By ISAAC DEER
ROSSVILLE –The Rossville boys basketball team closed out its 2022-2023 regular season with a 62-45 Mid-East League loss against Rock Creek Thursday, but that game doesn’t mean much to the Bulldawgs in their eye toward a promising future.
Although Rossville finished its regular season 7-13, the culture has changed surrounding the boys' basketball program.
In the previous three years, Rossville had won eight games. This year alone, they neared that total.
"Let's just be honest, it's a blessing," Rossville coach Brandon McDonnell said. "We got seven wins. We've gotten more wins this year than we had the past two or three years. So it's a blessing. The only way this year happened the way it did is for the boys to go out there and perform and put in the work. I can coach them up all day, but I'm not out there playing; the boys are.
"For them to go out there, exert that energy, and play hard is a blessing. That's that light at the end of the tunnel; you see it. I got most of these boys for the next two or three years, which is beautiful. We've had rocky parts this year and speed bumps, but we get over them. We get over them together. What more can I ask?"
McDonnell knew that getting buy-in from his kids wouldn't be an issue. So when the first-year coach took the job at Rossville, he had a sole mission: To put a winning product on the court and develop kids while helping them reach their fullest potential.
Seven wins might not seem like much, but it's a step in the right direction for a successful boys' basketball program at Rossville.
"I don't go home mad; I don't go home frustrated because I know the boys are working hard," McDonnell said. "They don't want to come out here and lose games. They work their tails off. You see the beauty and glimpses of what they are doing. There is light at the end of the tunnel. We are just young. Having a good offseason will be crucial, but I'm not worried about that now."
McDonnell admits that he feels empathy for his senior class that won't be able to experience the ride with this young group after this season.
Seniors Kade Perine and Carter Bergman are the lone seniors on the 2022-2023 squad. Perine and Bergman have meant a lot to McDonnell in his first year as well as their new and young players.
"I hate the fact that this is Kade and Carter's last year with us," McDonnell said. "Kade and Carter, being seniors, have been able to deal with the ups and downs of this year. I've been around some players that wouldn't have been able to deal with this correctly. Kade and Carter have been the best kids and leaders in this situation."
With one starting senior and the remainder of McDonnell's starting roster being freshmen and sophomores, he cannot help but be giddy about the future.
Underclassmen such as Jakoby McDonnell, Jack Donovan, Saint Mildren, Brock Bush and Tayson Horak have played a significant amount of minutes this season.
"I could literally go down the line and pick players I'm proud of," McDonnell said. "A kid like Jakoby can come out and have a great game, but then maybe he falls off a bit. But the next thing you know, we got Tayson come out and bust 3s, but maybe he will fall off. If they do, Brock and Saint come through. They are the bread and butter of the down-low game, playing great and finishing through (contact). Jack Donovan played great this year as a freshman as well."
This Rossville team isn't finished yet and has much to fight for this year.
On Tuesday, No. 8 Rossville will take on No. 1 Bishop Ward (17-3) in the first round of Class 3A sub-state. The game will be played at Kansas City Kansas Community College at 7 p.m.
HAYDEN GIRLS 53, MANHATTAN 42 -- Junior Lauren Sandstrom led the way with 22 points as Hayden took a 53-42 Centennial League road win at Manhattan.
Norma Greco added 14 points and Brylee Meier nine points for the Wildcats, who improved to 12-7 on the season.
MANHATTAN BOYS 59, HAYDEN 41 -- Manhattan improved to 12-8 on the season with a decisive 59-41 Centennial League victory over Hayden.
Hayden fell to 10-9 on the year.
HIGHLAND PARK BOYS 103, KANSAS CITY-HARMON 38 -- The top-ranked (Class 5A) Scots began their busy final week of the regular season with a 103-38 Meadowlark Conference romp past KC-Harmon.
The Scots, who improved to 18-0 with Tuesday night's win, played at KC-Schlagle on Wednesday and at KC-Washington on Friday.
HIGHLAND PARK GIRLS 69, KANSAS CITY-HARMON 22 -- Sophomore Amelia Ramsey scored 27 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as Highland Park rolled to 69-22 Meadowlark Conference win over KC-Harmon.
The Scots added a 76-29 league win over KC-Schlagle on Wednesday and will play at KC-Washington on Friday.
SILVER LAKE BOYS 53, ROYAL VALLEY 52 -- Silver Lake roared back from a double-digit deficit to take a 53-52 win over Royal Valley Tuesday night.
The Eagles trailed by 11 points with three minutes remaining before closing out the game with a 14-2 run to pull out the victory.
Senior Troy Heiman led Silver Lake with 17 points while Elijah Lopez added 14 points and Dayne Johnson 11 points.
Silver Lake trailed 24-20 at the half and 36-35 at the start of the fourth quarter before the high-scoring final eight minutes.
SILVER LAKE GIRLS 65, ROYAL VALLEY 33 -- Silver Lake improved to 18-1 on the season with Tuesday's 65-33 romp past Royal Valley.
CAIR PARAVEL LATIN GIRLS 34, BISHOP SEABURY 13 -- Cair Paravel Latin finished a 7-13 regular season with a 34-13 Kaw Valley Conference win over Bishop Seabury.
BISHOP SEABURY BOYS 69, CAIR PARAVEL LATIN 63 -- Bishop Seabury outscored Cair Paravel Latin 15-11 over the final eight minutes to hold off the Lions for a 69-63 Kaw Valley Conference win.
Cair Paravel led 22-13 at the end of the first quarter, but Bishop Seabury used a 22-8 second quarter to open up a 35-30 halftime advantage. The Lions were within two points at the start of the fourth quarter.
Jase Pavlik led Cair Paravel with 20 points while Simon Everhart and Cameron Brian added 12 points apiece.
PIPER BOYS 61, TOPEKA WEST 43 -- Topeka West fell to 12-7 on the season with a 61-43 United Kansas Conference loss to Piper.
Senior Xavier Alexander led Topeka West with 20 points, including three 3-pointers, and also dished out six assists.
PIPER GIRLS 56, TOPEKA WEST 41 -- Piper took a 56-41 United Kansas Conference victory over Topeka West Tuesday night, with the Chargers falling to 5-14 on the season.