Ness City's run to state an emotional ride
Published on -3/5/2013, 10:11 AM
By CONOR NICHOLL
Ness City High School boys' basketball coach Matt Overlease and his wife, Tiffany, expected their first child March 25. However, their baby girl, Brooklyn, came last week, at the start of the Class 2A sub-state.
Overlease coached the Eagles in a first-round victory against Hill City, and then went to Hays Medical Center. Brooklyn was born during that night, so Overlease stayed Tuesday in Hays and didn't coach practice.
"I put it on my assistant coaches and my seniors to come in and practice hard," Overlease said.
Overlease went back and forth from practice to the hospital and returned to the court at Plainville for a sub-state semifinal victory against Mankato-Rock Hills on Thursday and the championship Saturday versus Oakley. The last two victories came by 15 points each.
"It's been an emotional ride, it really has," Overlease said. "It's been a blast. I am very blessed to have a healthy wife and a healthy daughter, and then, it's an honor to coach such hard-working individuals and such a group of great young men. It's been a great week."
Ness City has now qualified for state in each of Overlease's three seasons. The Eagles have lost in the first two rounds the last two years. No. 7 seed Ness City (16-7) plays No. 2 Lyndon (22-1) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan.
Senior Tucker VonLehe said the key to playing better at state is probably "focus a little more."
"We just have to go down there with the same energy and the same emotion we played here," Overlease said after the sub-state championship. "I said it last year, we can't be content with getting there. Now, we still have work to do. When you are coaching and they do something good, there is always a but.
"There is something else we've got to do better and there is another game," he added. "The only time there won't be a but is if you play the state championship and if you win the state championship. They have got to stay focused and stay hungry."
Overlease has retooled through several roster changes. The Clarke brothers, John and Drew, led the Eagles the last two years. No player has started all three seasons. The team has nine seniors, paced by VonLehe, Dalton Gantz, Garrett Flax and Colin Foos.
"This team, there is not a real vocal leader," Overlease said. "I think the Clarke kids kind of did a good job in the past being vocal leaders, stepping up in practice. Now, there is just five, six, 10 of them at anytime. Anyone of these seniors will step up and help each other out. It's positive most of the time. They are just always encouraging each other."
VonLehe and Gantz have seen time all three seasons. Flax started as a sophomore, missed last year because of injury and is starting now. Foos moved from Colorado before last winter. He has been hurt most of the year, but was back for sub-state and has the ability to score often.
"We have a go-to guy now," VonLehe said. "It's somebody we can count on, somebody that makes plays happen, so it's good to have him back."
Ness City has plenty of athleticism and speed and has allowed just 50 points per game. The Eagles allowed just 35 and 47 points in the last two sub-state victories. For the season, Rock Hills had averaged 47 points a contest, while Oakley averaged 59 points a game.
"Their constant pressure on the perimeter doesn't let you relax and let you make easy passes into the post," Oakley coach Steve Allison said. "... The guys who they bring off the bench are pretty athletic. They are not very big, but they jump well. They are strong, they are quick and everybody can shoot the ball. They are a tough matchup."
After losing twice in mid-February, Ness City finished the regular season with a victory against Dighton, a Class 1A Division II state qualifier and three wins in sub-state.
"We pulled together more as a team," VonLehe said. "We are all laughing, having a good time. It's not as serious in practice anymore. We are in this to go all the way."