Category Archives: Hill City HS
For the first time during this high school basketball season, I’m watching a game in a gym in a town other than Norton, Kansas. Granted, this is only the fourth high school date I have attended, but I have generally tried to avoid places other than Norton this season.
To get to where I am tonight, I followed most of the same route I take to Norton: Interstate 70 from Russell to WaKeeney, then north on US 283.
Only this time, I stopped when I got to the junction of 283 and US 24. Hill City.
It’s Norton and Hill City tonight. This is the regular season finale for the Bluejays. It was supposed to be the Ringnecks’ regular season finale, too, but they have a game Thursday at Ness City which was postponed when a blizzard blew through on Groundhog Day.
The people in Hill City are nothing short of fantastic. I have a very warm relationship with both basketball coaches, Linda Nighswonger with the girls and Keith Riley with the boys.
Linda has been here since 2006-07, and she has enjoyed great success, taking Hill City to the state tournament twice, including a Class 2A runner-up finish in 2010. She was a very accomplished coach at Logan before coming to Graham County. The Ringnecks had been foundering in the years prior to Linda’s arrival, but now they are flourishing, as they did during the 1970s when they won a state championship.
Keith Riley has been at Hill City longer than I have been living. He is truly an ageless wonder. The man looks 15 years younger than his true age, which means he keeps in great shape. He has a very structured system, but he can adapt to his talent, no matter if the Ringnecks are more suited to play an up-tempo game, or a slower pace. No wonder he’s won close to 800 games and three state championships.
The good news for Linda and Keith is they have outstanding support from the administration.
Alan Stein, Hill City’s principal, was a highly decorated volleyball coach with the Ringnecks before he became principal, and he also served as President of the Kansas State High School Activities Association Executive Board. The man cares about school activities, he cares about his students, and he cares about the association.
There were a few in Hill City not too long ago who wanted Superintendent Jim Hickel out, but fortunately, he’s still around. I hardly have been to a HIll City event where I have not seen him and/or Alan in attendance.
Norton has good people, too. It was very sad to see Superintendent Greg Mann leave at the end of the 20141-5 school year, but the district is in very good hands with Phil Wilson, who won multiple state championships as a football coach at Stockton before becoming principal at Washington County.
Rudy Perez is an outstanding principal, and he had a very tough act to follow, as he succeeded Lary Stull, who served Norton with distinction for 28 years before retiring in 2006.
I’ve known three athletic directors at Norton–Larry Mills, Jeff Wallingford and Dustin McEwen–and all have been very good to me. As have coaches like Kevin Jilka, George Rossi, Jason Jones, Bill Johnson, Lucas Melvin, and last but not least, my dear friend Peggy.
Hill City and Norton are two school districts which get it. Hopefully they can remain strong in the coming years.
Just before 10 a.m. this Saturday morning, the sun is out. You never would have dreamed Russell County experienced severe thunderstorms only 16 hours ago.
Going back to yesterday and the early termination of the track meets at Osborne and Phillipsburg, I can remember a few other meets which were affected by rain:
- 2006 at Norton–the Bluejays were unlucky that year. The meet was called off on its original date, April 7, due to cold and rain. Believe me, it would have been a miserable day for all. The new date, April 25, also found it cold and wet, so the meet was completely canceled.
- 2006 at Hill City–the meet got underway at 4 p.m. (way too late) as scheduled. Two hours later, severe weather moved in and forced the meet to be called. I drove as fast as I could down US 283 to I-70 at WaKeeney to beat the heavy rain, which I did. The meet resumed the next day, although I did not attend.
- 2007 Russell Invitational–meet originally scheduled for April 5, but rained out. Held April 16. Russell has two meets each year, the Russell Invitational in April and the Russell Relays in May.
- 2007 at Norton–meet rained out on original date, April 6. Rescheduled and conducted April 23.
- 2007 state meet–Saturday’s action was interrupted by over three hours due to heavy rain. I later learned the Kansas State High School Activities Association was very close to calling the meet and sending everyone home. The rain ended just in the nick of time, and the meet lasted until 10:30 that evening. That was the first year the 3,200 meter races were moved from Saturday to Friday, or else it would have been closer to midnight before everyone left Cessna Stadium.
- 2013 at Smith Center–Redmen Relays scheduled for April 9, but called due to snow. Held April 12 with different field.
- 2013 MCL at Hill City–several events conducted in the rain. Cold front came through with the rain, and thank God I had warm clothes and my parka to put on.
Yesterday marked six years to the day of a memorable event for me at Osborne.
I found a $50 bill laying on the ground near a gate which led from the bleachers to the track and football field. I did not think twice about bringing the cash to the press box so its owner could be located. Public address announcer Rex Johnston at first only announced he had a Federal Reserve Note to be claimed; not mentioning whose picture was on the bill, or of course the denomination.
Eventually, the unfortunate lady and her money were reunited, and I received $5 for finding her greenback.
If it had been a $1 bill, maybe I pocket it. But $50? I could not in good conscience pocket that much.
It turns out rain was not limited to Kansas.
The Royals-White Sox game in Chicago was suspended in the 9th inning with the score tied 2-2. The game will resume at 1:10 this afternoon, followed by the regularly scheduled game. However, more rain is forecast. If the teams are unable to play, the suspended game will be finished tomorrow, and today’s game gets made up on one of Kansas City’s other trips to the South Side.
It wasn’t until 2007 when Major League Baseball regular season games could be supsended. However, this provision only applies when five or more innings are completed and the game is tied. If the game is not tied after five, the game is over. If the game hasn’t reached five, it is scrubbed and starts over. In the postseason, the game is suspended, no matter the score and inning, and nine innings must be completed.
The Royals have the best record in the American League, 12-4, one-half game in the win column behind the Mets, who saw their 11-game winning streak end last night at Yankee Stadium. The worst team in MLB? The Brewers. 3-14. Lovely.
The Mid-Continent League’s 2014-15 girls basketball season has concluded. Hill City was eliminated from the Class 2A state tournament in Manahttan this evening with a 52-37 loss to Valley Falls.
Valley Falls got a little honor back for its league, the Norhteast Kansas League. In the 2013 2A championship game, the MCL’s Smith Center defeated the NEKL’s Jefferson County North 63-55. The NEKL wasn’t in existence then; the JCN was in the Delaware Valley League, although the formation of the NEKL had been announced by the time the 2013 state tournament rolled around.
Hill CIty does have a girls basketball state championship, winning the 2A crown in 1976. Of course, the Ringnecks have three boys titles under the guidance of the ageless Keith Riley, in 1970, 1978 and 1998.
Stockton’s boys are all that’s left for the MCL. The Tigers face Doniphan West tomorrow at 4:45 in Emporia. The winner more than likely will draw Hanover Saturday at 6:15 for the title.
Track season is three weeks away…
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.
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.
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.
The Hill CIty boys dominated just like the girls. The Ringnecks never trailed, led 11-2 after six minutes and change, and coasted to a 54-22 victory, their ninth consecutive win over Smith Center in the boys series.
Keith Riley’s squad led by as many as 17 in the first half before going to halftime up 26-12. The Ringnecks weren’t sharp in the first half of the third quarter, even though the Redmen never got closer than 14. Following a timeout, Hill City got it going, outscoring Smith Center 12-2 the rest of the period to go ahead 44-20.
With 6:52 remaining, the margin reached 30, meaning the clock would run continuously for the remainder of the game.
Smith Center coach Joe Burgardt picked up a technical foul in the fourth quarter. He had to be frustrated.
The Redmen fell to 3-11, while the Ringnecks upped their mark to 9-5.
Time for me to wrap this up and drive north to Norton. I’ll pick it up there.
The close matchup I blogged about a couple of hours ago never came to pass.
Hill City took command early and never let go. The Ringnecks never trailed and won 54-36, breaking a five-game losing streak vs. Smith Center. It was 8-1 before the game was four minutes old, forcing Smith Center to call an early timeout. The Lady Red were down by as many as 11 in the first quarter.
Smith Center trailed Stockton by as many as 17 last Friday, 15 at the start of the fourth quarter, and won in double overtime, so there was still plenty of time left. Sure enough, when Sara Mann converted a 3-point play with 4:37 left in the second quarter, the Ringnecks’ lead was down to 19-15.
Amanda Conway, who was Hill City’s high scorer with 15 points, canned a 3-pointer to stop the Lady Red’s momentum dead in its tracks. The Ringnecks went up 10 on a Conway 3-point play, and built the margin to 32-19 by halftime.
There was still a half to go, but Hill City had this one in the bag barring a collapse.
It didn’t happen. The Ringnecks led by as many as 19 in the third quarter and never by fewer than 14 the rest of the way.
Drew Mann was Smith Center’s high scorer with 19 points. Three other Hill City players joined Conway in double figures: Lexie McDowell with 12, Conner Keith with 11 and Adrianna Nickelson with 10.
Hill CIty is 10-4 on the year and Smith Center falls to 10-5. The Lady Red are at home twice next week, vs. Logan Tuesday and Ellis Friday.
Now the boys are warming up. Coach Riley is his dapper self in his navy blue sports coat and red tie.