EMPORIA — One of the first thing Heights basketball coach Joe Auer was asked after the Falcons beat Blue Valley Northwest for another Class 6A championship Saturday night was about a dynasty.
Gee, thanks. Can the guy just enjoy this one for a few minutes before we start weighing him down with expectations for next season and the season after that?
Given the circumstances — Heights loses one senior from this team and returns Division I talents Perry Ellis and Evan Wessel — dynasty talk is unavoidable.
"You better just enjoy the moment,'' Auer said. "If you don't, you cheapen it. I want for our players to enjoy this for a while. In sports, we don't take enough time to enjoy the accomplishments.''
Heights has won two in a row, the first team to repeat in 6A since Wichita South won in 1993 and 1994. Eight schools have won three or more boys championships in a row: Kansas City Wyandotte (five in AA, 1957-61); Moundridge (four in 2A, 1990-93); Wyandotte (four in AA-5A, 1967-70); Wichita South (four in 5A-6A, 1978-81); Winfield (three in A, 1927-29); McPherson (three in 5A, 1990-92); Topeka Highland Park (three in 5A, 2007-09); and McPherson (three in 4A, 1972-74).
Ellis, a 6-foot-8 sophomore who is on his way to becoming one of the best high school players in the state's history, isn't shy about admitting he wants to win a state championship in all of his four years.
"It's been a goal of mine since I was in the eighth grade, knowing I was going to Heights,'' said Ellis, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds in the title game. "But we have to do it one by one.''
Ellis and Auer both said getting to the top was a lot harder this time around because the Falcons were such heavy favorites.
"We had a target,'' Ellis said. "Everybody wanted to come at us with their best.''
Leavenworth definitely did in the semifinals, pushing Heights to the finish line in an 83-78 Falcon win. Heights was hardened again by a demanding City League schedule. The Falcons were lonely here this week as the league's only representative. But they all know eight opponents will be laying in wait next season.
Heights was trying to become the second City League school to win both a boys and a girls state championship on the same night. South did it in 1978, one of nine Kansas schools to pull off that feat.
But the Falcons' girls, a regular visitor to the 6A tournament for almost a decade, were beaten by Olathe South.
"Our kids were really down about it,'' Auer said of the Heights boys players. "At Heights, all of our athletes are really close. So we kind of had to get re-focused before our game because it was tough for us.''
Heights had no trouble with Blue Valley Northwest, leading comfortably from midway through the first quarter. The Falcons are just so good, with star players and complementary players who all understand their roles.
The stars are unassuming with their personalities and the role players are happy to do the little things they do so well. It's a fantastic high school team and it's coached well by Auer, a veteran who went years without a taste at the championship fountain.
Now he's gulping the stuff.
"I'm having the time of my life in my chosen profession,'' Auer said. "This is a great group of guys.''
And a group that has a chance to be one of those teams people talk about for decades.
How do you define a dynasty? For some people, it's about consistency, not necessary championships. For me, though, it's about winning titles and winning them in successive years.
That's why Kansas City Wyandotte, to this day, is still regarded as probably the most successful basketball program in the state's history. Not only did the Bulldogs win five in a row during one stretch and four during another, but they have 20 championships overall. It's sad that hard times have fallen on Wyandotte.
McPherson is another one of the state's gold-standard programs.
Bishop Miege's girls are elite, with two streaks of three straight championships and another of four. Girls teams from Little River (1995-98), Spearville (1987-90) and Moundridge (1996-99) also have won four straight championships.
Steve Eck was 227-15 during 10 seasons at Wichita South and the Titans won six state championships during the span, but never more than two in a row. Yet how can anyone not regard Eck's run at South as a dynasty?
Heights is on the cusp of Kansas' newest basketball dynasty with two down and who knows how many more to go?
"This feels really good,'' Ellis said as his teammates hoisted the championship trophy. "I feel blessed.''