Category Archives: Basketball

Ringneck girls ousted

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…

Tigers roar into semis

Stockton bucked the Mid-Continent League trend and advanced at their state basketball tournament. The Tigers defeatd Dexter/Cedar Vale, a cooperative between two tiny schools near the Kansas/OKlahoma border, 59-44 in the Class 1A-Division I tournament at the ancient William L. White Auditorium in Emporia. 

The Class 1A-Division I boys tournament has three teams with at least 10 losses this season. One, Pretty Prairie, was 8-12 during the regular season, yet got hot at the right time, winning three games in sub-state to advance. 

I’m not trying to take anything away from Stockton. It’s the smallest school in the MCL, and it has a mighty hard time competing in most sports against Norton, Phillipsburg, Smith Center and now TMP-Marian. The Board of Education there almost voted to pull Stockton out of the MCL–a league it helped found in 1946–but the motion could not get a second and died. I was surprised Stockton didn’t try to leave when the Kansas State High School Activities Association placed TMP in the MCL, the way Trego and Osborne did (although Trego came back), but the Tigers would have a tough time justifying an exit with Plainville and Phillipsburg not too far away on US 183. 

Stockton is seeded second in its tournament despite a 16-6 record. Only Hanover at 22-1 would be a high seed in any classification. The team the Wildcats defeated in their sub-state at Clyde, Osborne, would have been the #1 seed at 18-4 had they won. 

The MCL hasn’t produced a boys basketball state champion since Trego in 2006. Plainville made the 2A final last year, losing to St. John, which looks like it will repeat barring something unforeseen tomorrow or Saturday. 

Class 1A is ridiculously diluted because of the split into two divisions, which first occurred in 2011. There are only 44 teams in Division I and 43 in Division II. No sub-state in 1A has more than six teams in it, and some have five.

Of course, since the Kansas State High School Activities Association places teams in sub-states strictly based upon geography, it means that a few sub-states have #1 seeds who are close to .500, or in a few cases, below it. It leads to sub-par basketball at what should be the time for the best basketball of the season. 

It used to be the 1A state tournament was surivvial of the fittest. Those schools had to go through a regional round first, where two teams would advance. Then four regionals would be paired into pods, and two sub-states would emerge. I can recall three or four teams in a 1A tournament prior to the split with only one loss or undefeated. Now, that’s never going to happen. 

Classes 5A and 6A have had this problem since the KSHSAA adopted its current structure in 1978-79. With only 32 schools in each classification, one-quarter of the schools will advance to state. Teams only have to win two sub-state games, and if the best teams are clustered in one area, some good teams will be sitting at home, while others will be playing with records of 9-13, 10-12 and so on. Or worse. I can recall a 6-14 team getting hot at the right time and making it to state. 

Class 4A now has this problem with two divisions.  

It’s emblematic of the let’s not hurt anyone’s feelings era we live in. Let’s give everyone a medal, let’s let everyone go to state. Guess what? You’re going to lose. It doesn’t make you a loser. The lessons the kids learn playing high chool basketball will serve them well down the road. One of those lessons needs to be how to handle adversity. 

Traveling Thursday

I am glad to be getting out of the Courtyard Junction City in a little bit. I found mold on the shower head. GROSS. I took a picture and I plan on sending it to the hotel. I don’t expect this at Marriott properties. By contrast, the shower head at the Sleep Inn Norton is always clean. I never have to worry there.

I also won’t have to worry about the next hotel at which I will be lodging. The Overland Park Marriott is one of m favorite stops on the circuit. With perfect weather, I won’t have to worry about the long drives back and forth to Zona Rosa, and I’m also within easy reach of the Buffalo Wild Wings at Metcalf and 137th Street. Strangely enough, I got an overall better rate at OP than I would have at the Courtyard on Tiffany Springs.

This will be my first trip to Kansas City since the end of January. Can’t wait.

Kansas State High School Activities Association state basketball continues today. If all of the games were being held at one site, which is the rational and sane thing to do, which is the case in Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska and numerous other states, I would go and watch the games. But with EIGHT sites, you have to pick and choose. It’s awful for the kids. It’s awful for the fans. It’s also a financial hit for the KSHSAA,, which has to pay rent at EIGHT sites instead of one and has to pay more travel expenses to officials than it would having to only pay them at one central location.

Another problem of playing games at EIGHT sites is there isn’t television coverage for most tournaments. The Class 3A tourney in Hutchinson is being streamed online by the National Federation Network, but none of the others are. The only tournament with live TV coverage will be Class 6A at Wichita State’s Koch Arena, when the semifinals and championship games will be aired on Cox Cable channel 22, which is now available in northwest Kansas on Nex-Tech cable.

In Louisiana, all championship games (14 total) are televised on tape delay by Fox Sports New Orleans. Nebraska is even better, televising the games LIVE on Nebraska Educational Television from Lincoln’s Pinnacle Bank Arena.

The Big 12 Conference men’s basketball tournament at Kansas City resumes at 11:30 with Baylor taking on West Virginia. Kansas plays TCU in the second game of the day. Kansas State was eliminated yesterday by the Horned Frogs, leaving the Wildcats 15-17. The only way in hell they would play in the postseason is if they agree to play in the pay-for-play College Basketball Invitational (CBI), but I wouldn’t. It would be slumming.

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.

Back on the bayou…

I just did a little research on my native state. There are 388 member schools of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association divided into seven classifications. Most classes include 60 to 70 schools, except Classes B and C, which are small schools (lower than the smallest 2A school) which do not play football. 

There have been many proposals to combine Classes B and C. I think that’s a great idea. Seven classifications in Louisiana, which has less than 40 more schools than Kansas, is still too many. 

I would like to see five classes for basketball in Louisiana. You could place the B and C schools together–that would be 73 right now–and then divide 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A equally. When I began high school at Brother Martin in New Orleans, there were six classifications. Class 5A was added in 1991. 

Keep in mind the structure in Louisiana is radically different than that of Kansas. 

First, there are no leagues in Louisiana. Teams are asssigned to districts for two-year cycles. There are “basic” districts for football, basketball, baseball, softball and track, and then special districts for volleyball and soccer. Becuase districts change every two years, rivalries are sometimes irregular, especially in football, where teams are often committed to five, six or seven district games. 

Second, Louisiana’s basketball playoffs are structured like the NCAA tournament. One and done. Each class has a 32-team brakcket. District champions earn automatic qualification, with the rest of the bracket filled in by a power rating system, which relies on a mathematcial formula. 

The first three rounds of the playoffs are played home-and-away, unless a school’s gym does not meet minimum LHSAA standards; in that case, a neutral site is agreed upon. Prior to 1992, all playoff games had to be played at neutral sites.

The semifinals and finals are all contested at a single location. The girls play one week before the boys. The last two years, both the girls and boys have crowned their champions in Lake Charles, in the southwest corner of the state. Ideally, you’d like to see the games at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center at LSU, but the LHSAA balked at the high rent LSU wants for usage of the arena. You also have hte problem of parking, which is a nightmare at LSU. 

State oversaturation

I am at one of the EIGHT Kansas high school basketball state tournaments right now.

Let that sink in. 

A state with a population of less than three million, with less than 360 high schools, has EIGHT basketball divisions. 

That is beyond silly. It is uttelry asinine. 

There is no need for a state with less than 400 schools to have any more than six classifications. Acutally, FOUR would be plenty. I could live with five. 

There were only four classifications from 1952 through 1968. From ’52 through ’62, any school with 475 or more students was in Class AA, the highest; 151 to 475 in Class A; 61 to 150 in B; and all others in BB. 

The dividing lines changed prior to the ’63 basketball season. It was 56 in AA, 64 in A, the next 224 in B, and the rest in BB. 

From 1969 through 1978, when the Kansas State High School Activities Association had closer to 500 schools, there were only five classifications. 

A sixth classification was added in 1979, and it stayed at six through 2010. 

Class 1A, the smallest classification, voted in 2008 to split into separate divisions for basketball, volleyball and scholar’s bowl (quiz bowl). The Class 1A schools felt they were at a competitive disadvantage becuase they had to go through regional tournaments prior to the sub-state round. 

With 1A split into two divisions, there have been many more mediocre to downright bad teams playing in stsate tournaments. I’m sorry, but teams which go 6-14 in the regular seaon should not be playing in a state tournament, I don’t care what kind of Cinderella story it is. There ought to be a rule for sub-state that teams with fewer than eight wins in the regular season cannot play. Period. 

In 2013, the Claas 4A schools moaned and griped about the gross disparity between the top of the classification and the bottom. So most of the 4A schools voted to split into two divisions for basketball, vollyeball, football, baseball and softball. 

Class 5A and 6A have had the problem with mediocrity in state tournaents for years, since there are only 32 teams in each classification, and each sub-state is only four teams. 

State tournament should be reserved for the best of the best. I would like to see four classifications, which would mean 88 or 89 schools in each. That would mean only the top 10 percent, or slightly less, would go to state. What’s wrong with that? 

Oh, i forgot. We live in the touchy-feely world of the 21st century, where everyone has to have a medal and we need to make sure nobody’s feelings get hurt. So what if your high school basketball team goes 0-21? If that’s the worst thing that happens to a person, he or she is living a pretty darn good life. 

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.