Thanks for a great season Indians
     2015-03-19      By Roger Holsinger   
My wife and I were talking before I left for Lincoln last week about when the last it was that I was at the state basketball tournament. I said it had to be at least 20 years and she said, probably more like 30 or more years, and I think she was right.
I know that when I was a senior in 1983 at Leyton, the Warriors went and we won a first round game against Pleasanton and then lost in the second round to Lawrence, the same team that beat us in the state football playoffs.

Thirty-two years later I would be in Lincoln with another tribe, the Indians of Minatare.
After 20-plus years of journalism I changed directions and entered the world of high school teaching.

My first year I split between Bayard and Minatare, which proved too much, especially trying to coach two speech teams. So this year I was just at Minatare with class sizes about the same as when I was in high school.

While I knew most of the students by face, it took a while for me to know them by name and for them to know me. Part of that changed with athletic contests as I wrote and took pictures of events for the Citizen. Prior to teaching at Minatare, much of what I had heard about the school was not too flattering. The school was judged by its cover, not the content of what was inside.

I learned about what was inside when I became a fulltime teacher and coached One Acts and the Speech Team.
As I began to know the students I became particularly close to some of the athletes because of our fondness for sports.

After a successful football season, we turned to basketball. I knew that the players coming back were talented and that if they kept thinking positive, great things could happen for them.
I continued to cover the teams for the Gering Citizen, but I also did the Public Address announcing for the games, something I first did at Leyton, then Nebraska Western College (now WNCC) and later at Chadron State College.

While I took pictures, my daughter Chloe tagged along and eventually learned how to take stats. She became the team’s unofficial cheerleader and one of its biggest fans.
As the season began to draw to a close, I kept lecturing to the boys I had in class that they had what it took to earn a trip to Lincoln. They proved that by winning the Minuteman Activities Conference title and then sub-districts and finally on a very cold night in Hyannis, they proved they had what it took to go to Lincoln.

As we packed our bags for the trip, Chloe and I were both excited. The week prior the boys would ask if we were going and at times I would tease them by making up a lame excuse that I couldn’t go, knowing full well that I wouldn’t miss it for anything.
Chloe and I arrived at Manuel and Nancy Escamilla’s home in Lincoln late Wednesday night and that would be our home for the next few days. The Escamillas are some of the nicest people we know and had it not been for our involvement at the Lied Scottsbluff Public Library, we probably would never have been able to develop such a close friendship.

The night before the first round game against Paxton, I was as excited as a child at Christmas. We got to Lincoln Northeast High School, got checked in at headed into the gym. We were greeted by about 200 fans that made the trip as well. But the boys looked nervous. I had a feeling that things were going to work out.

Trailing by two points with five seconds left to play, Yovan Perez hit a three-pointer to give Minatare the one-point lead. Then some great defense by Chance McAllister and Tyler Koke sealed the deal. Every basketball player, coach, student manager, parent, fan and photographer that had rooted for the Indians all year was elated and some were in tears. It had been more than 70 years since Minatare had been at the state tournament and even longer since it had won in Lincoln.

That feeling for me is hard to describe. I was so incredibly proud of the team and coaches Kyle Cotton, JJ Ozuna and Matt Korkow. It takes great players to win games, but even greater coaches to fine tune the skills of players and to transform players from believers to achievers.

The next game at Devaney Sports Center was tough. The team never fired on all cylinders and maybe it had something to do with the size of the facility. But then again, Exeter-Milligan is a fine club and is the Class D2 state champions. There is no shame in trying your best and losing to a better team. In basketball and in life, you don’t win all the games, but hopefully you learn along the way.

The final game at Lincoln Southeast had a weird feeling from the start. Riverside, who Minatare played in football the first game of the year this season, looked ready to play. This same Riverside team had won a state title in football, so they were used to the pressure. Our boys, they looked tired and disappointed in themselves. The second half they came to life, but by then the hole was too deep to get out of.

As they lined up and received their fourth-place medals, I was so proud of them and when I took the group shot I looked at them and told them there were many, many teams that have never made it this far and that they should be proud of their accomplishment, but still no smiles.

I would guess that in a few days or weeks, the Minatare Indian Boys Basketball Team of 2014-2015 will realize that their successful season impacted many more people than they ever thought possible, including their language arts instructor.

Minatare Public Schools is a great place to work, and is a place I would have had my children attend. We have great students, faculty, staff, administrators, parents, and alumni. And thanks to a bunch of salty and talented young men, who kept fighting, people throughout the state no longer wonder where Minatare, Nebraska is located.

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