When Moundridge’s boys swamped Ell-Saline 95-47 late during the 1990-91 basketball season, little did anyone know it was the beginning of history.
The Wildcats went on to win the Class 2A state title that year as they completed the season on a six-game winning streak, including a 47-42 victory over LaCrosse in the state title game, as they defended their championship of the previous year.
But winning soon became as natural of an act as breathing for the Wildcats. They reeled off 26 straight wins in the 1991-92 season, capped by a 64-47 triumph over Wabaunsee for their third straight title. Ditto for the next season, with Valley Falls a 76-55 victim in the finals as MHS made it four straight titles.
When they opened the 1993-94 season with a 54-44 victory over Andale, the Wildcats' winning streak was at a state-record 59.
But it wasn’t a matter of if, but when, the streak would end. The Wildcats, a young team that year that would go on to finish 11-11, probably weren’t surprised when the streak ended in the season’s second game and it ended with a thud with a 47-15 loss to Hesston.
The Wildcats’ remarkable streak stood until 2012 when Perry Ellis and Wichita Heights came along to bump it up to 62 before it was extinguished by Wichita East in Ellis’ final year.
It would be hard to distinguish which of those four MHS state title teams were the best, so the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association is doing the right thing on June 28 when it is inducting all four into its Hall of Fame in ceremonies at Salina.
And maybe it’s appropriate that area school Little River is having its four straight state championship girls teams inducted the same day, the teams that spearheaded a girls’ record 91 straight wins, though Hoxie could break that DiMaggio-like record as it’s won 73 in a row and returns nine of its top 12 players next year and welcomes a freshman class which is part of a current 66-game winning streak.
The common threads for those great Moundridge teams were coach Vance Unrau, All-Stater Jacy Holloway, who was the team’s Batman, while Dwight Helms was its Robin. Holloway, who would later go on to play at a high level at Iowa State, started all four years, while Helms came off the bench his freshman year and then started the final three.
“Jacy and Dwight were 99-4 in their high school playing career,” said Unrau, who is still the head coach and never tires of talking about the golden era.
Even though Holloway and Helms were the players most people remember, Unrau is quick to point out how the supporting cast blended in to form a cohesive unit.
“All of these teams were athletic and talented with high basketball IQs,” Unrau said. “Intense competitors. They played hard. But the one thing that really stands out is that they all got along and we had great chemistry. I knew that we were in a special time when this was all happening. Players of this caliber don't come along very often, especially in a small school.”
The 1990 state title team included Holloway and his brother Brian, and were joined in the starting lineup by Steve Kaufman, Chris Moddelmog and Darren Schrag.
Helms and Jacy Holloway led the 1991 team along with Kaufman, while new starters were the Brian boys, Koehn and Cutting.
Kaufman departed after the ’91 season and his place was taken by Drue Durst, while the other four starters came back.
Holloway and Helms were the only returning starters on the 1992-93 team, as Pat Goering, Brad Cutting and David Moddelmog completed the starting five.
Of course along the way, there were some escapes during the 59-game streak.
• 1990-91 — The streak, which started near the end of the season, almost ended at two. The Wildcats had to survive a 58-55 overtime hand-wringer against Remington.
• 1991-92 — A 49-46 win over rival Hillsboro and a 42-39 overtime victory over Ellsworth were early season scares. From there, the Wildcats literally had no challenges. Only once in their final 14 games did they not win by double digits, that a nine-point success over Hillsboro in the rematch.
• 1992-93 — In the season’s second game, bitter rival Inman put a scare into the Wildcats as MHS was a 60-56 winner. There also was a 27-25 escape at midseason to Ellsworth, a game Helms missed with an ankle injury and Holloway wound up scoring 25 of the points. Finally, there was a 41-35 overtime game against Halstead, which that night was honoring its 1944-46 teams that had won 53 games in a row, which was the standing record at the time. Moundridge finally broke the record with an 80-47 win over Lincoln. MHS won its three state games that year by 42, 8 and 21 points.
Trying to squeeze into the gym to see the Wildcats play was an accomplishment in itself. Tickets went like hot cakes as they were like rock stars.
“The gyms we played in were standing-room-only, having to come hours before tipoff to get a seat,” Unrau said. “I told our players that it might be until they are 35 before they truly realized and appreciated what they had accomplished. They set the gold standard of Wildcat basketball. But they were great kids and turned into great adults. Wonderful families and highly successful at various occupations including doctors, engineers, teachers, coaches, farmers, etc.”
Unrau would go on to coach the Wildcats to a fifth state championship in 1997 and no doubt will be thought of as one of the best coaches in Kansas during his era. Yet, he deflects the credit for his accomplishments, focusing it on the players.
"It's all so humbling to be a part of it all," he said.