MARSHALL: On the road again


Some might call it the week from h...

Some might call it the week from h...

But I call it the week that I can feast on my favorite week of the winter sports season — state basketball tournaments.

The only problem with this week, however, is that I never really know where, or when, I might show up to watch a game.

That's because all the decisions I make are based upon the qualifying teams we have from The Telegram's 12-county, 19-school readership area.

This year, the process was a bit simpler, only because we didn't have that many area schools to advance.

Holcomb's boys and Cimarron's girls in Class 3A in Hutchinson; Hugoton's girls and Scott City's boys in Class 4A-II at Hartman Arena in Park City, just north of Wichita; and Dighton's girls in Class 1A-II in Hays.

Obviously, I can't be in more places than one at a time. I keep hoping for the Star Trek version of "beam me up Scotty" to transport me from one place to another, and do so quickly. Ah, dream on!

Wednesday was opening day across the state, and first I was back in the familiar Class 3A at Hutchinson's famed Sports Arena.

It was time to see how the Holcomb Longhorns boys would fare in their first trip to the state since 2009.

Sadly, they came up short against Nemaha Valley, a team that had fared poorly against the state champion Scott City Beavers in both 2012 and 2013.

This time, the whistles were aplenty, and the Longhorns got the (pardon the pun) short end of it. Nemaha Valley went to the line an unheard of 44 times and made an even more unheard of 39 of them (that's 88.6 percent folks!). Not even nine 3-point baskets by the Longhorns, eight of those in the second half, could overcome that free-throw parade.

The loss was a heartbreaker for the Longhorns, but in the coming weeks, the players, coaches, school and community can look back on the season with much pride. Winning the Great West Activities Conference title, ending a drought by beating Scott City, and having a team that loses only one starter provides coach Chad Novack with reasons for high optimism in the coming seasons. Stay tuned as the Longhorns will be heard from again.

With the benefit of a game in between the two that I had planned to cover on Wednesday, I had just the right amount of time (40 minutes) to drive to Hartman Arena and watch the Hugoton Lady Eagles make their first state tournament appearance since 1993.

Unfortunately, the youthful Lady Eagles also came up on the low end of a 53-41 score to Holton.

The Lady Eagles have no seniors on their team. They are quick, can shoot the ball, play tough defense and try to run up and down the floor as quickly as possible. Three freshmen are among the top players for the Lady Eagles. The only thing they lack is height on the front line. I'm not quite sure, but it looks as though none of their players measure more than perhaps 5-6. That certainly created a challenge in the game with Holton, which had 5-11 and 5-10 forwards who consistently rebounded and made follow shots.

I won't be in Topeka for Class 5A, where Hays' boys squeaked out its opening win on the boys side to remain unbeaten. I won't be in Koch Arena for Class 6A, where the Maize Lady Eagles, the team that knocked out Garden City, won its opening game.

I also won't be in Emporia (Class 1A-I) or Hays (1A-II) or Manhattan (2A). Too many places, too far to drive, not enough time, and no area schools to cover there, except where our sister paper, Hays Daily News, will write about the Dighton Lady Hornets. Another sister paper, The Hutchinson News, will provide game coverage of the Cimarron Lady Bluejays, while I put a wrap on the Scott City boys.

Now that the Kansas schools have once again proved their lack of reason by splitting 4A into two divisions, the state tournaments have become more watered down in quality than ever before. It happens to some degree in Classes 6A and 5A, where there are 32 schools in each class. It has happened now for several years in Class 1A, when it, too, split into two divisions.

There are rumblings that Classes 3A and 2A are thinking about submitting a proposal to the Kansas State High School Activities Association governing board to split those classes from 64 to 32 schools each. It's a bit like 5-card draw — I'll call you and raise you one!

Many KSHSAA officials, and school administrators and coaches, are in agreement that there's too many classes for the size and population of Kansas. But our schools just can't help themselves. They all want to go to state tournaments.

Now, one in four schools in Class 6A, 5A, 4A-I, 4A-II, 1A-I and 1A-II make it to the state. In classes 3A and 2A, it's one in eight. Something is wrong with that sense of fairness.

While I have pored over the classification issue on more than one occasions in the six seasons here at The Telegram, no plan is fool proof. Somebody will always object, even if it makes sense.

So, what is the solution to the classification madness? Honestly, the only answer I come up with is to change the structure of governance, where each class is not in charge of its own destiny. Something needs to be done for the greater good. Eight classes in basketball is too many, and if 2A and 3A follow suit, then it becomes 10. Duh!

All we can hope is for some sense of reason to prevail, somewhere down the road.

Speaking of the road — I better get moving. The next game awaits.

Sports Editor Brett Marshall can be emailed at

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