Here are my four favorite stories in the order they happened throughout the 2011-2012 school year.
Anybody from the Wichita area who has been to Topeka for state volleyball, has probably either left after the 6A game, or grabbed a bite to eat during the 5A tournament, waiting for the 6A finale to start. This is because there hasn’t been a local interest team making it to the 5A state championship match since around the same time Cain murdered Abel.
But with Newton taking on Valley Center in the semifinals, the drought was over. The semifinal match was unique in that it was a teacher versus student match between Valley Center’s Bryan Otte and Newton’s Jamie Dibbens, who played for Otte in Moundridge. Newton advanced on Dibbens’ first career win over Otte. And Newton wanted to win, it wasn’t happy just being there, it was trying to win. Yet, the Railers didn’t feel like a team that had lost when it was over. They were actually quite ecstatic with the second-place finish, making it one of the most fun "losing" teams I have ever covered.
Northwest boys take Maize with a Nicholson buzzer-beater
There were a couple of things about this game that made it memorable on the periphery. For one thing, you had Northwest soccer coach Bobby Bribiesca receiving a National Coach of the Year trophy. That doesn’t happen every day. And, it was the first time I have seen former Northwest wrestling stars Kyle Caylor and Trey Page together since winning state titles in 2010. Caylor was the best 215-pounder in the state and Page was the top heavyweight. But seeing them together at the halftime show of this game, it would have been tough for the untrained eye to tell who won at which weight.
Now, finally, on to the game. Buzzer beaters make basketball fun. In the winter, I don’t actually get to go out and see a lot of ball, but when I do, I would like to be able to see at least one last-second game-winning shot. It’s probably too much to ask for, but hey, I’m picky and it’s this kind of entertainment value that blurs the line between work and pleasure. It’s a shot like Craig Nicholson’s in this game that almost makes me feel guilty for taking a paycheck—almost.
Kapaun baseball closes out Carroll in 1-run win
There is nothing quite like a rivalry, and one of the best in the state is Kapaun and Carroll. Coming into this game, Carroll carried a No. 1 ranking in 5A, and rightfully so as the Golden Eagles went on to win the state championship. But true to the form of the rivalry, it meant nothing at the time. Kapaun was destroying Carroll from the start, going up 7-0 after two, and making it look like a run rule might come into play.
But it never felt like the Crusaders had it put away, even nearing a double-digit lead. Carroll is just too dangerous. And after a dismal start, the Golden Eagles came back to take the lead. A major reason I am drawn to sports is that it brings out the true nature of a person’s character. Sports are the ultimate lie detector.
It would have been easy for the Carroll dugout to quit down 7 runs; they fought back to take the lead. It would have been easy for the Kapaun dugout to see the opportunity squashed and quit; they retook the lead.
My hat’s off to the grit shown by both of the teams in this game. Kapaun’s ability to stick with it and complete the win went a long way in wrapping up a share of the City League title. I’m sure Charlie Ebright was none too happy with Carroll’s performance out of the gate, but the ability to get off the canvas had to give him at least the slightest of inward smiles looking to the postseason glory ahead.
Medicine Lodge dethrones Sedan in 2-1A state baseball
I am a baseball guy; love the time spent in the warm spring and summer air working on my sunburn. And I have friends that are of the opinion that unless teams are scoring runs in numbers that would make a football scoreboard blush, it is a boring game. But as a former catcher, a pitcher painting a masterpiece is as good as it gets for me.
And Zach Larkin’s time spent in Emporia was nothing short of a masterpiece. This was no two-day vacation for the Medicine Lodge hurler. On Friday, I had the pleasure of watching him throw 118 pitches in a two-hitter against Little River. One of the perils of a single-elimination baseball tournament is pitching availability. Great, we got to Saturday on the grueling work of our ace. Now what?
Here’s what. One day later, Larkin got the start in the championship game and struck out 11 in five innings of work. That’s only four outs in his five innings that took more than just Larkin and a catcher to record. In his fifth and final inning, coach Chuck Dirks came out to the mound for a visit, with Larkin urging him to stay in the dugout and showing visible disdain for the timeout. Can you believe that? In his 12th inning in two days, he didn’t even want the breather.
And in a world of 24-hour news cycles, leading to stuffy and boring coach-speak that has trickled down to the high school level, Dirks was fantastic in this game. If you don’t think this game meant anything to him, watch the video and check out one of the last “kids” attacking the dog pile. This is video I could watch on loop all summer and it would be brand new every time.