Clippers head to state basketball


It only came as a surprise to those that just kind of follow this team. For the fans that have truly watched the Malcolm boys this season, seeing this program earn its first trip to the state tournament since 2003 – and just fourth in school history – was no shock.

Coming off what was previously the winningest season in Chris Lewandowski’s 10 years at the helm, it was clear this team had some talent. But, when nearly 85% of last year’s scoring production left when Hayden Frank and Drew Johnson graduated, getting to state seemed like a tall order.

“Of course, we wanted to get to state,” Lewandowski said. “We didn’t make it our focus. We knew in order to get there, there were a lot of smaller goals we needed to complete.”

Defense became the focus, especially early in the season when a young team – with a sophomore in the starting lineup and three freshman getting significant playing time – was trying to figure out where the points would come from. Holding teams under 50 was the goal. Malcolm is 16-2 this year when that goal was accomplished.

“We hang our hat on our defense,” Lewandowski said. “When we can hold the score down, we know we can stay within striking distance.”

Going into the state tournament, this Malcolm team has held its opponents to a lower scoring average than any team in program history.

That Maddox Meyer and Carson Frank have stepped up to average a combined 27 points per game has helped. Yet, that hardly compares to the 38 per game that Frank and Johnson contributed last year.

“We’re much more balanced this year,” Lewandowski said. “On a given night, it might be Owin (Little) or Preston (Kucera) or Luke (Schmidt) that steps up. You never know who it might be.”

In fact, six different Clippers have scored in double figures at least once this season.

Malcolm (19-7) enters the tournament as the No. 8 seed and will face No. 1 Concordia (24-2).

“It’s by no means an easy draw,” Lewandowski said. “But we’re glad to be playing a team we haven’t seen and that hasn’t seen us.”

The two, three and five seeds were all on the Clippers’ schedule this year. Malcolm is 0-4 against those teams.

“A lot of things had to fall in place for us to be here,” Lewandowski said. “There was a lot of movement in the standings on the final day that put us against Sidney for the district final. That was a good matchup for us. Now, with Concordia, it’s a team we think we can compete with.”

The Mustangs feature 6-10 Quientan McCafferty. The senior has helped the Mustangs to four state tournament appearances. He recently surpassed the 1,000 career points mark. He has over 700 rebounds and more than 300 blocked shots in his career.

“He’ll be a load,” Lewandowski said. “He’s not their only threat. Defending the paint and hitting the boards will be huge.”

Malcolm and Concordia will open the Class C1 state tournament Thursday, March 7, at 9 a.m. at the Devaney Sports Center.