PONCA – After falling short of a championship or consolation medal this past season, the Ponca boys basketball team will look to break a program record come next season.
For the second time in program history, the Indians qualified for state four straight years recently winning back-to-back C2 titles in 2017 and 2018 while also placing third in 2019. #5 Ponca suffered a 63-56 double overtime loss to #4 Yutan (eventual third place team) during the 2020 NSAA boys state basketball championships. Ponca made it to state four times from 1926 – 1929 as well.
Head boys basketball coach Adam Poulosky said they’d like to do a couple things differently during the regular season.
“But the conference championship game against Laurel (LCC) would be one where had we done a thing or two differently we could have maybe had a different outcome of the game,” said Poulosky. “Otherwise we had some very good victories throughout the season against good opponents. So, I was pretty pleased with the way turned out for us.”
Coach Poulosky has been the head coach for the past eight seasons and told the team to not hang their heads after that hard-fought loss.
“Yutan was a great team and they were very close to paying into the state championship,” Poulosky added. “I think had they not had to go through two overtimes with us they probably would have had enough in the tank to win the semifinal game to get to the state championship. We were right there and basically had a victory in hand against a very good opponent.
Ponca has qualified for state 18 times in program history with their first state championship coming in 2007 (C2) and their first finals appearance coming in 2000 placing runner-up in C2.
Ponca only lost to three different opponents finishing the year 23-5 winning their division in the Shootout on the Elkhorn while placing runner-up in both the Lewis & Clark Conference and C2-4 Subdistrict Tournaments. The Indians won the district final over Amherst (68-49).
After defeating Laurel-Concord-Coleridge twice at the end of last year’s regular season, LCC (Class D1 state champions) defeated Ponca 67-42 on December 17 in Laurel and again in the L&C Conferences Finals 66-56 on February 10 on a neutral court. The other two losses came from BRLD on January 3 in Ponca (64-46) and on February 27 in the subdistrict finals on a neutral court (59-43).
Coach Poulosky compared this past year’s state tournament to the 2019 consolation game.
“When we lost the semifinal game (2019) we had to play in the third-place game,” Poulosky mentioned. “It was at 9 a.m. at Lincoln Southeast and at that point it was pretty much just family members from both teams that showed up. But this time they only had the bleachers on the one side, they had the big screen going down on the one side. Made it feel like you were coaching a summer league game but had a lot more on the line.”
Carter Kingsbury capped off his senior year with 21.3 points per game. Kingsbury went 48.1% from the field, knocked down 64 three’s (39.3%) and finished 145-180 (80.6%) from the foul line.
Coach Poulosky said a lot of coaches could go their entire career and not coach a player like Carter Kingsbury as he came in with a great attitude.
“Always wanted to do what’s best for the team,” said Poulosky. “I mean he was a very capable scorer, could have scored a million points every game but that really wasn’t his focus. He was just going to do what it took to win. He also wanted to keep improving. He had a great younger freshman/sophomore year when we won state championships. If you really look at his numbers, scoring wise, but more importantly like things like shooting percentage, rebounds and assists those all went up each year.”
Kingsbury took home a multitude of honors which included Lewis & Clark East Division All-Conference, two-time Class C Norfolk Daily News Elite 8 First Team and more. Following shoulder surgery this past summer, Kingsbury is keeping his options open.
Senior Brandon Kneifl follow in second with 11.6 points per game and junior Cayden Phillips poured in 11.3 ppg. Junior Bryar Bennett tallied 7.5 points while senior Paul Mason closed out the top five scorers with 4.8 ppg.
Kneifl was also second on the team this past season with 48 made three-point baskets and 42 made three throws followed by Cayden Phillips in third with 39 made triples and 30 made foul shots.
Kneifl was named East Division All-Conference while Cayden Phillips earned honorable mention.
Ponca will graduate four seniors, three being starters of Kingsbury, Kneifl and Masin while Dalton Touney appeared in 23 games averaging 1.1 points per game.
“They’re a pretty special group and they’re going to be missed,” Poulosky added. “Not just the winning, but kind of their attitudes and their leadership. The way they attacked practiced every day and worked hard, never complained. They wanted to get better no matter how much success they’ve already had. To me that’s the most impressive part of them.”
The seniors won over 100 games in their career along with four straight appearances to state and back-to-back state championships.