For Tigers, dreams have evolved into expectations

By Jason Schock

Eight months and 0:2.7 seconds later, Falls City High Head Basketball Coach Don Hogue got what was rightfully his: Career Win No. 200. 

Hogue’s 16th Tiger team Friday night in front of a large crowd captured the milestone win for their coach and did so, perhaps appropriately, in gut-wrenching, dramatic fashion, beating rival Syracuse 57-53 in overtime. FC, preseason Nos. 9 and 10 in Class C1 by the state newspapers and coming off a 24-3 District Title-winning ‘13-’14, didn’t shoot well at all, got in foul trouble and surrendered six three-pointers and 21 points to Rocket guard Tanner Harsin. 

But the Tigers made all six of its field goal attempts in overtime and pulled out the exciting victory.

So why gut-wrenching? Because Syracuse wasn’t supposed to give the Tigers much of a game. Read that again. That sentence, alone, tells you where Tiger Basketball is in 2014. (FYI: It’s in a very good place.)

In 2014, Falls City should crush Syracuse. In basketball. What was for decades a fairytale is now reality and that ain’t all. It’s coach has more wins than the guy they named the stadium after and Falls City expects to win every single night. Falls City expects to not only compete in District Finals, but beat Lincoln Christian and win them. And, now, maybe, only a 0:2.7-second horrific moment in time is what keeps Falls City dreaming about winning state tournaments – instead of expecting to win them. 

0:2.7 seconds is how long it took Wahoo to record what can only be described as the most heartbreaking moment in FC High School sports history. You were there, so the specifics needn’t be rehashed further.

But it’s worth noting that a program that went 47 years without a state tournament berth and generations without winning a single district game, now expects to run over Syracuse and beat Wahoo – Wahoo! – sickening flukes aside.

“I was so excited in 2010 to have the first state berth in 47 years because it was always, ‘can we get to state?’,” Hogue said. “Now we’ve been to three District Finals in four years. We expect to be there. They’re expectations, not dreams.”

The winning has gone viral. 

Hogue and FC posted a 35-106 record his first six years and some years got 22 kids to go out – total. Today, 166 wins later, there are 34 on the roster and, most importantly, younger ones who can’t wait to age into high school and get their opportunity. 

“The kids have bought in, for sure,” Hogue said, giving props also to 15-year FC Middle School Coach Kevin Scheitel. “That’s been huge – having him and that kind of stability at that level,” he said.

The Tigers improved to 2-0 Saturday with an expected 58-25 route on the road at Tri-County. FC owned a ridiculous 33-16 rebounding edge, though the shooting (9-of-17 at the line; 26-of-56 from the floor) again wasn’t up to par (though with a 30-6 halftime lead, Hogue emptied the bench early). Still, the Tigers made nearly 70 percent of its free throws a year ago and it had a big role in those 24 wins. At 24-of-48 on the year already, FC finds itself in an early hole in trying to make 70 percent.

“We lost four guys in a seven-man rotation,” Hogue said, “Syracuse had four back – we knew it wouldn’t be easy.”

FC senior Jordy Stoller scored six of his team-high 17 points in the overtime to lead the Tigers Friday, and seniors Jack Hartman and Zach Jordening each pulled down 11 rebounds as FC owned the glass. Sixth-man Kyle Leafty, just a sophomore, scored 10 in his varsity debut, and then followed it up with 11 points and 13 boards Saturday. Junior Trent Pentecost, another “new” regular in the rotation, scored 11. Ten different Tigers scored points in the game. 

FC hosts Atchison, KS, tonight and travels to Auburn Friday. And they expect to get both of ‘em.

Friday Scoring

FC — Stoller, 17; Hartman, 11; Leafty, 10; Witt, 8; Jordening, 8; Heckenlively, 3.

SYR — Harsin, 21; Goble, 11; Halvorsen, 9; Bennett, 4; Stilmock, 3; Roberts, 3; Cameron, 2. 

Saturday Scoring

FC — Pentecost, 11; Leafty, 11; Hartman, 9; Stoller, 8; Stutheit, 6; Witt, 4; Gibson, 3; Jordening, 2; Heckenlively, 2.

TC — Hicks, 7; Kowalski, 6; Barr, 6; Knust, 3; Nickel, 2; Jiskra, 1.

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