PONCA, Neb. | Ponca’s boys basketball team is just as unselfish on defense as it is on offense.
Connor Day, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, is the Indians’ runaway leader, defensively, with 79 steals heading into Thursday's 7 p.m. Class C2 game against Perkins County (16-7) at Lincoln Southeast High School.
Otherwise, Coach Adam Poulosky’s defending C2 state champions are very balanced on the defensive side of the basketball. Contributing 49 steals for the 27-1 club is 5-11 senior guard Dalton Tremayne while others over 40 include 6-2 senior guard Logan Kingsbury (44) and 6-5 senior Max Masin (41).
Tremayne also has 50 deflections for a defense that yields an average of 41.4 points per game. Day has 48 deflections and 16 blocked shots while Masin is also a double-threat with 40 deflections and 29 blocked shots. Logan Kingsbury’s 38 deflections and 6-3 sophomore forward Carter Kingsbury’s 19 blocked shots also highlight a unit that has held 13 opponents under 40 points.
“We want to play defense better than we have all year,” said Poulosky. “Execution on defense, whether we are playing man to man or zone, is crucial. We want to make sure we are good at everything.
“We have been working on hand signals. It’s so loud out there in Lincoln. You can’t call out a play like you normally would. We’re excited for that challenge of playing in front of a big crowd.”
Ponca relies mostly upon man to man defense and also utilizes full court pressure. It helps the squad set the pace, so to speak.
Logan Kingsbury is described by Poulosky as one of the team’s top defenders on the perimeter. Tremayne and Day also fit that role.
“That full court press and man to man, it helps us get going,” said Poulosky. “We try to take pride in it. I think we are underrated as a defense. You have to play defense to stop the other team.”
Ponca faces a Perkins County team that averages 54.8 points offensively and 46.5 on defense. Leading scorer Josh Johnson (13.2 ppg) has made 38 3-point baskets while Charles Johnson (11.7 ppg) is shooting 55 percent.
Ponca, on the other hand, averages 65.5 points on offense and is 11-0 when it scores 70 or more points. Four starters are shooting over 50 percent – Day (13.6 ppg, 59.5), Tremayne (4.6 ppg, 54.3), Masin (10.6 ppg, 51.9) and Logan Kingsbury (10.8 ppg, 50.5%).
Fellow starter Carter Kingsbury has a team-high 53 3-point baskets and scores at an 11.3 clip. Four others are averaging between 3.3 and 4.6 points for an offense which also relies upon Logan Kingsbury’s career-best 172 assists.
“For me, it’s a joy to coach,” said Poulosky. “There is not a kid on this team who is a ball hog or won’t pass. It makes us dangerous. Some teams talk about stopping this guy, but you can’t say that about us. If you try to take away two others, three others will find a way to score.
“Nobody cares about who scores. It makes us dangerous. It makes my job easier. You don’t have to draw up a play for one guy. We have different options. It makes life easier.”
Ponca has won 12 straight games since falling 52-50 to C1 state-qualifier Winnebago on Jan. 16 and avenged that defeat with a 64-59 win in the Lewis and Clark Conference championship game on Feb. 7. Tonight’s game will mark the 16th state appearance for a program which also won the 2007 Class C2 state title.