Category Archives: Ellis HS

Elimination Wednesday

The first night of the 2015 Kansas State High School Activities Association state basketball tournaments was not a good one for the teams I had the most interest in.

I witnessed St. John-Hudson put on a clinic inside Bramlage Coliseum against Ellis. The Tigers began with an alley-oop which 6-foot-9 Dean Wade flushed. He dunked on another alley-oop, and was in position for a third before getting fouled by the Railers’ Eli Lohrmeyer.

St. John scored the game’s first 10 points, It led 28-4 after one quarter and 52-11 at halftime, going on to win 83-41. The Tigers extended their winning streak, to 50, the longest active streak among boys teams in the state.

Ellis lost for the first time since Jan. 22. It was on a 12-game winning streak coming into the state tournament and finished the year 18-6, a vast improvement over the 9-13 mark of a year ago. The Railers made their first boys state tournament appearance since 2003, but they haven’t won a state tournament game since 1981, when they were runner-up in Class 3A to Silver Lake.

None of the four games at the 2A tournament were particularly competitive. Olpe, Central Plains and Washington County were all easy winners. Olpe and Central Plains play one semifinal Friday at 4:45, while St. John and Washington play at 8:15.

Tomorrow is the girls games at Manhattan. Hill City plays Valley Falls at 6:30.

The other Mid-Continent League team in action today, the TMP-Marian boys, dropped their game in the Class 4A-Division II tournament at Park City to Wichita Trinity.

The third MCL boys team in a state tournament, Stockton, plays tomorrow at 3 p.m. in the 1A-Division I tourney at Emporia.

Thunder Ridge, the small school in Kensington, the small town halfway between Phillipsburg and Smith Center, lost in the 1A-DI girls tournament to St. Paul, 37-32. Jack Krier handled that one since I was in Manhattan.

Beloit’s girls, the lone North Central Activities Association team in a state tournament, lost int he first round in Class 3A at Hutchinson to Sabetha.

I’m done with covering basketball for Main Street Media for 2014-15. It’s been quite a winter sports season. Now I’ll get some time to decompress and relax before track and field starts.

Stately day

Saturday was a very long day in Hill City. The boys game was worth the price of admission and then some, even though I didn’t have to pay.

Ellis fell behind the Ringnecks by 10 with 3:39 to go in the third quater, but rallied to take the lead by the end of the period. The game was tied six times in the fourth quarter, so it was fitting the Mid-Continent League rivals went to overtime.

The Railers won 63-58 to move into the state tournametn for the first time in 12 years. Their reward? A date with reigning state champion St. John-Hudson tonight at 6:30. The Tigers have won 49 consecutive games, which includes last year’s state championship game victory over Plainville. 

The girls championship game at Hill City was not as competitive, which is what I expected. The Ringnecks won 54-34, their third victory over the Raiilers this season, all at Hill City. The Ringnecks play their first state tournament game in five years when they face Valley Falls tomorrow night at 6:30. 

I got back to Russell just before 11 Saturday night. I was exhausted–nowhere near as bad as it was after regional wrestling, but still, I got my fair share of sleep. 

I packed Sunday night hoping I could get out to Kansas City either Monday or Tuesday, but the work was too much. Besides, I didn’t have to spend on a hotel room. 

Nickole Byers, the editor at Ellis, called me at 2 p.m. Monday and asked me if I could get her stuff done that day. Fortunately, I was still home, so I got right to it. I was done before 5. She was ecstatic. 

Got my work for the Russell County News done before noon, and I was on the road at 1. It took only a shade over two hours to get to Bramlage Coliseum, and that was with stops in Junction City for gas, food adn to check into the Courtyard Marriott.

Right now, the first game of the four-game boys session, Olpe vs. Pittsburg Colgan, is in the third quarter. Game tied 20-20 midway through. 

I can’t believe how warm it is outside. There have been more than a couple of days when I would be bundled up in four layers walking into Bramlage and I still wasn’t warm. Today, I should have worn shorts, but I figured since this is state basketball, I’d stick with jeans. 

Railers vs. Ringnecks times two

I am a few minutes away from departing Russell for my return to Hill City for tonight’s Class 2A sub-state championship doubleheader between the host Ringnecks and Mid-Continent League rival Ellis.

Hill City’s girls jumped all over Ness City early and the game looked like it would be a blowout. Instead, the Ringnecks missed many makeable shots, and the Eagles slowly but surely clawed their way back into the contest, forging a 33-33 tie at the end of the third quarter. It was tied at 36-36 with 6:50 to go before Hill City finally pulled away for a 49-42 victory.

Ellis and Hill City have played sub-state championship doubleheaders before. In 2010, the girls and boys teams from both schools met at WaKeeney. The Hill City girls won fairly comfortably, but the boys game went into overtime, with the Ringnecks coming out ahead 48-47. The Ringneck girls went on to finish second at the state tournament to Olpe, but the boys were one and done in Manhattan.

Ellis’ boys have not been to the state tournament since 2003. The Railers’ coach then, Chris Rorabaugh, has grandchildren playing on both the girls (Brittany Bollig) and boys (Brandon Bollig) teams, and his daughter, Jessica Bollig, is the assistant on the girls team to Perry Mick. Another of Chris’ granddaughters, Candace, plays softball at Barton Community College in Great Bend.

Hill City has won three boys state championships (1970, 1978, 1998) under its ageless wonder coach, Keith Riley, who will wrap up his 46th season at the helm either tonight or next week in Manhattan. The guy is amazing. He has the energy at almost 70 I wish I had, and I’m just over half is age. He loves the game of basketball and it shows in the way he coaches and the way his boys play the game. You’ll never see a Hill City team be anything less than totally fundamentally sound.

Ringneck girls coach Linda Nighswonger is the same way. She had a very long and successful run at Logan before coming to Hill City in 2006, and she pulled the Ringnecks out of a funk and back into a top-tier program. They should be a force to be reckoned with next year, too, since almost everyone is back.

It’s going to be a good night for the MCL regardless of who wins and loses. Time to get going.

Lady Railers chug ahead

It was a little tougher than it should have been, but the Ellis Lady Railroaders will be playing for a sub-state championship tomorrow night. 

The Railers led by as many as 20 over Oberlin in the third quarter, but the Red Devils made a game of it, coming as close as six on the strength of excellent free throw shooting, before Ellis finally closed out a 53-43 victory.

Ellis (11-11) now awaits the winner of the second game between Hill City (17-4) and Ness City (9-13) in tomorrow’s 6 p.m. title game. 

If the Ringnecks win, it will set up an Ellis-Hill City doubleheader for the titles. This would be a repeat of 2010, when the Ringnecks won both championships of the sub-state at Trego. In 2009, the Ellis girls defeated Hill City at Plainville for the title. 

Oberlin concluded its season 10-12. Brandon Gehring is going to have a major rebuild, as all five of his starers were seniors. Gehirng enjoyed much success at Logan, leading the Trojans to back-to-back trips to the Class 1A-Division II state tournament, but the Red Devils’ massive graduation losses, plus the presence of superpower Hoxie, will make 2015-16 challenging to say the least. 

I’m going to stay for at least the first half of the Hill City-Ness City game. I know a lot of people in Hill City, so I owe it to them to stay for at least awhile. I know I’m coming back tomorrow. 

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.

Wrestling’s last hurrah

The final day of the 2014-15 Kansas high school wrestling season is upon us. By 8 p.m. tonight, 56 state champions across the four divisions will be crowned, and four teams will have large new trophies to add to their collections. For most wrestlers at the smaller schools, track and field or golf is next. Some will move on to baseball at the larger schools. And some might well just not do anything until it’s time for summer conditioning for football.

Norton fell to third in the team standings at the end of the first night of the Class 3-2-1A tournament, but the Bluejays, who are going for their third consecutive title, fifth in the last six years and eighth since 2004, are only 11.5 points behind Hoisington for the top spot. The big problem for Norton is that it only has one finalist, 106-pounder Ryan Johnson, while Hoisington and Rossville have three finalists apiece.

Johnson is one of four finalists from the Mid-Continent League. The others are Ellis’ Bryce Younger (113), Smith Center’s David Hileman (126) and Phillipsburg’s Lucas Jacobs (220). Jacobs is the Panthers only wrestler in the state tournament, making Phillipsburg one of four schools with only one wrestler at the state tournament who is in a final. The others are Hoxie’s Tristan Porsch (132), Greeley County’s Caleb Austin (138) and Troy’s Tristan Speer (195). Speer will be defending his 195-pound title tonight against Oberlin’s Rex Diederich.

Russell’s bid for its first state champion since 1969 will have to wait another year. Dalton Brand lost a 6-4 heartbreaker in the 182-pound semifinal to Rossville’s Isaac Luellen. Sadly, Luellen will not have the best competition for the title bout.

Norton’s Gavin Lively was disqualified from the quarterfinals after he was called for an illegal slam against Kody Collins of Doniphan West. Collins could not continue after the injury period ended, and since Livley’s slam was determined to have caused Collins’ injury, Collins was declared the victor.

It wasn’t the first time I’ve witnessed this.

At the 1999 Louisiana Division I state tournament, Kris Louvierre from Lafayette was called for a slam in the 125-pound championship bout. Louvierre was ahead on points, but since his opponent from Brother Martin, Richard Dixon, could not continue, the Crusader was awarded the state championship. The six points Brother Martin earned (four from the win, two more for the DQ) was enough to push the Crusaders five points past Jesuit for Brother Martin’s first state championship since 1987. It would be the first of five in a row for my alma mater.

Tomorrow will be a day to catch up on paperwork before sub-state basketball starts Monday. Russell’s girls are slated to host Norton at 6 p.m., and the boys go to Scott City Tuesday at 6. This will be a hectic week, because I have an appointment Wednesday morning at 8 with Crista Geyer in Hays, and then there will be sub-state games Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Butt the March break is in sight.

Norton again

I got to Norton right at 11 p.m. No deer on US 283 between WaKeeney and my destination. This is my fifth time staying at the Sleep Inn this winter.

There was a slight problem when I pulled into the Sleep Inn: the elevator was not working. However, it was easily taken care of. First, two very nice people offered to help bring my bags up to my room on the third floor. Second, I 50 percent off my rate for tonight. At least the elevator broke tonight, and not tomorrow, when the hotel is fully booked. I can see some of those grandparents who have third floor rooms bitching and griping if the elevator doesn’t work.

Norton’s girls won at Ellis for the first time since 2006. The date was February 17, 2006, when the Bluejays defeated the Lady Railers 46-31. It was a big win for Norton, which improved to 18-1 at that time. The Bluejays’ only loss to that point was a 50-37 setback to Ellis in the Mid-Continent League tournament championship game Jan. 21 of that year.

Caitlyn Cox’s oldest sister, and the eldest child of Peggy and Clark Cox, Chelsea, was a senior on the 2005-06 Lady Bluejays. Chelsea was an All-State volleyball player who had signed a letter of intent with the University of Tulsa, but after one season with the Golden Hurricane, she would transfer to Kansas State, where she’d play the rest of her career.

Norton had five senior starters that year, in fact. In addition to Chelsea, there was Whitney Newell, Karlie Jones, Rebecca Ebert and Klaire Mann, the daughter of Norton superintendent Greg Mann. The key reserves off the bench were two freshmen, Laura Lee Baird and Hayli Bozarth.

I can recall four of Ellis’ five starters. One was a sensational freshman, Whitney Taylor, who would go on to lead Ellis to back-to-back state tournament appearances in 2008 and 2009, and she went on to perform for the Fort Hays State track and field team. Whitney is completing her studies at the University of Kansas medical school. i knew she was going to hit it big. Really big.

The other starters I recall for Ellis were Courtney Waldschmidt, a superb point guard; and two underrated post players, Jennifer Jacques and Jaymi Riedel. I’m sure if I looked at a roster, that fifth starter would come back to me, but for the life of me, I can’t remember off hand.

Why can I recall that game so well? Many things.

First, it was bitterly cold outside. It was a whopping 9 degrees when I left Russell that afternoon, driving Jack’s Buick LeSabre instead of my own Pontiac Grand Prix. I had four layers on going into the Ellis gym, and I was still freezing my butt off for a few minutes both coming and going.

Second, I drove immediately after the game to Colby. I had to cover a regional wrestling tournament at Oberlin the next day. At that time, Colby, 60 miles southeast of Oberlin, was the closest locale with a decent hotel (Norton’s Sleep Inn was still six-plus years off).

By time I pulled in to the hotel in Colby, it was 5 below. It was 8 below the next morning when I started the Buick. I foolishly left a case of pop in the trunk, and sure enough, it was frozen solid in the morning. I drove north on Kansas Highway 25 to Atwood, then east on US 36 to Oberlin.

At this time, the semifinals of the regional wrestling tournament were wrestled on Saturday morning, not Friday night as it is now. Wrestling started at 10 a.m. that day and lasted until a little after 6. The championship finals (1st and 2nd) and consolation finals (3rd and 4th) were wrestled at the same time.

Third, Greg Mann was in attendance at a basketball game. Since Klaire was playing, he went to Ellis, and then-athletic diretor Larry Mills went with the wrestling team to Norton. Larry’s oldest daughter, Hannah, was a cheerleader for the Bluejays, and she wasn’t too happy she had to go to basketball, because it meant she couldn’t see her boyfriend, Nathan Broeckelman, wrestle. Hannah and Nathan are now married and living in Tribune, where he coaches four sports at Greeley County High School, including wrestling, of course.

Okay, time for me to stop blogging. For now. Have a good night. And a pleasant tomorrow.

Railers steamroll Norton

Even though Ellis came into the boys game on a seven-game winning streak, some might have still doubted the Railers, thanks to a five-game losing streak they suffered through in January.

There should be no more doubting Ellis. Not after tonight.

The Railers took it to Norton, rolling to a 70-48 victory and making them a legitimate state tournament contender, if they weren’t already.

Ellis never trailed after it was 10-9. Brendon Brenner’s three with 63 seconds left in the first quarter put the Railers on top to stay.

Norton fell to 16-3. The Bluejays have lost twice to TMP-Marian and now to Ellis, and they will be the No. 3 seed for sub-state unless something drastic happens with Beloit and/or Scott City.

Ellis closes its regular season at home Tuesday vs. Oakley. Barring a slip, the Railers should be 15-5 going into the sub-state hosted by Hill City.

Time for me to get on the road for the 78-mile trek to Norton. I hope there aren’t too many deer on US 283, but I can never be sure.

I’ve still got some thin mint chocolate cupcakes I won in the Ellis auction tonight. I know I can’t eat all of them. I gave one each to Peggy and Caitlyn Cox, and might give a couple more away before I leave.

Signing off from Ellis. Next stop Norton.

Norton ladies prevaili

Norton’s girls had no trouble holding on in the second half. In fact, the Bluejays led by as many as 22 before settling for a 48-37 victory. That gets Norton to 10-10 with the regular season finale at home vs. Hill City Tuesday. The Railroaders are 8-11 and host Oakley Tuesday in their regular season finale.

The boys game is the big attraction. Norton is 16-2 and Ellis is 13-5. The Railers have won seven in a row, while the Bluejays come off of a couple of close wins over Plainville and Hoxie. This should be a very good one.

Norton will likely be stuck with Beloit in their half of the sub-state draw. The Trojans lost their second game of the season Tuesday, again to Sacred Heart. Scott City is now the #1 seed in the sub-state at 17-1, followed by Beloit and Norton at 16-2. It doesn’t matter what the Bluejays do in their next two games; they’re either going to be #2 or #3.

Teams are warming up now. Should be going in about 15 minutes.