LAFFERTY, KONEN, MANTZ WILL BE CORE TO REBUILD WITH

By William

LITTLE RIVER – The Little River boys basketball team has been on a roll the past two seasons, going 45-5 over the period and this spring finishing 22-2 while placing third at the Class 1A Division I state tournament.

The question is how they will replace senior Jayden Garrison who seemed to be the top of the top for players this season by averaging over 24 points per game.

Replacing him along with fellow seniors and multi-season starters Trey Rolfs and Graham Stephens will be left to Redskin head coach Wayne Morrow.

Morrow just finished his second season at Little River and his 29th season leading teams that include Norwich, Madison, Marysville, Newton, Valley Center and Larned.

We had a chance to get Coach Morrow look back at the 2020-21 season while also giving us peek at what lays ahead for the Redskin program who will learn to play without Jayden Garrison scoring in bunches.

The following is what Coach Morrow had to share:

HOW DID YOUR TEAM FINISH THE SEASON OVERALL?

According to Coach Morrow, the Redskins achieved all but one of their goals set for the season with that being the state title. Other highlights for the 2020-21 season include:

  • The team finished 22-2 overall.
  • For the 2nd season in a row, they won the Wheat State League title with an unbeaten mark of 9-0.
  • The Redskins won the Early Season Goessel Tournament of Champions.
  • The Redskins won the Burrton Mid-Season Tournament.
  • The Redskins were sub-state champions.
  • For the 2nd season in a row the Redskins qualified in the Class 1A Division I final four at the state tournament.
  • The Redskins finished 3rd at the Class 1A Division I state tournament.

WHAT WERE THE HIGHLIGHTS FOR THE 2020-21 SEASON?

More highlights for the 2020-21 season according to Coach Morrow include:

  • “We had some games this year that showed some improvement from the previous season.”
  • “Winning the Burrton Mid-Season Tournament and beating Berean Academy in the finals was one of the pre-season goals, and I though the team really stepped up in that game.”
  • “Beating a good Salina Sacred Heart team on the road was also a highlight for the season.”
  • “I was pleased that all the players had significant roles that helped the team to achieve team goals throughout the season.”

WHAT PLAYERS AND PRODUCTION WILL THE TEAM LOSE?

Coach Morrow acknowledged three key seniors that will be graduating:

  • Jayden Garrison = averaged 24.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.5 steals per game in 2020-21 while earning multiple all-league and all-state honors.
  • Trey Rolfs = averaged 12.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.75 assists and 2.0 steals per game in 2020-21.
  • Graham Stephens = averaged 6.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.0 steals per game in 2020-21.
  • “We will really miss these three seniors as they have helped us achieve a 45-5 record the past two seasons.”

TAKE AN EARLY LOOK INTO THE 2021-22 SEASON AND TELL US WHAT YOU SEE?

Looking toward the 2021-22 season, Coach Morrow first wanted to mention several returning starters and key players from the current season:

  • Braxton Lafferty = a sophomore starter who averaged 10.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 2.5 steals per game along with making 22 blocked shots. Lafferty has received several post-season honors.
  • Rylan Konen = a sophomore starter who averaged 4.5 points, 3.05 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game.
  • Dalton Mantz = a junior who is one of the better guards in the league but has had to wait behind Jayden Garrison for his opportunity to play.
  • Allen Burrola = a 6’4” junior who continues to come along with great potential.
  • “We have several younger players that should be chomping at the bit for their opportunity at the varsity level as we have played basically the same players the past two seasons.”
  • “There is great potential to carry on with a very successful boys’ basketball program here at Little River as these younger players begin vying for varsity playing time while getting into the weight room and doing the off-season work.”
  • “The players that graduate this year have put in a lot of work over the years and that needs to be the trademark for all future Little River Redskin players. Winners are workers!”

DO ANY TEAMS IN THE LEAGUE OR STATE LOOK TO BE THE CREAM OF THE CROP FOR NEXT SEASON?

Coach Morrow also looked ahead to the league and teams that could be considered the cream of the crop for the 2021-22 season:

  • “Solomon probably has the most coming back within the teams of our league, but I surely believe that Little River will still be able to compete at or near the top of the league.”
  • “If you look at all of the top teams in Class 1A at the state tournament this season, they all lose a lot with graduating seniors, but there will be some very good teams that will rise to the top.”
  • “The challenge for Little River will be to keep us there at or near the top both at both the league and state level.”

OUR FINAL REFLECTIONS:

The biggest question heading into next season will be where the Redskins find the scoring to replace the 42.7 points per game that will be graduating in Garrison, Rolfs, and Stephens.

Coach Morrow will be blessed to have juniors-to-be Lafferty and Konen to rebuild his team around and with Mantz sliding in to replace Garrison at point guard, the Redskins seem to be on solid ground toward having another successful season ahead.

If the 6’4” Burrola continues to improve to join the threesome returning and give Little River some major size in the middle of the court, then look out – the Redskins could make another serious run toward a third straight final four ending.

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