GREAT BEND, Kan. (KWCH) – Almena-Northern Valley averaged 66 points per game this season. On Saturday, Osborne’s speed and athleticism gave the Huskies’ problems in a 61-47 Class 1A Russell sub-state championship game victory at Barton County Community College.
The game marked the last basketball contest for Northern Valley coach Chuck Fessenden, one of the rare three-sport head coaches in Kansas.
“We were just making sure that we got a hand up on the shooters,” Osborne coach Jamie Wolters said. “Because we knew they could all shoot, and that’s a real challenge, but we got some pretty good athletes on our team, and they take a lot of pride in that.”
Fessenden has spent the last 43 years at Northern Valley, all as head football coach. He currently also serves as head boys’ basketball and longtime head track coach. Last year, Fessenden led the Huskies to the Class 1A, Division II boys’ basketball state title. He won multiple football and track state crowns.
Fessenden was emotional on the court after the game as he watched the seven Husky seniors take photographs. Northern Valley ended the season at 21-3, and Osborne bumped to 23-0. Fessenden said he had made the choice to retire before the year started, but didn’t make it known.
“We have got a good group of kids right now, and the way it is right now, I am doing football, basketball, track,” he said. “So I am doing everything, so basically I work the whole week all week, including the weekends Saturday and Sunday and stuff, so it’s quite a bit.”
As well, the loss ended NV senior Riley Sides’ career. Sides, the reigning 1A-II Player of the Year, and one of the state’s top shooters, finished with a game-high 28 points. Sides cleared 1,500 career points. Fessenden took him out of the game in the final seconds, and Sides gave a long, teary hug to his dad, Kevin, the Husky assistant coach.
The contest featured two technical fouls from Osborne and wild swings of momentum. Osborne led 11-2 after the first quarter before Northern Valley took the lead in the second. The Bulldogs hit a trey just before halftime for a 24-23 advantage.
“Their speed,” Fessenden said. “They are fast. They have got a lot of fast kids, that was the main thing, just their speed. … In the first quarter, it just took us awhile to get used to that, because we don’t play people like that normally. I mean, like in our league, we don’t have people like that. Well, most guys don’t have people that fast.”
Junior Steele Wolters finished with 18 points, and 6-foot-5, 270-pound senior Jordan Wherry delivered 17 points. Coach Wolters knew Osborne “had an advantage” with Wherry in the post.
“We had to go into the locker room, calm down,” Wherry said. “We knew that we would have to come out and have a strong push.”
In the third quarter, Osborne limited Northern Valley to just five points. NV averaged eight treys a game and made six. However, the Bulldogs, led by the defense of the Holloway brothers – senior Darnell and junior Darrien – limited the Huskies to just six 2-point makes. The game featured 45 free throws.
Afterward, several fans came up to Fessenden and congratulated him on a great season and career. Fessenden said he most enjoyed coaching the players.
“Just all the kids, especially these guys,” he said. “They are really, really good kids. Just the kids, I think, the work they put in, and to do what we do.”