Archive for Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Alum goes crazy over Cougars victory

December 28, 2005

Editor's Note: Shawnee Dispatch sportswriter C.J. Moore is a 2003 graduate of Shawnee Mission Northwest High School. After witnessing his alma mater knock off No. 1 SM East last week, he was so impressed with the win that he couldn't contain himself. Here is the column he submitted after the victory.

Last Wednesday's match up of undefeated Shawnee Mission Northwest and top-ranked Shawnee Mission East was an instant classic.

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It was not just one of the best high school games I've seen in a long time but one of the best basketball games, period.

By the end my old teammates and I were ready to lace up our sneakers, don the orange and black one more time and see if we had any eligibility left.

This one had everything you could ask for. A game-winning, last-second shot by the good guys and two senior studs squaring off in a game that went back and forth in front of a packed, orange-clad gym.

SM East's J.D. Christie, a 6-foot-6 brute, is the real deal. He's as good as advertised. He finishes strong around the basket, and the guy can hop. He also can hit the perimeter jumper but Northwest shut him down on the outside. Unfortunately he hasn't grown since he entered high school, or Bill Self would have been sitting front and center.

Northwest junior Jonas Varnum and senior transfer Darryl Stallings did an admirable job on Christie. They contained him for three quarters, but he was not to be denied in the fourth and had his way down low. Luckily, the Cougars were able to keep the ball out of his hands as the last few seconds ticked off the clock.

But not to be outdone by Christie on this night was Northwest's feisty senior Dusty Burdolski. Burdolski was Northwest's offense for the first three quarters. The fourth quarter belonged to junior center Matt Page (but more about him later).

Burdolski's runners and the patented Ben Meseke stingy defense kept SMNW in the game for much of the night.

I haven't seen a lot of teams play in the metro area (only Mill Valley and their opponents) but I'm going to go out on a limb and say Burdowski has to be one of the top guards in the city.

Burdolski is quick and ran circles around Christie in the open floor. He has a lightning quick release, especially on his signature runners that he bounces in off the square with pinpoint accuracy.

I had not seen Burdolski play in a couple years (played with him once this summer) but I left impressed. I remember him as a goofy little freshman on the JV squad that we razzed constantly. He had a decent stroke then and was quick, but he has matured into quite the player. He has great handles, is a good passer and he plays with the composure of an experienced senior leader.

Page was nowhere to be seen for the first three quarters. But, apparently, he likes to play in the clutch. He took over in the fourth quarter. He took it to the rim with authority and didn't fear the intimidating shot-blocking presence of Christie in the lane.

Page must have ice water in his veins because he stepped up to the line in the last few minutes and calmly buried two clutch free throws. For anyone who has played the game, going to the line in that situation is so pressure packed it feels like you have the weight of Willie Roaf on your shoulders.

Then, of course, there was the game winner. With three seconds on the clock, after Cox missed a baseline jumper and the rebound slid out of Stallings' hands, Page grabbed the ball and stroked the shoot of his life. Fittingly, it was Page who swatted away East's last gasp pass from the sideline as the clock expired.

Yep, this one had all the makings of a true high school classic. I saw Northwest upset Junction City at state in 2001, sat the bench in 2002 when the Cougars came out of nowhere to upset Aquinas at sub-state and was part of upsetting highly ranked Olathe North during the 2002-2003 season.

But this one was as good as all those and maybe better. And it's always a bonus to stick it to the Lancers, even when you witness it from the stands.

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