By CONOR NICHOLL
Reusink hits 600 win milestone – Norton among teams with major ramification games down the stretch
On Jan. 21, Norton coach Doug Reusink sat down in the bleachers at Plainville High School after a Mid-Continent League midseason tournament semifinal contest against Thomas More Prep-Marian. The defeat marked Norton’s first loss against a Kansas team this winter. Reusink, in his 31st season with the Bluejays, and longtime assistant David Stover had to replace 47 percent of scoring from a 14-7 team.
Norton has retooled behind 6-foot-7 senior Nolan Juenemann, the team’s lone returning all-conference selection. Plus, the Bluejays have plenty of height with 6-3 sophomore point guard Roman Hauser, 6-2 senior Drake Harding and 6-4 junior Sean Anderson. Juniors Silas Jones and Rylan Wildeman are both 6-foot.
In the MCL tournament quarterfinals on Jan. 18, Norton matched up with Hill City. Reusink and Hill City coach Keith Riley have more than 1,330 career victories and a combined seven state titles.
Earlier this season, Riley moved past John Locke as the all-time winningest coach in state history among primarily boys’ coaches. The matchup between Riley and Reusink is believed to have the most combined wins by any high school boys’ coach in Kansas annals. All of Riley’s and Reusink’s wins have come in high school.
“It’s always a close game,” Reusink said. “It’s never really very pretty. I like competing against him.”
In the last 11 meetings, nine have been decided by single figures. Norton earned a 33-22 victory. In those 11 contests, the winning team has averaged 45.8 points a game. It marked the third time a team has scored 36 points or less and won in those 11 contests.
“We have coached against each other a long time, and we know each other pretty well, and that might be part of it,” Reusink said. “I think both teams are trying to get that good shot. I think both teams played well defensively. We really played well defensively… Honestly, I don’t know if either coach would say that we played a great game. We were fortunate enough. We did hit some 3s (against their zone).”
Since the loss, Hill City has reeled off seven straight wins and has averaged 66 points a game in that stretch. Norton followed by the Hill City win and the TMP loss with a challenging 52-47 overtime defeat to Phillipsburg in the third place MCL game. Since then, though, Norton is 4-1.
The stretch helped Reusink reach career win No. 600 last week, one of several coaches to hit milestones this winter. That includes an 112-59 record in the last eight seasons. Overall, Reusink is 387-273 in 31 seasons with the Bluejays.
Norton has typically had virtually zero coaching turnover for decades. However, in the last year, the Bluejays have went through several changes. Legendary wrestling coach Bill Johnson moved into Norton administration. Kevin Jilka/George Rossi led Norton girls’ basketball since the ‘80s. Rossi stepped aside from coaching the girls after a big senior class graduated last winter. Tony Fiscus, the longtime defensive coordinator and assistant wrestling coach, went to Nebraska.
Lucas Melvin and Jason Jones have spent significant years as head football and head track and remain in those positions. Reusink has kept Norton solid. TMP and Norton are the top-two teams in the 3A Goodland sub-state.
The milestone 600 win and recent surge has set up a critical final stretch for the Bluejays. With two weeks left in the regular season, Norton is one of several teams across Kansas that is in the mix for a conference championship.
On Tuesday, Norton is at WaKeeney-Trego (13-3), followed by a home game versus TMP (13-3) on Friday. Then, the Bluejays complete the regular season at Hill City (12-4). TMP and Norton are currently undefeated in regular season MCL play. TMP won the midseason tournament, though coach Bill Meagher told SIK last Friday he gives more weight to the regular season crown.
Trego has one regular season conference loss, to TMP in overtime. TMP defeated Hill City in conference.
Overall, Juenemann has turned in another all-conference worthy season with 13.8 points and 6.7 rebounds. Freshman Eli Jones has stepped up with 8.5 points and 3.1 rebounds. Anderson has 6.9 points and 3.6 rebounds. Anderson is among Kansas’ best linebackers with 100-plus tackles each of the past two winters. Harding has 6.6 points and 2.8 rebounds. Hauser has six points, 4.9 rebounds and among the state leaders with 6.3 assists per game.
Hauser comes from a highly athletic family. His dad played football at UNK. His mother was a standout Norton athlete. His two older sisters, Hadley and Tessa, were Norton standouts. Hadley has competed for Division III Bethel (Minn.) volleyball, Tessa for Division II Colorado Christian basketball.
“We just weren’t sure,” Reusink told SIK. “We knew that we had a base group that we could use, and we just weren’t sure on our depth. We have had some kids step up and do a pretty good job. We are still growing, there is no doubt that the freshmen and sophomore make freshmen and sophomore mistakes, but the thing is, when that happens, you have got to have your older kids step in and do a better job. I am pleased with our guys. I think we have done some really good things. I have been happy with the season so far.”
Eck closes in on 1,000 career wins
Kapaun Mt. Carmel coach Steve Eck, recently featured on SIK All-Access, continues to draw closer to a remarkable 1,000 career wins across all levels.
Eck retired from collegiate coaching last winter after several highly successful stints at several schools, most recently Hutchinson Community College. Eck is in his first year with the KMC boys. The Crusaders are ranked first in 5A followed by defending state runner-up Topeka West, and Hays High, which has only an overtime loss to Lawrence Free State this winter.
Per Hutchinson Community College Sports Information, Eck entered this season with a 978-163 career record, including remarkable runs at Wichita South and several junior colleges. He took four junior colleges to No. 1 in the country. KMC is currently 16-1, which pushes Eck to 994-164 in her career.
Very few college/high school boys’/men’s coaches have ever cleared 1,000 wins. Per SIK research and other sites, there are five NCAA coaches (all levels) who have reached 1,000 wins.
No just junior college coach has reached 1,000, though Walters State’s Bill Carlyle has more than 1,100 between high school and college. Walters State is located in Tennessee.
Nationally, a few high school coaches have cleared 1,000 wins, mainly in California, where high school teams play more games. Junior Will Anciaux, who has Power 5 football offers, has delivered a big season. Plus, senior Henry Thengvall has been a key player.
Auer hits 700 for Heights
Wichita Heights’ Joe Auer won his 700th game in a legendary career with the Falcons. That includes 700 across all sports coached at Heights. He has also coached baseball and golf.
Auer has won five basketball state championships in ’09, ’10, ’11, ’12 and ’15. The Falcons captured the prestigious Dodge City Tournament of Champions in January and are a legit Class 6A contender. Heights also has five all-time runner-up appearances, the most recently coming in ’98.
Heights is ranked third in 6A behind Blue Valley Northwest and Lawrence Free State. Heights stands at 14-2 and has won three straight. The Falcons lost, 45-43, to Kapaun Mt. Carmel in the season’s second game, and took a 41-38 to the Crusaders on Jan. 25. On Tuesday, Heights has a key City League game with Wichita Southeast (10-6).
Junior Marcus Ziegler has 13.3 points per game, sophomore TJ Williams has 12.2 points a contest, and senior Chase Harris has delivered 11.7 points per game. Harris has 6.6 rebounds per game. All three have at least two assists per contest.
Charlie Russell clears 1,000 points
WaKeeney-Trego senior Charlie Russell cleared 1,000 career points. He is one of a very select few with the Golden Eagles to clear 1,000. Spencer Hemmert, a former Hays Daily News Player of the Year and 2A first team all-state player, did in the mid/late 2000s. A four-year starter, Russell has been highly instrumental in turning around the Golden Eagles.
Russell also averages three assists per game. WaKeeney stands at 13-3 after a 45-28 victory versus Russell on Friday. Russell, on the short list for 2A Player of the Year, has delivered 16.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, three assists and 2.5 steals this season. Senior Cole Feldt paces with 4.4 assists a game. Trego has permitted just 37.8 points per game with two losses to Thomas More Prep-Marian, which has just one defeat since early December.
Trego is ranked fifth in 2A and a high state contender. Russell has an offer from Pratt Community College. Kenny Eddy, who enjoyed success as Pratt Skyline’s head boys’ coach, had served as the interim Pratt coach. He did a nice job and recently had the interim tag removed.
Other standout performances
Burlington girls’ basketball coach Doug Stewart reached 500 career victories. Stewart has two state titles, both undefeated crowns in 2000 and ’13.
Atchison County boys’ coach Troy Hoffman reached 400 career wins. Atchison County has three all-time final four appearances, in ’94, ’95 and ’11, which is the last state appearance for the program.
Hesston ends Hillsboro’s winning streak. Hillsboro is the defending 2A state champion, while Hesston picked up the 3A title last year. Hesston is ranked third in 3A, Hillsboro first in 2A. Hillsboro is 16-1. Hillsboro beat Hesston, 39-29, on Jan. 22 to win the Hillsboro tournament. This time, Hesston won 63-62. That ended Hillsboro’s 26-game winning streak, which was the longest current boys’ winning streak in Kansas.
Before the loss, Hillsboro’s last defeat also came against Hesston in a 44-30 loss on Feb. 11.
Sterling has the longest current girls’ winning streak.
Holton’s Matt Lierz stole the ball with two seconds left in the first quarter, and then made a three-quarters shot to end the quarter. Lierz finished with 26 points and a game-winning 3 with 15 seconds left to beat previously undefeated Royal Valley, 52-51. Royal Valley was ranked No. 1 in 3A. Holton is 10-7. Before the victory, Holton was 1-6 in the last seven meetings in the series.
Blue Valley West have enjoyed a big turnaround. The Jaguars are 13-4 after going 8-13 (3-9 in the Eastern Kansas League) last season. West beat Blue Valley Northwest, 73-70, in overtime last week.
Sublette senior Tristan Friesen has enjoyed a big year. He had 20 points, 15 rebounds and a nice dunk Friday. Sublette is 8-9, which is the Larks’ best season since a 14-8 record in ’14-15. Sublette was a combined 16-65 the last four years.
A team quietly on the rise is Great Bend boys and girls. Both teams opened 0-3 at the Hays City Shoot-Out. GB boys started 0-4 and was 3-6 on Jan. 14. The boys are now 6-10, though did pull a 58-50 upset against Buhler, which is ranked third in 4A, last Tuesday.
The girls are 6-10 as well, though have won two in a row behind two key sophomores: Emilee Hall and Sadie Spray. Hall has 10.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists a game. Spray has delivered 9.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.5 steals per contest. Spray has put together five highly efficient offensive performances: 15, 15, six, 10 and 24 points on 8 of 17 shooting. In those contests, Spray is a cumulative 25 of 49 from the field.
In a girls’ game, freshman Kennedy Gunlock scored her first varsity points on a 3 to tie the game against Altoona-Midway and send the contest in overtime. Southern Coffey County collected the victory.