The Basehor-Linwood Bobcats boys’ basketball team will face Salina Central Thursday night at White Auditorium in Emporia in the 5A state tournament.

Head coach Mike McBride said the team’s practices have been great and the team is ready to get on the court and play. He said all the time to prep and prepare is the most difficult part about the state tournament.

“The most difficult part is having all the time to get ready,” McBride said. “You don’t want to over-prepare because I feel with the three-day format, you have to win doing what you have done all year. You can win a game with a special plan, but I don’t believe you can win it all that way. So we focused on ourselves on Monday, and then it feels like we are putting too much in because we still have two days to get ready.”

The Bobcats enter the state tournament as the No. 3 seed behind No. 1 Maize (22-0) and No. 2 Bonner Springs (20-2). The opponent on Thursday for the Bobcats is No. 6 Salina Central (17-5). The Mustangs enter the tournament after defeating Hays and Wichita Heights in the sub-state tournament. Two of Salina Central’s five losses came to No. 1 Mazie. The other three were to Newton and two losses to Haysville Campus. 

The Bobcats enter at 19-2. The only losses on the year came to Shawnee Mission West on Dec. 14 and Piper on Jan. 17 in the Bobcats’ home tournament. Basehor-Linwood would win 11 straight games after the Piper loss, including a 64-34 win over Sumner Academy and a 64-44 win over Seaman in sub-state. McBride said that the team has improved a lot over the season.

“This team has definitely improved over the season,” he said. “I do my stats in five-game blocks so I can see what is going on. Our stats were not good after 10 games and we were 8-2. I was wondering how we even had that record. But we went to Pittsburg and had a great game and everything seemed to click after that. Our stats finally look like we are a worthy team.” 

With the Bobcats looking like a worthy team, McBride was asked where this team fits in the best he has coached.

“Wow,” McBride said. “The 2015 team was incredibly talented and the 2012 team was so basketball intelligent. The 2009 team was the ultimate team as my leading scorer averaged 11.4 points per game and my No. 9 guy averaged 3.8. So, it's hard to say. When Cory (Davila), our 6-7 kid, is engaged and ready to go, we are tough to beat. (Jacob) Coleman can play all five spots on the court offensively and defensively so we can change things around him. So that makes us different. I would need time to reflect, as I love all my teams, but this team is one of the best overall shooting teams that I have ever coached.”

McBride was also asked what the biggest challenges will be for the state tournament.

“Playing three days in a row is rough,” McBride said. “Asking kids to play at full speed, on a big court and stay healthy is tough to coach through. Second, after watching tape, each team has great players, but it looks like I am watching us on tape, just with different kids. So the tourney, in general, has eight teams that have a legitimate shot of winning.”

Basehor-Linwood and Salina Central will tip off at 8:15 p.m. The winner will face the winner of No. 2 Bonner Springs and No. 7 Bishop Carroll Friday at 8:15 p.m. The state tournament will conclude on Saturday with the third-place game tipping off at 2 p.m. and the state championship at 6:15 p.m.