An astonishing return, a run at a championship

An astonishing return, a run at a championship

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An astonishing return, a run at a championship

Last winter, Connor Sechler was out of basketball completely.

The Bolivar High School boys basketball practices on Tuesday, March 14, 2017.

The Bolivar High School boys basketball practices on Tuesday, March 14, 2017.

Thursday, Sechler is one of six Bolivar seniors who will compete at Mizzou Arena in the Class 4 basketball semifinals. A baseball pitcher signed with Missouri State, Sechler went from the student cheering section to the starting lineup as a senior.

“I knew we would be pretty good,” Sechler said. “I didn’t really imagine (going to state), but it’s been awesome.”

Sechler played basketball through junior high and for part of his freshman season, but he concentrated on football and baseball as a sophomore and junior. Conley Garrison, whose second half heroics fueled a 59-52 win over Grandview in the playoff quarterfinals, became the chief recruiter for Sechler’s basketball services.

“There was a little deal me and Conley made. If he came out for football and played wide receiver for us, I would play basketball,” Sechler said.

Garrison upheld his end of the bargain and played football, and was Bolivar’s No. 2 receiver behind senior Brandon Emmert. When football season ended, Sechler made the transition for quarterback to guard.

Bolivar High School basketball player Brandon Emmert practices on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 before the Liberators play for the state championship in Columbia this weekend.

Bolivar High School basketball player Brandon Emmert practices on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 before the Liberators play for the state championship in Columbia this weekend.

“It’s been a fun ride for sure. Conley and Brandon are just two really, really good players and everybody else are doing their job, and that’s how we’re getting wins,” Sechler said.

Liberators basketball coach Robby Hoegh was happy with Sechler’s return.

“That was a big help. I tell people all the time that I don’t recruit kids to come play a sport that takes so much of a commitment. He’s a big time pitcher, and he came to us and, man, he’s been unbelievable,” Hoegh said.

Sechler has made 42 percent of his 3-pointers this season. Hoegh also identifies Sechler as a key defender.

“We can put (Sechler) on the other team’s best player, and he just competes so hard,” Hoegh said.

Emmert, a 6-foot-6 power forward signed to play basketball at University of Central Missouri, is also pleased to play another sport with Sechler as a teammate.

Bolivar High School basketball player Connor Sechler practices free throws on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 before the Liberators play for the state championship in Columbia this weekend.

Bolivar High School basketball player Connor Sechler practices free throws on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 before the Liberators play for the state championship in Columbia this weekend.

“(Sechler) is one of my best friends and it’s nice to see him out there on the court. He’s an athlete, so whenever he wasn’t on the court, it kind of bummed us a little bit,” Emmert said.

Garrison and Emmert talked of returning to the final four after Bolivar finished in fourth place in 2015. Emmert says he has believed in his team all season.

“I thought we had the guys with the mindset to come in each and every week and hopefully get better each and every week,” Emmert said. “Me and Conley talked about this summer about how bad we wanted to get back to Columbia after missing it last season.”

Saturday’s win over Grandview in Bolivar confirmed for Sechler that he made the right choice to return to basketball.

“The atmosphere was awesome because it was at SBU with a bunch of Bolivar people in the stands,” Sechler said. “It’s just been really, really fun for me to be a part of.”

Sechler has spent some of his downtime to continue baseball workouts through the winter. He expects to be ready to pitch for the Liberators as soon as basketball season concludes Saturday in Columbia. First, he is one of six seniors who hope to close their high school basketball careers as state champions.

The Bolivar High School boys basketball practices on Tuesday, March 14, 2017.

The Bolivar High School boys basketball practices on Tuesday, March 14, 2017.

Hoegh feels fortunate to have the leaders he has on his roster.

“To have six seniors for a Class 4 school is actually a little bit of a rarity,” Hoegh said.

Hoegh considers Sechler, Emmert, Garrison, Jack Pitts, Hayden Lewright and Hunter Jones to be a senior class of high regard.

“This definitely confirms a lot of things, and it’s not just the winning. It’s more than with these guys. I call them 20-years-down-the-road guys, and it’s just really fun to be a part of,” Hoegh said.

Bolivar (26-4) takes on Parkway Central (23-8) Thursday at 5:10 p.m. at Mizzou Arena in the Class 4 semifinals. A win would put Bolivar in Saturday’s championship game against Vashon (25-3) or Kearney (21-7) at 2:40 p.m.

The Bolivar High School boys basketball team are hoping to add a championship banner to the wall of the gym by winning a state championship game this weekend in Columbia.

The Bolivar High School boys basketball team are hoping to add a championship banner to the wall of the gym by winning a state championship game this weekend in Columbia.

Bolivar High School boys basketball coach Robby Hoegh hopes to leads the Liberators to a state championship in Columbia this weekend.

Bolivar High School boys basketball coach Robby Hoegh hopes to leads the Liberators to a state championship in Columbia this weekend.

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