Jackrabbits are Substate Champions, now state-bound


Coming back to the second round of sub-state after an almost two week hiatus, the Greeley County Jackrabbits hit the floor in Grainfield on Friday, March 3, against the Sharon Springs Wildcats. 

Sharon Springs won the tip-off and scored the first two points of the game. It would be the only time they would hold the lead throughout 32 minutes of play.

“We were a little rusty on our shooting, on the timing and energy of our shots,” said Head Coach Josh Gooch. “But our defense was there and the offensive execution was there. We did a lot of things well.”

By the end of the first quarter, the Jackrabbits led 21-10. By halftime, they led 32-22. 

Playing neighboring Wallace County, a local rival, added to the intensity of the game. 

“Sharon Springs competed well to the end,” said Coach Gooch. “It was a fun game, a good game.” 

During the second half, unbeknownst to Coach Gooch at the time, the two teams had arranged to open up the lane to allow a Sharon Springs player an attempt at a dunk. 

“It wasn’t going to change the game,” said Coach Gooch. “And he was a senior, too.” 

The Jackrabbits kept a solid lead throughout the second half, ending the third quarter up 48-32 and finishing the game with a 65-40 win. 

 The teams had met two previous times in the season, and their mutual respect for one another was evident as the final seconds of the game ticked down. Players exchanged congratulations on the court before going through the normal end-of-the-game handshakes and high fives. 

Jaxson Brandl led scoring for the Jackrabbits with 24. Lincoln Shafer had 15 on the night and Titus Sherer added 11. Issac Schneider, Valentin Villalobos, and Jarith Yanez each had five. 

The Jackrabbits quickly turned their attention to the sub-state championship game, against Dighton.

“This is the game we’ve been waiting for,” said Coach Gooch. “We’ve expected to play Dighton since last year, and we just have to be ready to play and come to play the whole time. It’s not going to be easy. This is the first time in the last four or five meetings that we’re both healthy, sharp, and it’s a game where everything is on the line. It should be fun.” 

A substantial crowd was in attendance to cheer on the Jackrabbits as they faced the Dighton Hornets in the Sub-state Championship game Saturday evening in Grainfield.

The Jackrabbits lost the jump, but scored the first points. By the end of the first quarter, the Jackrabbits led 16-6.

The Jackrabbits’ strategy was to limit the Hornets’ transition points and offensive rebounds, and to control sophomore Daniel Cramer’s drives. 

They extended their lead during the second quarter, putting up another 21 points to Dighton’s 7. At halftime, the Jackrabbits led 37-13. 

“It was great,” said Head Coach Josh Gooch. “We killed them on the boards. We controlled the rebounding and the officiating was great. It wasn’t ticky-tacky. They did a fantastic job as always.”  

The Hornets moved into a triangle and two defense in the third quarter and the game slowed substantially.

“I didn’t want to stop the clock to adjust to it,” said Coach Gooch. “As long as the clock was running, that was in our favor. We may not have scored on the first several possessions, but we still took 30-45 seconds off the clock. It was the first time in four years someone has run a junk defense on us.” 

The Jackrabbits only scored two points in the third quarter while the Hornets scored 11.

The team made some adjustments during the fourth quarter and put up another 15 in the final eight minutes of play. Their efforts resulted in a 54-36 win over the Hornets. 

Thanks to tough defense by the Jackrabbits’ Valentin Villalobos, the Jackrabbits held the Hornets’ Carson Shimer to just 12 points, and held the Hornets overall to 36 points on the evening. The Hornets typically score 46.1 points per game.

“Val did a tremendous job on Shimer,” said Coach Gooch. “Isaac Schneider and Carson Luebbers had great games, and Titus had a great stat line, too, with four points, five assists, and six rebounds. Jariath Yanez doesn’t think he had a great game, but he did. Isaac had 11 points and nine rebounds. Jaxson Brandl had 22 points and 18 rebounds.” 

The Jackrabbits were named the sub-state champions and red and silver confetti rained down on the team as they posed for their post-game picture.  

The Jackrabbits also celebrated another major milestone Saturday night, congratulating Head Coach Josh Gooch on his 100th career win. 

This is Coach Gooch’s seventh year as the head boys basketball coach for the Greeley County Jackrabbits. 

And while Coach Gooch said the achievement feels good, he’s eagerly looking forward to the week ahead when the Jackrabbits return to Barton County Community College in Great Bend Thursday as the number one seed in the 1A Division II tournament. 

Their first match-up is against the number eight-seeded team, Southern Cloud County. 

Game time is 1 p.m. MT Admission is $10, payable by cash or credit card. Pre-K aged children will be admitted free of charge. Programs are $4. 

Southern Cloud’s season record is 12-11. 

“South Cloud has some good size and they have a good guard,” said Coach Gooch. All but one player is over 6 feet tall. The team only has seven players.

If the Jackrabbits triumph over Southern Cloud, they will play at 3 p.m. MT on Thursday against the winner of the Beloit-St.John/Tipton and Coldwater-South Central game. 

According to Coach Gooch, the feeling heading into the state tournament is a little different from last year.

“Last year, the monkey was off our back and it was new and exciting,” he said. “This year, it’s still exciting but the expectations are different. After Saturday’s win, the kids were satisfied but still hungry.” 

For those unable to attend the games, two options will be available. OpenSpacesSports.com will have audio coverage. You can access the audio stream on their website at OpenSpacesSports.com

Video and audio will be available on the NFHS Network. This will require an NFHS subscription, which is $12/month (and can be cancelled after one month’s subscription.) To subscribe,  visit nfhsnetwork.com/associations/kshsaa. 



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