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Quite a rebound
Boys basketball no longer playing second fiddle at R-3

by Kim Fickett
Landmark reporter

Platte County Pirate sports fans are accustomed to success in football and wrestling. But for them, the sudden good fortune in boys basketball is something new and exciting.
An undefeated boys basketball team can now be added to the list of recent Pirate athletic accomplishments that has included three straight football championships and multiple state wrestling titles.

Yes, the success of the athletics program at R-3 has officially moved past the football field and wrestling mats to the basketball court.

While there may have been a successful season now and then on the hardwood, it was not something the district or community became familiar with.

For Rick Hodge, head coach, all of the praises that have come with the success are preceded by the teamwork his kids have displayed while on and off the court.

“We’re just happy because we’ve had some success. Wins and loses, rankings, and things like that don’t really matter. I’m happy with how they are playing,” said Hodge.

“One thing I tell these guys is I don’t evaluate them on what the scoreboard says, or what the record says, or what the rankings are. I evaluate them on what my eyes see and what my mind tells me.”

According to Hodge, what his eyes see and what his mind tells him is that the team is one that ‘gels well together.'

“The number one key to our success is balance. I think we are good inside, I think we have good perimeter play, I think we have got stars, I think we have got role players, and I think we've got scoring and rebounding,” explained Hodge. “We have a lot of confidence in ourselves and in each other. The kids stick together in tight situations, rise to the occasion and find a way to get the job done.”

In order to get that job done, Hodge and his coaching staff rely on the talent and expertise of four seniors.

Kirk Stegeman, 6’4" guard, is referred to as the “best perimeter player on the team."

“Kirk is where we get our scoring from, he handles the ball well, is good under pressure, and sets up teammates for scoring, as well as himself,” said Hodge.

Athleticism has propelled 6’6" forward Lorenzo Riley to be a key contributor to the team’s success.

“His athleticism allows him to get putbacks on the offensive glass and lets us make up for some of our defensive mistakes,” stated Hodge. “He also is able to shut down our opponents on offensive scoring opportunities.”

Danny Hawkins, 6’6", has also made a great addition as a ‘wing player’, providing both guard and forward capabilities to his team.

“He’s such a mismatch for our opponents. There aren't too many schools that can match up with a 6’6" on the wing position,” said Hodge.

Larry Kroenke, a 6’6" forward has gotten much better, according to Hodge.

“Larry provides us solid post defense, keeps the ball alive on the offensive putbacks, and provides additional scoring.”

While the seniors have seemed to receive all of the accolades for the team’s success, Hodge said three other individuals are also responsible for where the team stands today.

Juniors, Darell Veal, Taylor Galagher, and Austin Soendker, all have key supporting roles in the team’s undefeated streak.

“They know and accept their role and perform their role very well,” said Hodge.

“Every good team has to have good role players. They are kind of the unsung heroes of this team. Without them we wouldn’t be the team we are.”

The top-ranked Pirates in Class 4, fresh from a 73-61 victory over Smithville Tuesday night, will meet St. Joe-Benton on Friday, and then will begin district play at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 23 at St. Pius X against the winner of Westport vs. KC Central.

“We’re going to prepare as well as we can for who we play and be ready to step out onto that floor,” said Hodge.

While the team continues to take it one game at a time, Stegeman said the team just needs to play ‘their game’ during districts.

“We have a tough district, but if we play the way we know we can I think we’ll be alright,” said Stegeman.

Riley agreed with his teammate and believes their chances of reaching state are insight.

“I think are chances are pretty good as long as we keep playing like we’re playing and stay focused,” said Riley. “It’s been a good year and we just want to keep rolling.”

With each win that has come and gone, the R-3 community has been supportive of the team’s accomplishments.

“I’m very happy with the way this community and school district have embraced this team. Their support has been unparalleled to that of other teams,” stated Hodge.

“One thing I don’t think they understand, is that their volume transfuses energy to us on the floor and helps the kids out on the floor.”

For Riley, this team’s success thus far is a perfect senior farewell.

“We were very excited coming into this season and were very optimistic because we knew we had a lot of players returning,” said Riley. “We planned to have this type of success. It’s been a very exciting season and it’s a good way to go out.”



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