Vance Unrau knows the feeling. He’s experienced the feeling.
There was a time his Moundridge boys were revered in the same spotlight as the St. John boys are now.
The Wildcats once owned the longest winning streak in Kansas boys basketball history at 59 games before Perry Ellis and Wichita Heights came along to bump it to 62. They were feared by opponents every single time they took the court. They won back-to-back-to-back-to-back Class 2A state titles – that’s four in a row if you’re counting.
Thursday in Inman, the Wildcats get to experience life on the other side. They take on mighty St. John, which is 21-0 this year after going 26-0 last year and 25-1 the year before. The Tigers of coach Clint Kinnamon are seeking a third straight state title, their second straight as a 2A team.
Moundridge advanced to the Class 2A sub-state semifinals with an easy victory over Peabody Monday night to move to 14-7 on the season.
St. John, as it has done to most teams, was a running-clock runaway winner over Medicine Lodge. The only close game for the Tigers this year was a two-pointer against Central Plains, a team they later defeated by 19.
Unrau realizes the near-impossible task at hand. The focal point, of course, is 6-9 Tiger center Dean Wade, a first-team All-State All-Class selection last year who has signed with Kansas State.
“Except for the 1989 Spearville team that featured 6-9 Alan Stein, we have never faced such size,” said Unrau, whose tallest starter is 6-2. “And certainly we have never faced such a versatile player in Dean Wade. I'm watching film and trying to figure out any weakness that he may have. Not finding any. He handles the ball and passes like a point guard. He can shoot like a 2-guard. And he can dominate the paint. Defensively he allows the guards up front to take chances because he is a sweeper at the rim.”
While Wade is the headliner, Unrau said the Tigers are more than just their superstar.
“This St. John team doesn't have just Dean Wade,” Unrau said. “The other guys play more than just support roles. They are athletic and well coached. We are most certainly a decided underdog. It will take a great effort on our part to put ourselves in a position to pull off an upset. But having said that, we will prepare the best we can and I know that our kids will play hard.”
The Wildcats are going to need a perfect storm to be in the game, say some foul trouble to Wade and a big night from Colton Frazer, MHS’ leading scorer. Big nights from Anthony Otte and Alejandro Jimenez are a must.