ST. JOHN — St. John-Hudson High School has got their town in a frenzy the likes of which haven’t been seen in years.
This season marks the first time since 2008 that both the boys’ and the girls’ basketball teams have qualified for the state tournament at the same time — back when St. John was Class 2A.
The 1A Division-I tournament starts today with the girls’ quarterfinals and runs through Saturday night at White Auditorium in Emporia. The Lady Tigers face Lost Springs-Centre at 4:45 p.m.
“It’s been five years, and that feels like forever,” Tigers head coach Clint Kinnamon said. “Here’s the thing, when you get used to going, when you don’t go for a few years, it really starts to wear on you and drag on you as a coach.
“It’s been a long time, it feels like.”
The town’s support drives the basketball teams, according to Lady Tigers head coach Danny Smith.
“There might not be anybody left in town Saturday night if someone wanted to rob the bank, you know,” Smith said. “We have great fan support. We’ve had a lot of success, not only in basketball, but in volleyball. We have great support, and it makes the girls work harder.”
The Lady Tigers went to the state tournament last year, finishing in second place after losing 55-45 to Hoxie.
The team’s repeated success fuels fans.
“It makes the kids have more pride in their town,” Smith said. “Clint and I are both St. John boys, and I think that’s what we want.”
For the Tigers, it’s the first trip to a state tournament since 2008, where St. John finished runners-up in 2A.
“It was one where you kind of knew you should make it,” Kinnamon said of this year’s team. “Not to take away from what other teams have done, but with the season we’ve had and what we’ve done, you’d like to take that next step. There was some relief on that, too.”
The Tigers, who are the tournament’s No. 1 seed and are ranked No. 1 in the final Kansas Basketball Coaches Association poll, face eighth-seeded Burrton on Thursday night at 6:30.