Varsity Basketball

Schedule confusion forces Maize basketball to scramble

Filling a 20-game basketball schedule can be difficult because of all the logistics involved with when and where and against whom games will be played.

On Monday, Maize district athletic director Marc Haught had a scheduling nightmare arise. That's when he discovered that the Eagles' planned season-opening doubleheader against Valley Center wasn't on Valley Center's schedule.

After frantically searching for another opponent, Haught scheduled Word of Life for tonight.

"I'm thrilled that we've got someone," Haught said. "Finding a game in October is, ummmm, doable. Finding a game the week of or during the basketball season, impossible. We could pick up swimming or wrestling today. But in basketball, everyone has 20 contests so those (openings) don't exist during the season."

While Maize had Valley Center on its schedule, Valley Center is in the Cheney early-season tournament.

"There was a mix-up on scheduling; we never had them down and Maize had us down," Valley Center athletic director Vic Noordhoek said.

The mix-up was discovered when an officials management software program sent out an automated message about the referees assigned to the Maize-Valley Center game.

"That's when Valley Center became aware," Haught said. "Thank goodness for that or we would have showed up Friday night and had to play ourselves."

The scheduling problem opened a door for Word of Life, which is not a Kansas State High School Activities Association member.

"I'm pretty excited," said Word of Life boys coach Ryan Hujing, whose team has 35 games scheduled. "It's the first time that we've been able to get a large local school on our schedule.... We're trying to get our kids to match the aggressiveness and the intensity and hopefully enjoy the moment."

Practicing for success — Just watch how the reigning Class 3A champion Collegiate Spartans conduct their practices and it is apparent why they have been so successful. Coach Mitch Fiegel gets his players to put as much effort into drills as they would into an actual game.

He knows there is a direct correlation between the two.

"As you become an older coach, you begin to realize that you're only as good as how you practice," Fiegel said. "You can't afford to waste a single drill. That's kind of our motto."

It isn't all about coaching though. The Spartans have gone 51-1 with two titles in two seasons and that can't be done without totally committed players.

"It seems like people constantly talk about how kids today are different," Fiegel said. "I don't believe that for a second. These kids want to work. They want to be held accountable."

National rankings — USA Today has ranked the Heights girls No. 12 in its preseason ranking. It's the highest preseason ranking for the Falcons by USA Today.

"If you run the table, you have a chance at a national championship," Heights coach Kip Pulliam said. "You know, our goal is a state championship, City League championship. If you could add that other championship in there, the possibility is a special bonus for some kids that have worked hard."

The Heights boys also have been getting national recognition. Rivals.com has the Falcons ranked eighth, while USA Today has them at No. 17 and ESPN at No. 19.

Lions' competition stiffens — The switch from Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail Division I to Division II gives Goddard the chance to play McPherson, Andover and Andover Central twice a season.

"It helps you get prepared," Goddard girls coach Lee Keller said. "You're playing some of the best in the state. You get to see where you need to be and what you need to work on as the season progresses."

Goddard finished 11-11 last season, and returns four starters from that team. Keller said his players relish the opportunity to play a tougher schedule and see where they stack when Class 6A sub-state rolls around in February.

"I think it's better than if we don't play anybody and come sub-state time, you're not prepared," Keller said. "You have a false sense of security. I think it will be a beneficial experience."

Goddard opens it season at campus.

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