Southeast of Saline girls and boys basketball carry momentum to second half of the season

·4 min read
Eli Sawyers of Southeast of Saline (1) lays in a reverse layup against Republic County's Blake Aurand (50) Tuesday night in the Trojans' 53-31 home victory.
Eli Sawyers of Southeast of Saline (1) lays in a reverse layup against Republic County's Blake Aurand (50) Tuesday night in the Trojans' 53-31 home victory.

GYPSUM — The mindset for the Southeast of Saline boys basketball team is to continue to get better.

Playing their fourth game in six days, the Trojans weren't at their best performance but still beat Republic County, 53-31, Tuesday night at Southeast.

Southeast improved to 9-3 overall and 4-0 in the North Central Activities Association after taking third at the Sterling Invitational Tournament last week.

Now it's on to the next goal: win a sub-state championship.

"Our goal right now is to make it to Hutch," Southeast junior Eli Sawyers said of the Class 3A state tournament at the Hutchinson Sports Arena, who had 16 points in the win. "We need to play a lot better."

Southeast of Saline's Caden Isaacson (32) looks for an open man under the basket in Tuesday's 53-31 Trojan home victory over Republic County.
Southeast of Saline's Caden Isaacson (32) looks for an open man under the basket in Tuesday's 53-31 Trojan home victory over Republic County.

Southeast coach Bryson Flax said Republic County dictated the pace of the game. The Buffaloes stayed with the Trojans early, trailing 6-5 after the first quarter, and tied the game at 10 in the second before Southeast took control and never looked back.

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"They did what they needed to do to stay in it," Flax said of the Buffaloes. "At the end of the day, a win is a win and ugly wins are still wins."

Nakari Morrical-Palmer (2) rises over three Republic County defenders in Southeast of Saline's 53-31 home victory Tuesday.
Nakari Morrical-Palmer (2) rises over three Republic County defenders in Southeast of Saline's 53-31 home victory Tuesday.

Nakari Morrical-Palmer records double-double

With Sawyers' minutes limited by foul trouble — he still scored 16 points — Nakari Morrical-Palmer helped pick up the slack for the Trojans with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds.

"We wanted to work through him a little bit," Flax said. "Nakari, once he settled in and finished a little bit, I thought he did a nice job."

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Sawyers said the two have played together for quite a while and are great friends off the court.

Luke Gebhardt of Southeast of Saline (21) drives against Republic County's Brody Boyer (12) Tuesday during SES's 53-31 home victory.
Luke Gebhardt of Southeast of Saline (21) drives against Republic County's Brody Boyer (12) Tuesday during SES's 53-31 home victory.

"I feel like I can always throw the ball to him and he's gonna make a play when he can," Sawyers said. "He's a great teammate. He'll throw me the ball (as well)."

Southeast of Saline's Drake Augustine (3) focuses defensively in the Trojans' 53-31 home victory over Republic County on Tuesday.
Southeast of Saline's Drake Augustine (3) focuses defensively in the Trojans' 53-31 home victory over Republic County on Tuesday.

Southeast of Saline girls continue to build confidence

Maddie Harris of Southeast of Saline (31) drives against Republic County's Kadence Henke (13) in Tuesday's Trojan victory, 63-13, over the visiting Buffaloes.
Maddie Harris of Southeast of Saline (31) drives against Republic County's Kadence Henke (13) in Tuesday's Trojan victory, 63-13, over the visiting Buffaloes.

Southeast coach Shauna Smith said the Trojan girls gained valuable confidence over the weekend with a runner-up finish at the Sterling Invitational.

The Trojans, ranked No. 8 in Class 3A, improved to 9-3 overall and 4-0 in the NCAA with a dominating 61-12 victory over Republic County.

Smith said playing an up-tempo game and getting contributions all around is going to help the Trojans succeed. After letting a 12-point lead slip away in the finals of the Sterling tournament, they had no such trouble against Republic County.

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"I told them not to let up the gas tonight because that's kind of what we're doing," Smith said. "We feel like we really made some big steps over the weekend."

Southeast's defense also played a pivotal part in the Trojans' win, shutting Republic County out in the second half.

"We were kind of slow getting started just because our feet got heavy, but I thought we got going," Smith said.

Chase Gilpin of Southeast of Saline (45) goes up strong against a Republic County defender Tuesday in the Trojans' 63-12 home victory.
Chase Gilpin of Southeast of Saline (45) goes up strong against a Republic County defender Tuesday in the Trojans' 63-12 home victory.

Maddie Harris, who was named to the Sterling Invitational all-tournament team, led Southeast with 11 points in the win. She said playing stronger competition at Sterling will help the Trojans over the course of the final eight regular-season games.

"To do good and compete with them, it's really helping us for these other league teams to really push ourselves and just keep doing our best," Harris said.

Karsyn Schlesener (4) of Southeast of Saline splits a pair of Republic County defenders in Tuesday's Trojan home victory, 63-12.
Karsyn Schlesener (4) of Southeast of Saline splits a pair of Republic County defenders in Tuesday's Trojan home victory, 63-12.

With Karsyn Schlesener held to three points, Harris and Brielle Ptacek led the charge. Ptacek had 10 points, including back-to-back 3-pointers in the first quarter, to give the Trojans a spark early on.

"The more people we can have score, the better," Harris said.

Republic County's Zelma Siemsen (35) brings the ball upcourt against Lexi Jacobson (30) in Tuesday's contest at SES, won 63-13 by the Trojans.
Republic County's Zelma Siemsen (35) brings the ball upcourt against Lexi Jacobson (30) in Tuesday's contest at SES, won 63-13 by the Trojans.

What's next for Southeast of Saline

The Trojans have three big doubleheaders beginning on Friday at Ellsworth. The girls game is scheduled for 6 p.m. with the boys to follow at 7:30 p.m. After that, they travel to Sacred Heart on Tuesday before hosting Chapman on Feb. 4.

Flax said they look forward to getting back to a regular routine. Tuesday was the Trojans' fourth game in six days.

"We've got to be better tomorrow than what we were today," Flax said. "That's the mindset we have to have."

Southeast of Saline's Mallorie Pearson (33) defends against Republic County's Emily Hansen (25)  in Tuesday's 63-12 Trojan victory at SES.
Southeast of Saline's Mallorie Pearson (33) defends against Republic County's Emily Hansen (25) in Tuesday's 63-12 Trojan victory at SES.

Dylan Sherwood has been a sports reporter for the Salina Journal since August 2019. He can be reached at dsherwood@salina.com or on Twitter @DSherwoodSJ

This article originally appeared on Salina Journal: Southeast of Saline's basketball teams want to remain confident

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