Archive for Wednesday, March 16, 2005

State tourney old hat for assistants

March 16, 2005

Sue Walker's mind flashed back about 20 years Thursday when she strolled into Salina's Bicentennial Center.

Although Walker was an assistant for this year's Tonganoxie High girls basketball team that finished fourth at state, the coach played in the state tournament in 1984 when she was a junior at Basehor High.

The Bobcats had advanced to the state tournament after winning a substate tournament in Atchison.

"The send-off was just about the same," Walker said, referring to the enthusiasm surrounding the Chieftains last week. "When we went, that was the first time a Basehor girls team had gone."

At the end of Basehor's substate championship game, the coach of the Atchison boys team told the Basehor girls, "We'll see you in Salina."

The Atchison boys still had to play their substate championship game. AHS, coincidentally, was paired with Tonganoxie in the finals.

The coach's prediction was incorrect as it was Tonganoxie that advanced to the state tournament that year. That was the last time the boys advanced to Salina. The Chieftains placed fourth that year.

Walker recalled then-Tonganoxie boys coach Ken Diskin sending the Basehor team a telegram in Salina that wished the team good luck at state.

Basehor's coach at the time was Rich Haynes, who now is a paraprofessional at Tonganoxie Elementary School. Basehor's assistant principal at the time was Richard Erickson, who now is Tonganoxie's superintendent.

In what Walker thought was one of the early years of the Kaw Valley League, the KVL had three state teams in 1984 -- De Soto and Basehor in Class 4A and Immaculata in 3A.

"The league was very strong," Walker said. "I think we had four losses. It was a battle."

When Walker played, not all girls state tournament games were played at the Bicentennial Center.

Quarterfinal games were played on the same night. Now, the quarterfinals are broken down to Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Previously, the girls' quarterfinals were played nearby at Marymount College. The school now is home to the Kansas Highway Patrol Training Academy.

For girls teams, that first-round game was even more important because the semifinals and finals were played at the much-larger Bicentennial Center, which opened in 1979.

"I remember walking in that first time and going, 'Oh, my Lord,'" Walker said about the Bicentennial Center. "It was a lot bigger than the Basehor gym, that's for sure."

Basehor beat Baxter Springs at Marymount and then lost to Concordia in the semifinals. The Bobcats defeated Council Grove in the consolation game and placed third at state.

Before Basehor and Linwood consolidated a few years later, Linwood also made a trip to state in 2A, Walker said.

Walker made one other trip to a state tournament.

As head coach at Central Heights in 1994, Walker guided the Vikings to their first postseason tournament since the early 1980s when the school won back-to-back state titles.

Central Heights played Immaculata that year in the 3A quarterfinals in Hutchinson. Immaculata went on to win the state title that season.

"It's funny how the same teams come up," Walker said. "It's that tradition thing."

Success at Sublette

Assistant coach Jon Jacques is no stranger to state tournaments, either.

Sublette won the Class 2A boys state tournament in 1995 when Jacques was a sophomore and placed fourth the next year when he was a junior.

The Larks also advanced to state in 1994, but Jacques was a freshman that year and did not suit up on the tournament team.

"All week long, I was bouncing off the walls," Jacques said. "And even the kids said I was excited about it."

Jacques played his state tournaments at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, a venue about twice the size of the Bicentennial Center.

Jacques was fortunate enough to be a part of a three-year state run when he was a player.

He hopes Tonganoxie can have a similar run, as every state tournament is an amazing opportunity, he said.

"It's all about building," Jacques said.

Jacques alma mater, by the way, won this year's Class 2A state girls tournament in Manhattan with a victory against Salina's Sacred Heart.

First time at state

Before last week, THS head coach Randy Kraft had no experience at the state basketball tournament.

In more than 20 years at Colony-Crest High School, Kraft coached in several substate championship games, but never advanced his team to the Class 1A state tournament in Hays.

A native of Gridley, Kraft played high school basketball at GHS, but didn't make his way to a state tournament as a player.

"We were never a state contender," Kraft said. "We were a bunch of little guards."

After just three years at Tonganoxie, Kraft now can say he was part of a state team.

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