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A needed trip to Norton

I ventured to Norton tonight for the first time since late September to see the Bluejays play Stockton in basketball. The main reason I went was to see Peggy and Caitlyn, both of whom I had not seen since early November. They are two of my “irreplaceables” whom I blogged about before Christmas.

Sadly, one of my irreplaceables is leaving soon. More on that in another post.

Peggy told me Caitlyn is transferring from Johnson County Community College to Ottawa University to start the spring semester. It’s a good move for Caitlyn, since her brother, Conor, attends Ottawa, and her sister, Courtney, lives in rural Miami County with Andy and Finley. Poor Chelsea in Colby with Sam and Seth, but at least Peggy gets down there enough so she doesn’t feel left out.

Norton won both games–girls 56-48 and boys 47-41. The Bluejay boys are starting over after losing all of their key players from the last two seasons, which saw Norton reach the Class 3A state tournament. Norton’s girls are finding a rhythm even without Caitlyn and Baylee Miller, who was the starting point guard for the last two seasons.

Norton played tonight instead of Friday because it is hosting its huge wrestling tournament Saturday, and this gave the school an extra day to prepare. In fact, wrestling mats were being rolled out immediately after the boys game ended.

The big news wasn’t the games.

Rather, it was a double homicide which took place in rural Graham County northeast of Hill City. The Graham County Sheriff’s office and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation identified the suspect and told residents in northeast Graham County, southern Phillips County and northern Rooks County to lock their doors, cars and other valuables.

At first, Peggy thought I might have to take US 36 east to Phillipsburg and then US 183 to Hays before jumping on I-70 to get back to Russell. But when I saw KWCH report the suspect was moving towards Phillips County between Phillipsburg and Stockton, I figured it was best I just go back the way I came, US 283 from Norton to WaKeeney and then I-70 to Russell.

I saw FIVE deer on 283. Four were on the sides of the road just south of the Norton/Graham county line, and the fifth was a fawn crossing south of Hill City. No trouble, but deer always worry me, having creamed one on 183 north of Hays six weeks after moving to Kansas, then clipping one between Washington and Belleville on 36 in September 2012.

Going to sleep late tonight. No reason to get up early. Nowhere to go, really. Kansas City is a great place to avoid, especially Saturday when the Chiefs play the Titans at Arrowhead to open the NFL playoffs. The way I figure, every sports bar in the area will be loud and obnoxious. If the Chiefs win, then the fans will be whooping it up and hollering all night. If they lose, then the fans will be emptying their vocabularies of expletives. No thanks.

 

Tigers and Bluejays…oh my!

Just before I woke up, I had a strange dream.

I discovered a secret passageway between Norton and Stockton high schools. I was trying to make my way from Stockton’s gym to Norton’s, but there was a crush of people. I somehow made it through.

In that same dream, Caitlyn and Peggy suddenly disappeared without telling me where they were going. The case to my cell phone broke. To top it all off, Norton’s wrestling team was competing in a┬átournament, but the high school I went to, Brother Martin in New Orleans, was in the same tournament. I was upset I was missing that.

Norton and Stockton connected? Sure, I know both are in the Mid-Continent League, but they’re pretty far apart. They’re nowhere near each other; Norton is at the junction of US 283 and US 36, and Stockton is where US 183 and US 24 meet. I could understand if there were a passage between Stockton and Plainville, since they’re in the same county and 15 miles apart, but with Norton? Hmm. But anything is possible in a dream.

Now that I’m awake, I have to get ready for my session with Crista in┬áHays, and later today, my trip to Norton to watch Caitlyn play volleyball vs. Goodland, Dundy County of Benkelman, Neb., and Stratton, Colo. I missed Caitlyn’s matches Tuesday in WaKeeney, but she and Peggy forgave me. The Bluejays won vs. Oakley and Trego to improve to 5-2 this year.

I had an appointment with Dr. Custer yesterday. I learned something new about her: she has two sons, both born in October, although neither on the 13th, my birthday. I’m glad. I’m certain she’s a super mom. My health is pretty good, although I need to be more vigilant about checking my blood sugar.

If the Royals weren’t finished before, they are now. Losing three consecutive games at home to the Athletics, mired in the basement of the AL West, is inexcusable. Maybe Oakland is extracting its pound of flesh for the loss in the 2014 AL Wild Card game. Then again, the Athletics have always had it in for Kansas City, given the franchise’s pitiful 13-season existence in KC.

Ned Yost is going to rue the day he ever brought Joakim Soria back to KC. Yes, he was an All-Star for Trey Hillman, but now, he’s shot. He would have done much better giving Kelvim Herrera the closer’s role when Wade Davis went down. Greg Holland wasn’t an option since he’s still recovering from Tommy John surgery. Royals fans should not be that sad. It wasn’t that long ago avoiding 90 losses was reason to celebrate.

I’m going to have to drive back to Russell after my appointment with Crista. Not ideal, but if I went straight to Norton, I’d be there before noon. The other option is to drive all the way to Colby, go up to Atwood and then over to Norton, but that would burn too much gas. Not a big deal.

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.