Category Archives: Smith Center HS

Enjoy the sunshine now

I should be sleeping right now, or at least watching TV. instead, I’m at a track and field meet. 

Actually, it’s better that I’m at a track and field meet today. It’s too beautiful of a day to stay inside and waste it. We haven’t had many days like this in May in this part of Kansas. Too many times it’s been overcast, or worse, we’ve been under the gun for possible severe weather.

Today’s track meet is a big one. It’s a Class 2A regional at Smith Center. This is the meet where state championship dreams will live or die. For most, they will die. The top four in each of 36 total events (18 boys, 18 girls) will go on to the state meet next Friday and Saturday at Wichita. 

There are 16 schools in the meet. Six are from the Mid-Continent League, which held its meet a week ago today at Plainville. Sacred Heart had to come all the way from Salina, but considering some schools are traveling twice that far (Salina is 130 miles from Smith Center via US 81 and US 36), the Knights won’t complain. Republic County traveled 61 miles from Belleville, even though tthere’s a regional only 31 miles away in Washington. 

The meet was originally scheduled for Friday, but the forecast tomorrow calls for a good probability of rain. Therefore, Smith Center had the foresight to get in touch with the coaches and ask them if they had a problem moving the meet up one day. Nobody had a problem, and with the weather today, why would anyone have a problem? 

We’re 12 minutes from starting the seven field events. Time to get moving. 

Marching in to the new month

The 2014-15 wrestling season, at least for Kansas high schools, ended a little after 7 p.m. Saturday. Norton ended up on top again of the Class 3-2-1A statndings, overtaking Hoisington in the consolation semifinals. The championship is the Bluejays’ third in a row, fifth in the last six years, and eighth since 2004 under Bill Johnson. Norton has won 14 championships all-time, the first six between 1959 and 1973 under Hall of Fame coach Jake Durham, the namesake of Norton’s tournament.

The Mid-Continent League produced only one champion, Smith Center’s David Hileman at 126 pounds. Hileman trailed most of his bout vs. Wabaunsee’s Riley Tubbs, but with under a minute to go, he reversed Tubbs to narrow the gap to 8-7, and he scored a three-point near fall. That would have been enough to win the bout, save for a reversal by Tubbs, but Hileman got the shoulders down enough to earn the fall with 40 seconds left. Hileman is Smith Center’s first state champion in four years, and seventh since 2006 under Brock Hutchinson.

The MCL has not exited a state tournament without an individual champion since 1977, the year before Norton and Smith Center joined the league. The Redmen and Bluejays have won team championships during that time as well, as have Phillipsburg, Plainville and Stockton.

This year’s tournament was free of trouble. And for once, it started and ended on time. I was very relieved to leave Gross Memorial Coliseum, but this time, I could look back and say there weren’t problems like in past years.

I spent Sunday being lazy. And there was no afternoon nap, even though my mother cooked lasagna. Usually her Italian food, while delicious, puts me to sleep. Not yesterday for some reason.

It’s now time for sub-state basketball. First up is Russell’s girls game at home vs. Norton at 6 p.m. This is the first time in 12 years Norton will play a basketball game in the Amos Morris Gymnasium. The last time, the Lady Broncos defeated the Bluejays in 2003. I’ve got a lot of friends from Norton coming down. For once, they’re making the 117-mile drive, not me.

Tomorrow I’m riding to Scott City with Russell athletic director Sean Spoonts. The game is at 6, so I should be home by 10:30, which should give me time to get some work done and be on time for my appointment in Hays Wednesday at 8 a.m. with Crista Geyer. That will be fun.

After Wednesday, it’s up in the air. Depends on who’s left as to where I go Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

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.

How sweep it is

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.

Lady Ringneck romp

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.

The ageless wonder

The trip to Hill City was uneventful. Before leaving for good, I got my hair cut in Russell and made a few stops in Hays. I got to the hotel in Norton just after 4, unloaded my gear, and then headed back south on US 283 to the school and tonight’s basketball games vs. Smith Center.

Hill City’s boys coach, Keith Riley, is in his 46th season as the leader of the Ringnecks. That is not a typo. I could go on and on and on and on about the things which have occurred since he took the job, but to name a few: Kent State riots, Munich Olympic Massacre, Watergate, kidnapping of Patty Hearst, America’s Bicentennial, Iranian Hostage Crisis, Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion, Operation Desert Storm, Oklahoma City Bombing, September 11 attacks, second Persian Gulf war, Hurricane Katrina, and eight different Presidents of the United States.

How long ago did Riley’s tenure begin? It was so long ago many schools in the Deep South still were not fully desegregated. KSHSAA Executive Director Gary Musselman described playing against Riley’s Hill City teams when he was a student at Ness City.

By my count, my high school alma mater, New Orleans Brother Martin, has had 10 coaches since its first season, which also happened to be Riley’s first at Hill City. The Crusaders won as many state championships in their first five years as Riley has won in his career. Brother Martin added titles in 2004 and 2005.

Tonight, Riley’s first team, which won the 1970 Kansas State High School Activities Association Class 2A state championship, will be honored at halftime of the boys game. Riley also coached the Ringnecks to titles in 1978 and 1998.

Riley shows no signs of slowing down even as he hits 70. He’s in excellent health and you would never be able to guess his age by looking at him. I hope I can look that good at 70. If I make it to 70, that is.

Hill City has generally dominated Smith Center in the boys series since the Redmen joined the MId-Continent League in 1977. The Ringnecks haven’t lost to the Redmen since 2008.

The girls game should provide more competition. The teams are evenly matched. If Hill City hits its 3-pointers, Smith Center could be in trouble.

It’s back to Norton after the games. The tournament in Phillipsburg starts at 9:30 tomorrow. This time, I’m going 30 miles to the east on US 36 instead of to the west.

Lots to catch up on

I went into another Howard Hughes phase since last Monday and disappeared from the face of the blogosphere. I apologize.

Part of it was because the bluetooth keyboard for my iPhone stopped functioning last Tuesday (Jan. 13), the day I went to Gypsum to cover the Russell at Southeast of Saline basketball games. It just plum stopped. Nothing. It wasn’t the batteries, because I tried new batteries in it.

I ordered a new one immediately from Best Buy that day before I went to Southeast. I was intending on going to Wichita the next day to pick it up, but after getting my work done at 2:30 that afternoon, I just went back to Buffalo Wild Wings and stayed until 8:30, when I drove back to Russell.

I could not get my butt up early enough Thursday to go down. I took a Seroquel pill the night before, and I did not fully wake up until almost 3. I went to Hays that evening with Larry Bernard and Jerry Driscoll to watch Russell’s dual wrestling meet with TMP-Marian, which lasted all of 37 minutes. Jerry took us to eat at Applebee’s afterward, which was very nice.

Friday wasn’t an option regardless of when I woke up, since I was going to Smith Center for the Redmen and Lady Red’s basketball games against TMP. The Monarchs won both, taking the girls 52-47 and the boys 75-42; the latter had a running clock in the fourth quarter.

Seroquel again took control of my day Saturday. Could not for the life of me get going, but finally, I found enough energy to drive to Plainville for the Mid-Continent League basketball tournament. I wanted to go see Norton’s girls play so I could see my dear friend Peggy Cox, whose daughter Caitlyn is a starter for the Lady Bluejays. I stayed after Norton defeated Oakley to watch Phillipsburg’s boys down Smith Center.

I went to Buffalo Wild Wings Sunday, but I did not stay for too long. I had a flood of e-mails come in from Kirby Ross, the editor of the Phillips County Review, and I got nervous about getting everything done for the week, since I knew Monday night would be shot with Russell playing two basketball games in the Hoisington tournament.

I left Salina at 3:30 and drove to Wichita. I went to Best Buy to get the keyboard resolved and then checked in at the Springhill Suites at 13th and Greenwich. I got all of Osborne’s work done in the evening, plus a few Phillipsburg stories.

The next morning, I got my column done before getting out of there at noon. Elaine Mercer wanted to see me in the office, so I did my best to haul butt north and west. I arrived at 3 and we had a very productive 25-minute chat.

Russell won both of its basketball games Monday, defeating Otis-Bison each time. The boys won for only the second time this season. The Cougars were without 6-foot-6 standout Kyle Patrick, but Russell wasn’t feeling sorry for O-B, which happens to be the alma mater of one of my good buddies, Smith Center volleyball and girls basketball coach Nick Linn.

Tuesday was the usual grind to get all of my work done. I had Phillipsburg done at 8 a.m., save for a story on Thunder Ridge’s girls game Monday night which I did as soon as the information came in at 8:40. Ellis was done before noon, Smith Center by 2, and Plainville by 3. Nobody was complaining.

The only downside was I didn’t get out of the house in time to see Victoria’s girls play Ellinwood in the Hoisington tournament. Sadly, the Knights lost 58-19, but the Eagles are 9-0 and ranked second in Class 2A by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association, trailing only defending state champion Central Plains. Elllinwod and Central Plains, like Victoria, are all members of the Central Prairie League.

I stopped at the Dairy Queen in Hoisington for a mint Oreo blizzard, then got to the Activity Center at 4:15. I didn’t go in; instead, I listened to a recording while I napped in the car.

Victoria’s boys fared no better than the girls. The Knights fell behind Hoisington by 25 points and lost 61-47. I left at the end of the third quarter so I could get my steak fingers at DQ.

I went to bed at 11:20. I knew I would have to get up early because I had an important 9 a.m. appointment at Hays. I did get up early, at 5:30, to get some stories written before leaving.

I almost didn’t find my phone before going to Hays. I called my phone from the land line in the house, but stupid me had the silencer on, so I could not find it until the fourth call. But I made to Hays on time.

My appointment went exceedingly well. EXCEEDINGLY well. Got back to Russell at 10:30, and by 1:30, the pages were done.

Buffalo Wild Wings on a Wednesday night. It’s good. Promise not to go so long between posts again.

Night ride to Norton

I didn’t make it to Norton until after 11. Everything in town was closed except the Love’s convenience store on US 36, and there was a long line as I peered in from my car. I’m back in the same room at the Sleep Inn I stayed at last month, which is a good thing.

Smith Center won both basketball games at Oakley last night. The Lady Red struggled at the beginning, but had little trouble in putting away the Lady Plainsmen, 41-10.

Oakley has had some outstanding girls basketball teams through the years, highlighted by winning the Class 2A state championship in 2007, but the Plainsmen were not only hit hard by graduation, they lost their longtime coach Randall Rath, who became the football coach at Cimarron. Randall’s daughter, Marlee, was a three-year starter at Oakley and has transitioned into the lineup at Cimarron, which is coached by a friend of mine, David Ediger.

The boys game was wacky.

There were 20 fouls called in the first quarter. In the second half, both teams had trouble scoring, but with less than five seconds left, Smith Center’s Jesse Stapel rebounded a missed shot by Mason Buckmaster and nailed a 12-foot jumper in the lane to tie the score at 43-43 and send the game into overtime.

Gavin Overmiller gave the Redmen the lead a little more than one minute into the four-minute overtime with a 3-pointer, but he later fouled out and was called for a technical foul because tugged at his uniform, which in the eyes of the officials, constituted misconduct. Oakley’s Keenan Smith hit both free throws for the technical, and later in the period, a putback by Mason Scheetz tied the game at 47-47.

Buckmaster hit one of two at the line with less than 30 seconds left, and as it turned out, that would be it for scoring. Smith Center held to win 48-47.

Exciting game, but it didn’t help me with my 80-mile venture northeast. The good news was I saw only one small animal dart across the road south of Reford. I had never been on Kansas Highway 383 between US 83 and its junction with US 36 just west of Norton, so that was an experience. Especially at night.

The Jake Durham wrestling tournament gets underway at 9:30. It really isn’t ah hard tournament for me, since the only school I really have to worry about covering is Smith Center. However, I know so many people in Norton that I like to come and say hello to those I know. Of course, now that I’ve been to Los Canteros, I have to go back.

Okay, that’s it for now. Be back later today.

Asphalt aplenty

The first long business trip of 2015 finds me in Oakley, where the Plainsmen are hosting Smith Center n a basketball doubleheader this evening.

At 110 miles, Oakley is the second farthest drive for me among Mid-Continent League schools–only Norton is longer, 118 miles–but the time t takes for me to get from Russell to Oakley is shorter than that to Norton or Phillipsburg. Since Oakley is right off of I-70 at US 40, it takes 90 to 95 minutes to drive, and of course, it’s smooth sailing at 75 MPH once I get on the interstate, barring construction or bad weather.

This is the first half of my working weekend away from home. Tomorrow, I’ll be in Norton for the Jake Durham Invitational wrestling tournament. Durham coached Norton for nearly 40 years and built the Bluejays to six state championships between 1959 and 1973. Norton fell on hard times on the mat until Bill Johnson took over as coach in 1992. Johnson, an All-America wrestler at Fort Hays State University, has guided the Bluejays to seven state championships, including four in the last five seasons.

I originally planned to drive from Russell to Norton, check in at the Sleep Inn, and then make the round trip between Norton and Oakley. However, I couldn’t pull myself together in time, which meant I drove from Russell to Oakley for basketball. Now I’ll drive northeast to Norton after the games, arriving between 10:30 and 11. I don’t like to check in to a hotel that late because it inconveniences the front desk employees, but in this case, I couldn’t help it. Besides, it saves gas.

I covered Russell’s wrestling dual vs. Beloit last night at RHS. The Broncos came out ahead 45-36. Russell’s basketball teams are hosting Beloit tonight, and their wrestlers go to Ellsworth Saturday\\\\

Norton to Russell (and KC?)

Seroquel and the long day yesterday left me quite drowsy. Yet I’m almost ready to go; as soon as I finish this post and pack up my computer, I’ll be on my way back to Russell. I’ve got a decision to make whether or not to go to Kansas City, but I probably will, seeing as I have a lot of work to do, and the last two Sundays I haven’t gotten a thing done staying home.

Norton’s boys easily defeated Smith Center 58-29. The Redmen missed a heck of a lot of open shots from short range which would have made the game much closer, but the Bluejays are awfully good. The only bugaboo for Norton came when Deon Lyle missed a dunk in the first quarter. Bluejays coach Doug Reusink immediately sent in a substitute, but Lyle redeemed himself with a layup before the next dead ball. When Lyle finally came out, Reusink gave him the business.

Smith Center’s highlight was a breakaway dunk by Mason Buckmaster in the fourth quarter, but by this time, the clock was running continuously, which occurs when one team holds a 30-point lead at the end of the third quarter or later. The Bluejays were up 53-19 after three.

Norton is now 6-0 heading into the long holiday break. Smith Center fell to 1-5.

The first college football bowl game of 2014, the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, kicks off at 10 a.m. Louisiana-Lafayette is in the game for the fourth consecutive year, taking on Nevada. Hope the Cajuns lose. ULL hates LSU passionately, and Bayou Bengal fans mostly return the favor in kind.