TMP wins nail-biter to earn another state scholars bowl berth
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
RUSSELL -- Coaches don't mind being surprised -- as long as it's a good surprise.
The Thomas More Prep-Marian High School scholars bowl team kept its coach on the edge of his seat most of the day Thursday in Class 3A regional action.
After grabbing the third, and final, qualifying spot out of their pool, the Monarchs finished second in the six-team finals to advance to state for the third time in four years.
Russell went undefeated in pool play to qualify for the finals, something it had accomplished every single meet this season. The Broncos then won all five of their finals matches as well to keep the regional championship trophy at home -- and qualify for state for the third consecutive year.
The top three teams from regionals in Classes 4A through 1A qualify for state.
Ellsworth was the third qualifying team, finishing in third.
"I was thinking, 'Hopefully, we'll get third and just get back to state,' " said Don Hageman, coach of the Monarch squads that won back-to-back 3A state titles in 2010 and '11. "I didn't think we had enough wins to get second."
When all the scores were in, TMP and Ellsworth tied for second with 3-2 marks, but the Monarchs earned the runner-up trophy by virtue of beating the Bearcats in their head-to-head finals match.
One of TMP's victories in the finals was an exciting one over Scott City, which had edged the Monarchs in pool play. In that all-so-important match in the finals, it took three tiebreaker questions before TMP answered correctly and earned a 60-50 victory that ultimately meant the difference of which team went to state.
Like TMP, perennial 3A power Norton nabbed the third qualifying spot for the finals out of its pool. But the Bluejays went a surprising 1-4 in the finals, with that one win coming in their final match of the day.
In all, 11 area teams qualified for state, including several newcomers. By contrast, other state qualifiers from a year ago in addition to Norton didn't make it out of regionals this time around.
One of those was Sharon Springs. The Wildcats, who had placed in the top three at the Class 1A, Division II state tournament the past two years, didn't make the finals of the ultra-competitive Rolla regional. Sharon Springs was in the same pool as defending champion Rolla, Ransom-Western Plains and Weskan.
Those three teams all had been at state last year along with Sharon Springs. Rolla ended up winning the regional crown, with Western Plains finishing second. Weskan just missed out of qualifying again, finishing fourth.
Like Sharon Springs, Almena-Northern Valley -- another Class 1A, Division II state qualifier from a year ago -- won't return to state after finishing fourth at the Wilson regional. Qualifiers from that meet were Brewster, Grainfield/Wheatland-Grinnell and Bird City-Cheylin, in that order.
* In Class 1A, Division I competition at Stockton, the host school claimed the regional title with a perfect 5-0 record in the finals. The other state qualifiers were Hoxie and Atwood-Rawlins County.
* Area teams making the 2A state tournament from the Lincoln regional were Smith Center and Oberlin, which finished 1-2. The third-place team was Bennington, with Oakley barely missing out in fourth place. Ness City, the only area team competing in the 2A Ellinwood regional, did not make the finals.
* In 4A competition at Abilene, Goodland made the finals, where it went 2-3 and finished fourth, one spot out of qualifying for state.
* And in a Class 5A meet at Wichita, Hays High School closed out its season going 1-6 in pool play. The Indians were placed in the same pool as Wichita's Bishop Carroll and Kapaun-Mount Carmel and Andover Central, which finished 2-3-4 at last year's state meet.
Not surprisingly, those three teams qualified for Thursday's regional finals, with Kapaun winning the title, Andover-Central finishing second and Bishop Carroll fourth. The top four from the 5A and 6A regionals qualified for state, scheduled for Feb. 9 -- 5A at Newton, 4A at Wellington, 3A at Cimarron, 2A at Brookville, Class 1A, Division I at Rosalia and Class 1A, Division II at Natoma.