Hill City, here I come again
Wasn’t too hungry when I was on the road last night, so I bypassed Salina and headed straight for Russell after making the long drive on US 24 and US 81 from Beloit. Got home a couple of minutes past 11.
Today, it’s on to Hill City, where it’s a Class 2A girls doubleheader, Ellis vs. Oberlin and Hill City vs. Ness City. These were the same two matchups in the boys bracket yesterday, with the Railers and Ringnecks coming out on top. It could be an all-Mid-Continent League double dip tomorrow night, although Ellis will have a tough time against Oberlin and their outstanding all-around athlete, Demi Murray.
This was supposed to be a special season for Ellis. It returned several key performers from last year’s team which reached the state tournament, most notably 5-foot-10 junior Alexcia Deutscher, who already was a two-time first team All-League selection, as well as a second team All-State pick last year. Also back were Stephanie Greenway, Skylar Gottschalk, Jenna Schoenberger and Sarah Mick, daughter of Lady Railer coach Perry Mick.
Sadly, Deutscher’s season ended in the third quarter of Ellis’ third game vs. Dighton when she tore ligaments in her left knee. She is not only out for basketball, but she will miss track in the spring, and could sit out volleyball in the fall in order to be fully recuperated for basketball.
Deutscher’s absence was the main reason Ellis went from 18-5 in 2013-14 to 10-11 as it heads into tonight’s game.
Hill City has bounced back nicely after a couple of down years. The Ringnecks reached the state championship game in 2010 behind a barrage of 3-point shooting, led by All-State standout Lexi Hardiek, but they fell on tough times in the recent past. This year, with a core of veterans who were thrown into the fire early, including Lexie McDowell, Amanda Conway and Adrianna Nickelson, coach Linda Nighswonger has a unit which is capable of returning to the big dance.
I saw Hill City play a great game at home last month vs. Smith Center. The Ringnecks never trailed and won 54-36 in a game which wasn’t all that close. If they can get two performances like that tonight and tomorrow, Manhattan (Kansas) will be calling.
This is my second visit to Hill City this athletic year, although I’ve been through the place enough going to and from Norton. I probably should go more. The people there are so friendly. Keith Riley, the ageless wonder of a boys basketball coach, always likes seeing me, as does Ms. Nighswonger. Alan Stein, the principal who was once volleyball coach, really cares about the kids and doing the best possible job for them. I really miss Chris Shank, the former football coach who is now doing radio in Hutchinson while working in the family business. Good people.
Time to get rolling. It’s an easy drive, but if I fart around, I’ll keep pushing myself back.