By CONOR NICHOLL for Sports in Kansas
Rozel-Pawnee Heights boys’ basketball, with a nine-player roster, finished in the final four in Class 1A, Division II. The Tigers reached state for the first time since 1972. One of Kansas’ smallest enrollments, Pawnee Heights defeated Ashland, 70-40, in the sub-state championship game March 6.
Three days later, PH traveled 185 miles one-way for a state quarterfinal matchup against South Haven and star Cooper Wolf. Pawnee Heights sophomore Alec Carlson and Wolf both finished in the top-10 in Kansas in scoring this winter.
Paced by a significant edge in free throws attempted, PH defeated South Haven, 48-43. The free throw differential proved key in several close key Pawnee Heights victories this year, helped the Tigers earn multiple honors and achieve school history.
Then, the Tigers lost to Elyria Christian, 55-42, in the state semifinals at Barton County Community College. EC took runner-up to Hanover.
Pawnee Heights, with alum Ty Josefiak, had a five-win improvement to 14-10. Carlson and juniors Adam Hands and Braden Colglazier were the Tigers’ top-three players for a roster which had lone senior Felipe Cordero, Jr. Notably, Carlson and Colglazier earned multiple postseason awards, including league and Sports in Kansas. Last week, the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association released its postseason honors.
Carlson, known for his highlight reel dunks and athletic moves, delivered 22.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, three steals, two blocks and 1.8 assists per game. Hands had 12.4 points and 6.5 rebounds a contest. Colglazier enjoyed a big improvement and averaged a double-double with 11.7 points and 10.5 rebounds.
The rest of the team featured Cordero, freshman Davin Hamby, sophomore Dakota Ryan, freshman Leighton Munk, junior Russel Baier, and freshman Cole Ewy. PH mainly played six players on varsity: Carlson, Hands, Colglazier, Hamby, Ryan and Cordero.
Carlson was a 1A-II SIK Player of the Year finalist. He was named first team all-state 1A-II by the KBCA, along with Hanover’s Emmitt Jueneman, Cheylin’s Colton McCarty, South Haven’s Wolf, and Greeley County’s Jaxson Brandl. Jueneman was SIK’s 1A-II Player of the Year. Josefiak was a SIK finalist for 1A-II Coach of the Year.
Hanover, Northern Valley and Pawnee Heights, all 1A-II final four squads, each finished in the top-10 in Kansas in free throws attempted, per MaxPreps.
Carlson earned second team all-league and honorable mention all-state as a freshman. He is one of several Carlsons in both boys and girls sports at Pawnee Heights who has delivered impressive recent careers. This winter, Carlson was first team all-league, and Colglazier second team in a conference that featured powerhouse Montezuma-South Gray, which earned Class 1A, Division I state runner-up.
Last winter, Carlson paced PH with 12.5 points per game. Then-junior Fabian Flores was at 11.6 points a contest, and then transferred to nearby Jetmore-Hodgeman County. Hands delivered 8.6 points a contest, and Colglazier had 5.8 points and 3.8 rebounds.
Overall, Hands had 54 free throws attempted, Carlson 46 and Colglazier with 29.
Pawnee Heights averaged 57.4 possessions per game, scored .91 points per possession and allowed .944 points per possession. The Tigers had turnovers on 23 percent of possessions. As well, PH shot 31 percent on 3s, 47 percent on 2s and averaged 10.8 free throw attempts a contest.
Several of those numbers stayed identical or similar this winter – except for free throw attempts.
This year, PH was at 55.3 possessions per contest. The Tigers allowed .942 points per possession and turned the ball over 22 percent of the time. PH made 46 percent of 2s and 31 percent of 3s. Steals and block rates were relatively consistent year over year.
Pawnee Heights became one of Kansas’ best teams in getting to the foul line. The Tigers upped to 16.1 free throw attempts a contest. That helped PH average .984 points per possession. Carlson finished with 130 free throw attempts, Colglazier had 117 and Hands upped to 84.
Overall, PH shot 386 free throws, up from 228 the year prior.
On Jan. 15, Pawnee Heights defeated 2A Spearville, 47-41, in league play. That ended a 17-game losing streak versus the Lancers that dated back to a 56-48 win on Feb. 23, 2006. PH was 12 of 15 from the foul line.
Four days later, Pawnee Heights beat Minneola, 54-52. Pawnee Heights was 10 of 23 from the line, and Minneola finished 7 of 16. PH was 0-2 versus Minneola last winter and shot a collective 12 fewer free throws in the losses.
PH played Ashland three times this season and finished 3-0. Before this year, PH was 4-10 in its last 14 meetings with the Bluejays.
The Tigers won 67-65 on Dec. 18, a 61-47 victory on Jan. 23 and the big win in sub-state. For sub-state, PH made 15 of 22 free throws, while Ashland was 6 of 8.
Overall, Pawnee Heights had 386 foul shots this winter, one more than Ashland. The key difference in PH’s margins of victory versus the Bluejays came from the foul line. In the two-point win, Pawnee Heights held a 32-28 edge in free throws attempted. In the second game, PH delivered a 21-11 advantage. Ashland’s eight free throw attempts in sub-state marked a season low.
South Haven’s Wolf, who delivered 23 points and 6.8 rebounds, led KSHSAA-affiliated players with 182 free throw attempts. Carlson ranked sixth. South Haven entered state with seven consecutive home victories and carried a 15-6 mark. In Pawnee Heights’ win, the Tigers were 18 of 28 from the foul line, SH finished 5 of 9, its fewest free throws in a contest since Jan. 26.
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