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To console or not to console

The last day of Kansas’ high school basketball season is upon us. However, it’s all sideshows and consolation games until 1600, when the girls championship games start at six (five too many) sites. The boys games will start at 1815.

I have never been a fan of third place games. Never will be a fan. In Louisiana, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association does not require losers in the semifinals to come back. Kansas, along with Missouri and several other states, do.

The NCAA had a third place game in its men’s tournament from 1946 through 1981. It’s amazing it took 35 years for the NCAA to realize the teams which lost their national semifinals were in no mood to stick around at least 36 more hours to play a meaningless game. The last third place game, Virginia vs. LSU in 1981, was played the same day President Reagan was shot in Washington by John Hinckley Jr. There was serious consideration given to cancelling both the third place and championship (Indiana vs. North Carolina) games, but in the end, the games were played.

If the NCAA had been smart about it, it would have told Virginia and LSU to head for the airport and go home, because the third place game would be cancelled and not played. Then Indiana-North Carolina could be put on hold and postponed to the following day if need be. In the end, it worked out okay, because the president made it through surgery and served two full terms.

To its credit, UCLA won the only third place game it played under John Wooden, defeating Kansas in 1974 after a heartbreaking double overtime loss to North Carolina State, which defeated Marquette for the championship. Two years later, Gene Bartow coached the Bruins to victory in the consolation game against previously undefeated Rutgers. UCLA lost in that year’s semis to Indiana, which completed the last undefeated season in NCAA Division I men’s basketball by defeating Michigan.

I have never heard of a team forfeiting a third place game in Kansas, but I would applaud any coaches who would. It might force the KSHSAA to reassess the worth of third place games.

Basketball isn’t the only sport with a third place game in Kansas. ‘

Volleyball has them, but they go on at the same time as the championship match, which doesn’t add time. I think that’s a big mistake; I would like to see the championship matches played on a center court after completion of the semifinals in both classifications at a site.

Softball usually plays simultaneously on different diamonds. The biggest problems are baseball and soccer, where games can and often do go longer than regulation. Baseball is particularly troubling, since most teams have very few pitchers available due to pitch count limits.

If it were up to me, I would award each team which loses in the semifinals a plaque and medals immediately after that game, and that’s it. If the final day were only two championship games, the KSHSAA could make more money by charging two admissions and spacing the games out by four hours, playing one game at 1300 and one at 1700, alternating between boys and girls early/late each year.

If I were forced to coach in a third place game, I would play the seniors who are graduating and the players who rarely played varsity. The players on the end of the bench have worked just as hard as the starters all season. They deserve the opportunity to shine, if only for one day.

For the varsity starters who were returning the next season, I would play them, but not as much. I would explain it to them as gently as I could. Hopefully they would understand.

I remember Osborne’s girls playing in back-to-back third place games in 2007 and ’08. The Bulldogs won in the former year, and looked impressive in doing so. The next year, their hearts didn’t seem to be into it as much, and they lost.

I’m interested to see how Norton and Nemaha Central handle this. There is a trophy at stake. I don’t want a foul fest, and I don’t want a blowout.

LSU’s men’s basketball program is under serious fire for a wiretapped phone call involving coach Will Wade and the recruitment of Javonte Smart, a Baton Rouge native who is a starting guard on this year’s team. Wade is suspended indefinitely, and Smart will not play tonight vs. Vanderbilt. If the Bayou Bengals win, and they should, since the Commodores are 0-17 in the SEC, LSU will win at least a share of the conference championship and be the number one seed for the SEC tournament. Boy what bad timing, but if Wade indeed committed NCAA violations, he has to man up and pay the piper.

College basketball is corrupt. Yet people keep watching. I’m seriously considering taking a pass on this year’s NCAA tournament. I know I’m not filling out a bracket, that’s for sure.

Norton’s dreams dashed

Norton gave it all it had this afternoon, but Mary Broxterman proved to be too much.

The Royal Valley standout scored 26 points, going 9 of 14 from the field and 8 of 11 from the foul line, to help the Panthers from Hoyt to a 53-44 victory and a berth in tomorrow’s state championship game against Cheney, which leads Nemaha Central by 20 in the final minute of the third quarter.

The Bluejays, who got 16 from Taryn Kuhn and 12 from Hadley Hauser, will face the ladies from Seneca–the birthplace of John Riggins–at noon for third place.

Royal Valley is probably glad to see a new face in the championship game, even if Cheney is the obvious favorite. The Panthers lost twice to Nemaha Central in Big Seven League play during the regular season.

Riggins was born in Seneca because it has the only hospital in Nemaha County. The Diesel grew up in Centralia, a tiny hamlet 12 miles southwest of Seneca.

I’m not a fan of third place games. But I’m not playing in the game. I’m hoping Norton will regroup and come out strong. It deserves to take home something from Hutchinson after a stellar season, one where it had to navigate a difficult Mid-Continent League where Trego has its best team in at least 15 years, maybe ever, and Thomas More Prep is still a tough out even without Kayla Vitztum and other standouts.

I am ambivalent about going. Part of me says stay away because it’s a third place game. Part of me says go because it would be disrespectful to Norton. I stopped covering third place games when I was still going regularly. I missed Russell’s girls playing for third in 3A at Hutchinson in 2013; I had to be in Manhattan to watch Smith Center’s girls play for–and win–the 2A championship vs. Jefferson County North.

The carrot for the third place game is the trophy. The loser of the consolation game doesn’t get one. Now the players will have medals, but other than the sub-state championship plaque, nothing tangible commemorating the trip to state.

Norton won’t hang a banner in the Stull Gymnasium for this one, win or lose. Norton only hangs banners for state champions, a policy I like. Really like. Set the bar very high and challenge the athletes who wear the Norton colors to meet it. And that bar has been met plenty.

There is one school I covered extensively which recognizes just about any trip to a state tournament. Another filled up walls with league championship banners and sub-state championship banners, even if the team was one-and-done at state.

It was not a good day for the Mid-Continent League.

Trego’s girls lost 67-49 to Sterling in 2A, and Thomas More Prep’s boys fell 62-50 to Girard in 3A. No basketball titles for the league this year. Last year, Phillipsburg’s boys reached the 3A final, only to lose 44-42 on a buzzer beater by Halstead.

The Golden Eagles should be a force again next year. Donnie Shubert, who coached Trego’s boys to a state title many moons ago (see below), returns a ton of talent, including his daughter Lili, who was Trego’s leading scorer as a sophomore.

The MCL’s last championship, male or female, was Nick Linn’s Lady Red six years ago. The last MCL boys title? Trego in 2006. TMP won in 4A in 2007, but it was in the old Mid-State Activities Association at that time.

At least the MCL can crow about football championships by Phillipsburg and Smith Center in the fall; Trego’s girls winning cross country, led by individual 2A champion Helen Giefer; Plainville’s Jordan Finnesy winning a wrestling title; and looking forward to what should be good years in track and field and golf.

As I was running a couple of errands in Wichita this evening, an announcer referred to the girls basketball team at Kansas City Schlagle as the Stallions.

Big problem: stallions are always MALE. Schalgle and a couple of other schools perplex me with their choices of nicknames, colors and even school names. I’ll elaborate at some point tomorrow.

The tilapia from Outback was outstanding. Lunch? Not so much. I’m swearing off most fast food seafood forever (not Popeye’s). Why the heck am I eating it in the first place, considering I grew up in the best city in America for seafood?

I have problems in my life, but I could be in Venezuela, where the electricity is out in nearly the entire country, adding more misery to a country where millions are starving, the unemployment rate is 35%, $1 of currency would get you about .00000001 cents American, and the military is blocking all humanitarian aid from Colombia and Brazil.

Maduro is a psychopath, right on par with the fatso running North Korea. Anyone who supports him is also a psychopath. Huey Long was never this bad.

I’m going to try not to think of Maduro as I prepare for bed. There’s much more pleasant stuff to think of.