Mark Register is a common thread between Sacred Heart’s only two appearances in the state quarterfinals in boys basketball.
Register was a member of the 1973 team that reached the elite eight and he is now the school administrator for Sacred Heart School, which is sending its team to the Class 2 quarterfinals.
Register, who sat at the end of the bench on that 1973 team that lost to Mound City 65-63 in the quarterfinals, called the experience new and exciting, because it was his first year in Sedalia. He hasn’t forgotten that game, though.
“We had an excellent team of seniors,” Register said. “That year we were 27-4 and ranked fifth in the state. I remember we had four shots in the last 11 seconds to send the game into overtime.”
Register also remembers teammate Keith Fischer making a halfcourt shot at the halftime buzzer.
Register said comparing this year’s team to the squad in his sophomore year is hard. He said they were from such different perspectives.
“I’m proud of the kids,” Register said of this year’s team. “What everybody expected to be a rebuilding year and after knocking on this door for some time, it’s exciting, and there’s a sense of relief. We finally got a little over the hump.”
Sacred Heart coach Steve Goodwin said this year’s success is about more than the current players.
“I’m also happy for guys like Lakin Kehde, Jared Dey and Caleb Morrison and all the others who came before them who all put in so much time in the program. They’re all happy for us.”
The Gremlins (25-4) will meet the top-ranked team in the state, West Platte (28-0), at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Independence Events Center in Independence.
Sacred Heart has surprised some this season with its record. The Gremlins lost their top six players from last year when they were state-ranked all season.
That group of seniors won four Kaysinger Conference tournaments, four Kaysinger regular-season titles and three district championships.
This year’s Gremlins, who received votes in the most recent state poll, won only two tournaments this season, their own invitational to open the season and the District 14 championship. They reached the title game in both the Slater and Kaysinger Conference tournaments.
Sacred Heart cruised through the district tournament, beating La Monte and Concordia by an average of 32.5 points. Santa Fe gave the Gremlins their stiffest challenge at district in their 71-65 win.
The Gremlins dominated Skyline in the sectional round on Thursday night, winning 80-59.
“It’s tough at this time of the year,” Goodwin said. “Everybody left playing is very good. I’m happy we played well (on Thursday) and I’m looking forward to playing Saturday night.”
Malik Hackett scored 30 points, including 20 in the first half, of the Skyline game. Riley Simmons had 21 and Chase Lyles 10.
Garrett Strange, who had 14 points and five rebounds in the district championship game, has also been a main contributor this season.
The Blue Jays of Weston bring size and athleticism into Saturday’s matchup.
Bryce Cashman (6-10, post) had 19 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots in the Blue Jays’ 67-55 sectional win over Albany.
Adam Roe (6-5, guard) scored a game-high 22 points. Nathan Coulson (6-3) had 12 second-half points, according to the St. Joseph News-Press.
West Platte is a junior-based team that features six 11th-graders, including Cashman and Roe. Coulson is one of five seniors.
The Blue Jays have dominated the competition this season. All but two of their wins were by less than 10 points. They beat Lawson 63-54 on Feb. 8 and St. Mary’s (Independence) 62-57 Feb. 20 in the district semifinals.
The Blue Jays went on to beat Mid-Buchanan 59-31 in the district title game and Albany 67-55 in the sectionals.