
Pretty Prairie gained confidence with the season-opening win versus Argonia. PP had lost three in a row to Argonia, including 42-36 last winter. It marked the first time Pretty Prairie defeated Argonia since a 57-38 win on Dec. 5, 2006. Vogl delivered 13 points and nine rebounds.
Versus Ellinwood, Vogl finished with 18 points, 23 rebounds, five assists and five blocks for one of the most impressive statistical lines by any player this winter. On Jan. 26, in a 45-39 win versus South Barber, Vogl had 14 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and two steals.
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