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.
I’m a tired puppy. I felt myself dozing off during the first round of wrestling this morning. We had a 30-minute break between 11:50 and 12:20. The first thing I’m doing when I get back to the appropriately named Sleep Inn Norton is SLEEP. If I can wake up early enough I might be able to make it to KC for the Super Bowl blowout.
This has been such a disjointed week. Next week will be more normal, with basketball Tuesday and Friday and wrestling Thursday and Saturday.
If it’s the last Saturday of January, it must mean I’m covering a wrestling tournament.
Indeed, I’m in Oberlin for the fourth annual Western Kansas Tournament of Champions, bringing together schools from the MId-Continent and Northwest Kansas Leagues. Each league held its own tournament on this weekend through 2011, but due to declining numbers all around both leagues, the decision was made for a combined tournament starting in 2012.
Please pardon me if I’m a bit exhausted. I’ve traveled over 400 miles in the past 24-plus hours, bringing my parents home from Kansas City, driving to Norton to stay last night, and then on to Oberlin this morning. Thankfully, I was able to get some sleep when I got back to Russell yesterday afternoon. Staying in Norton was also a good move, because it allowed me to sleep later and still arrive in plenty of time.
Wrestling is about to start. I’m going back to Norton to stay tonight and then heading south and east tomorrow. I’ve been asked by many at Buffalo Wild Wings, both employees and guests, to come for the Super Bowl, but if the weather is bad, I’m staying in Russell. Even if the weather is okay, I might not have the stamina to make that long drive again.