|We didnt care who we played just so we got down there. With those words, Head Coach, Mark Etzelmiller expressed the Ogallala approach to their opening round game with the #1 seeded Wahoo Warriors. Although most teams qualifying for the state tournament sport impressive records, frequently teams get in with mediocre (or even in some cases, losing) records. Thats the beauty of the district basketball tournaments -- everyone starts out with a chance to qualify for state. For Ogallala it hadnt seemed like much of a chance as they entered their district with a four game losing streak and a losing record (8 - 9). But a first round win over Valentine was followed by an upset of the number one seed in the district, Chadron. Then, although down by six with under two minutes to go, the Indians came back to beat Sidney 64 - 62 and win the District crown. It was the classic Cinderella story. Etzelmiller stated the obvious, The kids and the town are pretty excited. The underdog had won and was headed to Lincoln to play for a state championship. That was the good news.
The bad news was that Ogallala would face undefeated Wahoo. As with the district tournament, Wahoo again reaped the benefits of its undefeated record and garnered the top seed (thanks to having one more win than Lincoln Pius X). The seventh seed, Schuyler, Pius Xs opponent came into the tournament with a 16 - 7 record, considerably better than Ogallala. And yet, that was all on paper. Over the years many tales could be told of top seeds getting derailed by hungry underdogs. Coach Etzelmiller called the matchup a challenge and even said the Wahoo win streak was motivating his players.
When the game tipped off at 7:00 p.m. in Pershing Auditorium, the Ogallala side of the scoreboard showed the same 0 as Wahoo. Then the incredible happened. Wahoo missed its opening shot and Ogallala advanced the ball to their end of the court where Jason Curtis nailed a fifteen footer and Ogallala took the lead. With that score, the Ogallala fans apprehension of playing the big bully number one team ebbed and the confidence first garnered by that District Championship flowed. Then Wahoo responded. Continually making pinpoint passes to their big men inside, the Warriors pulled away. Jason Glock had tallied 11 points by the end of the first quarter. Randy Hoffman scored on four consecutive shots in the second quarter. When the visiting westerners looked at the scoreboard at the end of the first half, they trailed 39 - 16. The confidence was gone and reality had set in. Etzelmiller expressed the frustration: We couldnt press them ... You cant just stop one side (in the half court) .... theyll reverse the ball and the opposite side will be open.
Things didnt get any better for Ogallala in the third quarter as Coach Anderson began using his subs early. Jason Glock exited half way through the quarter, finishing with 24 points. With a 61 - 26 point lead at the end of the quarter, Wahoos bench played the entire fourth quarter, still managing to outscore the Indians by one point. Wahoos subs got some valuable state tournament experience as reserves Scott Latham (6) and Mike Dvorak (4) led the scoring in the final stanza. Nine players scored for the Warriors.
Prior to the tournament, Coach Etzelmiller had sounded somewhat like John Lennon as he sang the refrain, Give us a chance. But the truth was that the Indians didnt have much of a chance against the taller, quicker, and more experienced Warriors. If Etzelmiller would have had a crystal ball, he could have seen some good news on the horizon. He would get another chance to use a Wahoo win streak as motivation. A future visit to the state tournament would be more successful. But in 1989, playing Wahoo had been bad news.
View details of the Ogallala game.
A New Title, Pt. 3 -- a familiar foe