PLAINVILLE, Kan. - Hill City’s Keith Riley has led the Ringneck boys’ basketball program for more than 50 years. He is the state’s all-time leader in boys’ wins with 707.
This winter, the Ringnecks have a seven-player rotation. No one is taller than six-foot. Junior Brody McDowell, last year’s leading scorer, suffered a knee injury in football, didn’t return until the first week in January and is still getting into basketball shape.
In the Mid-Continent League quarterfinals Tuesday, Hill City upset Plainville, ranked third in Class 2A. In Friday’s semifinals, Riley again displayed his coaching acumen. Thomas More Prep-Marian required a fourth-quarter comeback to defeat Hill City, 49-45, at Plainville High School.
TMP, ranked No. 10 in Class 3A, is 9-1 and has won nine straight games. The Monarchs average 65 points a contest and had a season-low for points despite significant advantages in size and depth. TMP lists four players at 6-1 or taller, notably 6-7 senior forward Carson Jacobs.
In the postgame handshake line, Monarch coach Bill Meagher paid Riley a compliment. As well, multiple fans came up to Riley afterward and congratulated his team on a fine effort.
“You are the best coach in the country,” Meagher said.
The third-seeded Monarchs will play No. 8 seed Phillipsburg in Saturday’s MCL league tournament championship game at Plainville. The 8-4 Panthers have made a surprising run with five straight victories, including three in the tournament.
Phillipsburg defeated Hoxie, ranked sixth in 2A, in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, the Panthers defeated Ellis, 45-41 as Tyler Martin had 11 points, including a key 3-pointer and free throws. Phillipsburg is the three-time defending league tournament champions. TMP won the crown in ’15 and ’16.
In a physical contest, TMP led 19-13 after the first quarter and 25-21 at halftime. Jacobs finished with 15 points, though had 12 by intermission.
“They have a nice ballclub,” Riley said.
Both teams normally shoot the 3-pointer well. Entering Friday, Hill City averages 42 percent on 3-pointers, and TMP collects 5.4 made treys a contest. However, Hill City made two from beyond the arc, and the Monarchs had four, three from junior Jackson Schulte.
“It’s just really, really hard,” Meagher said. “He is really, really good at getting his guys to execute exactly what he wants.”
Hill City had no player in double figures, but seven players had within four and eight points.
“They do play hard,” Riley said of his squad.
HC, paced by a trey from senior Dalen Journigan, led 33-30 entering the fourth. The Ringnecks had a 36-34 advantage with 5:27 remaining.
“They just do a great job of keeping their hands up and being active,” Meagher said of HC.
Junior Kyle Richmeier, who shoots 59 percent on treys, made just one 3. Riley said Richmeier has battled sickness.
“We played pretty well,” Riley said. “Offensively, we missed a bunch of shots.”
Schulte delivers 17 points a game and collected 15. Known for his clutch shooting, he delivered another big shot with a 3 from the corner for a 37-36 lead with 5:01 left, shortly after the Monarchs called a timeout. During the break, Meagher said little and watched as the TMP seniors led.
“Great senior leadership,” Meagher said.
Later in the quarter, Schulte found Jacobs for a basket and 43-38 margin. TMP struggled with free throw shooting in the third. However, paced by junior Lucas Lang, the Monarchs went 12 of 16 from the foul line in the fourth to secure the win.