Shane Cordell probably wouldn’t want it any other way.
Cordell no doubt was humbled when the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association announced that it will be inducting him into its Hall of Fame next month in Salina.
But Cordell was never one to enjoy the spotlight. In fact, he always deflected praise directed at him toward his team, who he said deserved all the credit. He only took credit when the Redskins would lose, which wasn’t often during his illustrious 34-year career that ended in March with 604 victories.
So Cordell probably was elated when it was announced that at the induction ceremony June 28 in Salina, he’ll be joined in the Hall by the teams that put Little River basketball on the map — the four-year run from 1995 to 1998.
“I have coached for a lot of years and have been privileged to have coached a lot of talented girls,” Cordell said. “They all have been special over the years. But I have never been around so many girls at one time who were as competitive, hard nosed, chest bumpin', fist pumpin' and who have loved playing the game as much as these. You would have to have been there to understand it.”
The Redskins won four straight Class 1A state titles during that run and of course the period was highlighted by the state-record 91-game winning streak. There’s even a DVD documentary about the streak, which features interviews with players, coaches and the media that covered the team, along with game footage.
Cordell’s teams weren’t just good for the 1A class, they could have won any class. In 1997, the Redskins won the McPherson Mid America Classic and defeated the host Bullpups in the finals, a team that would go on and win Class 5A two months later.
They were rock stars. Fans flocked to watch this machine-like unit that played suffocating defense and precision offense. They didn’t care the games quickly became lopsided, they enjoyed the verve which the team played with.
The 1995 team is the one that started it all. Led by All-Stater Nicky Ramage, who would go on to play at Kansas State, the feature was an endless wave of depth. Cordell would exhaust teams by making mass substitutions after four minutes and the second line was as talented as the first.
That season also introduced Kansas basketball fans to the spunky Prose twins, Amy and Amber, who immediately became fan favorites with their confident and superb play. The Prose sisters were a female version of Steve Henson, diving all over the floor for loose balls and playing with boundless energy. They could shoot and defend.
Ramage led the first wave, which also included twins Jackie and Bobbie Rogers, Hilarie Raleigh and Halie Schoenhoff. On cue after four minutes, the Proses, Betsy Cordell, Shari Hewitt and Abbi Burdick would hit the floor with their brand of electricity. By the time the smoke cleared, the Redskins were comfortably in front and on their way to victory.
“We ran a high-low post offense and Nicky, Shari and Abbi Burdick all contributed greatly,” Cordell said. “I never liked the term starters with this bunch and did not use it. I told the girls if they did not come off the floor exhausted after four minutes they weren't playing hard. I could prove to them how hard they had to play and told them I could exhaust them in less than four minutes of practice if we had to. This is how hard we played. There were also some other supporting players that got to contribute.”
That was the core of the 1996 team as well. The Redskins won the first-ever Mid America Classic title that year and their game with McPherson caused the doors to be shut before the game tipped off because the crowd was so large. It was like a female version of “Hoosiers,” as the small-town girls with the big game and big hearts blew out to a 12-point victory.
Some of the stars were still around in 1997, though Ramage had moved on. The Proses moved into the lineup, and were joined by Raleigh, Hewitt and Cordell. There wasn’t quite the depth of the two previous years, but that starting five was as good as any in Kansas.
The Prose sisters finally dropped the curtain on their careers in 1998, but the evolution was beginning. The Katies — White and Mitchell — moved into the lineup and were joined by Jill Oswalt for one last hurrah.
Cordell had some very good teams after 1998, but none came close to duplicating the 1995-98 teams. They were one of a kind. And now they’ll be taking their rightful place in the Hall of Fame along with their Hall of Fame coach.