Category Archives: Basketball

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.

Trojans rock Russell 

The chalk has held in the girls portion of the Class 3A sub-state at Beloit. The top seeded Trojans completed the three-game sweep of Russell this season with a 67-51 decision.

Beloit trasiled only once, 3-2. The Trojans built their lead to 32-17 at hafltime with a 16-1 run over the final 4:25 of the second quarter. 

Russell got as close as four with 1:19 to go in the third, but trailed by seven to start the fourth and was never closer than eight down the stretch. 

The Broncos’ season ends 11-11, their first non-winning season since 2009-10, Frank Schulte’s first as coach. 

Beloit is 19-3 and takes on 15-7 Minneapolis for the sub-state title Saturday at 6 p.m. The Lions, who defeated Phillipsburg 48-34 in the first game, lost both matchups with the North Central Activties Association champion Trojans during the regular season.

Time to go back to Russell. I’m heading west tomorrow. Just don’t know where. 

Third night, third site

Back to basketball after a reprieve Wednesday. Tonight’s journey is to a familiar location, Beloit, for a girls doubleheader, Phillipsburg vs. Minneapolis and Russell vs. Beloit.

Tuesday’s trip to Scott City was great, except for the game itself. Sean Spoonts and I had a great ride down. He was all excited about the different types of animal meat the truck stop in Oakley sold. I found a new auxiliary audio cable for my iPhone which works perfectly, unlike the piece of crap Best Buy sold me last month. Sean and I were able to jam to songs on my iPhone from Oakley to Scott City and then all the way back home after the game. 

Scott City jumped all over outmanned Russell, leading 25-0 and going on to win 81-29. Many have called the Beavers the best high school boys basketball team in Kansas, regardless of classification, and it may be true. Glenn O’Neil, who also coaches the Beavers’ powerhouse football team, has a group of interchangebale parts which are all athletic, great jumpers, accurate shooters and prolific passers. The coach’s son, Trey O’Neil, scored 26. 

Scott City is the home of Wichita State’s All-Missouri Valley Conference guard, Ron Baker. Ron’s brother, Sloan, is a starter for this year’s Scott City squad. Sloan probably won’t start for a Division I power like Ron, but he will make a program very happy with his presence. 

Sean and I got home from Scott City right at 10 p.m. I got a few hours of sleep, then woke up early to get my work for the Russell County News done before my 8 a.m. appointment with Crista Geyer in Hays. We started a few minuets late since Crista was returning calls and e-mails from Tuesday when she wasn’t in the office, but now that I’m doing far better than I was on my first two visits, the missed time was not a big deal. 

I got out of Russell at 2:15 this afternoon after getting my hair cut. Got to Beloit just before 5, since I took the long way through Salina to make a couple of stops. I’m going back through Salina on the way home, so I probably won’t see Russell until 11:30. I’m going in the opposite direction tomorrow, either to Hill CIty or Quinter in all likelihood. 

I have got to get to Kansas City. Liz’s situation with her mom still in the hospital has me really worried. 

Russell goes on, Norton goes home

It wasn’t much of a matchup in the Amos Morris Gymnasium this evening. The Russell Lady Broncos never trailed Norton, building a 15-2 lead through the first six minutes and coasting to a 44-29 victory.

Russel (11-10 gets a third shot at Beloit (18-3) in the semifinals Thursday at 7:30 p.m. on the Trojans’ home floor. Beloit won the two regular season meetings, 53-47 at Russell Jan. 9 and 73-54 at Beloit Feb. 13. This will be the first postseason game between the North Central Activities Association foes since 2003.

The Bluejays (10-12) got as close as six late in the third quarter, but the Broncos quickly responded and extended their lead back to double figures.

The Broncos will have trouble getting past Beloit. Not only did the Trojans sweep the regular season series, but Russell is 1-9 this season vs. teams with winning records. The lone win was over Class 1A LaCrosse in the semifinals of the Hoisington Winter Jam Jan. 23. The Broncos were also 0-2 vs. Ellinwood, Minneapolis and Southeast of Saline, and lost to Central Plains in the championship of the Amos Morris/George Stephens Classic.

It looks like Phillipsburg will be half the matchup in the other semifinal at Beloit. The Panthers lead Hoisington 36-24 after three. The opponent will likely be Minneapolis, which is going for the three-game sweep of Ellsworth.

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.

Norton takes command

Norton leads the girls varsity game 24-15 at halftime. Ellis was up 9-8 at the end of the 1st quarter, but the Bluejays scored the first six points of the second and has had control since. The nine-point cushion is the largest of the game so far.

The boys junior varsity game went to overtime, so the girls varsity tipped 10 minutes later than scheduled.

It is a little unusual to be covering basketball on a Thursday night, but at least I get to see a game. I can’t go tomorrow night, obviously, because I’ll be busy with wrestling.

The Lady Railers are back on the court to warm up for the second half. I’ll take that as a hint

Gotta go

I’m trying to get out of my house in a hurry to begin what will be a hectic 48 hours. I have my car loaded, but I am not ready to leave quite yet. I also want to stop and get a haircut before finally exiting Russell.

I have a basketball game tonight, Norton at Ellis. The game was scheduled for tomorrow night, but Ellis agreed to move the game to Thursday since Norton is hosting a Class 3-2-1A regional wrestling tournament Friday and Saturday. This is the third time I can recall Ellis and Norton moving a basketball game to Thursday because the Bluejays are hosting regional wrestling. In 2007 and 2013, those games were at Norton. The game was going to be at Norton again this year, but due to an adjustment in the Mid-Continent League schedule due to the addition of Oakley and TMP-Marian, the schedule was adjusted to allow Ellis to host again this year.

After the game, I drive to Norton and check in at the Sleep Inn for the third time this year and fourth time in two months. Tomorrow at 2 p.m., the regional wrestling tournament begins at the high school. There are 23 teams scheduled to enter, and I have to worry about four–Ellis, Phillipsburg, Plainville and Smith Center. Wrestling will go through at least 8 p.m. tomorrow with the semifinals.

Then comes the tricky part.

The regional is scheduled to resume at 11 a.m. Saturday, but there is a forecast of snow. It doesn’t matter to me–I’m booked in the hotel through Sunday, and now have a reservation to stay until Monday at noon if need be. For those who don’t have reservations, it’s going to be an iffy proposition. The National Weather Service in Goodland is projecting 3-4 inches of snow in Norton over the weekend, starting at midnight Friday and continuing for the next two days. Of course, that will mean US 283 will be snowpacked. Great.

Yesterday’s session with Crista Geyer went very well. It was a relief not to be talking about so many negative incidents. I got my work for Russell done a little after 1, and it was killing time most of the day. I was glad to be home, because my mother cooked catfish for Ash Wednesday.

I gotta get going. I’ll be back later tonight, either from Ellis or Norton. Maybe both.

New dot connected

I apologize for not blogging since getting back from Beloit Friday night. I’ve been battling a cold the last few days, and combined with the heavy workload which comes following a week full of basketball games, blogging moved down a few notches on my priority list.

If there’s ever a good time to catch a cold for me, it would have been last weekend. It was the one weekend in February where I do not have a wrestling tournament to cover, and since Valentine’s Day was Saturday, I figured if a single guy had to be sick, why not be sick on Valentine’s Day? I totally avoided social media that day. Not that I wanted to rain on anyone’s parade, but I felt it would be the best way to avoid trouble. No problems for certain.

I’m well enough to be back on the road tonight covering basketball. Tonight’s journey takes me to a new destination and a gym the likes of which I have not seen before, or may not see again.

I am in Kinsley, the seat of Edwards County. The town touts itself as the dead center of the United States, exactly halfway between San Francisco and New York City, even though the official geographic center of the lower 48 is near Lebanon in Smith County, about 12 miles from Smith Center. Kinsley may not have much, but it does get a heck of a lot of 18-wheeler traffic, since it lies at the junction of three US highways–50, 56 and 183. 50 and 56 join at Kinsley for a westward journey to Dodge City before splitting again at Dodge, with 50 going to Garden City and 56 to Liberal. I came south on 183 from Hays to Kinsley, although it would have been shorter for me to go from Russell to Great Bend on US 281 south and then southwest on 56.

Kinsley is a member of the Central Prairie League, the same as Victoria. With Russell’s teams off tonight, I figured it might be a good idea to see something new and cover Victoria at the same time.

Well, the Kinsley gym is unique.

It isn’t very hard to find. It’s separate from the rest of the school facing the business district. You can tell it’s a gym–not only is the building shaped like a gym on the outside, it’s lettered in plain sight for eveyrone to see. Good idea.

Once inside, it’s a sight to behold.

There is a small lobby when you enter on the west side. The bleachers on the south side are small, what you might expect from a small-town gym.

The north side bleachers are like nothing you’ll ever see in a gym.

Not only are the north side bleachers steep, but they are carpeted. It’s like sitting on the living room floor of your home. I don’t know about what it does to people with backaches, but it’s got to be a lot better on the butt than wood or gym floor.

There isn’t much room between the baseline and the wall, but I’ve seen many gyms with less.

Hey, now I can say I’ve been to Kinsley, something a lot of reporters in this state can’t say. Another dot filled in on the map.

This is the prelude to the big event this weekend, the regional wrestling tournament in Norton I will be covering Friday and Saturday. It will be my fourth event in Norton this year, but it will be my fourth stay this month alone at the Sleep Inn, since i’ve used it for pivots for events in Oberlin and Phillipsburg as well as Norton.

For those who may not know, today is Mardi Gras. In less than seven hours, Lent will begin, and there won’t be any more parading in the Big Easy until early next year. I don’t miss Mardi Gras. I went to my last parade in 1994, and I swore I would never go to one again. The only exception might be to Thoth to see my friends ride..