The Frankfort Wildcats had a season that will be the stuff of legends for the small farming community hidden away in the Flint Hills an hour north of Manhattan.
Frankfort — which started the year with a 2-3 start — won the Class 1A Division II state title in double-overtime and in the process, head coach Brian Ebert picked up his 200th career victory.
Led by 6-foot-4, 280-pound senior Jacob Broxterman with 20 points and 10 rebounds a game, the Wildcats had a “Hoosiers” flair to them the way their storybook season ended, finishing 22-5 overall.
It also made it even easier to choose Ebert and Broxterman as the All-Flint Hills Boys Coach and Player of the Year.
“There’s several people that have talked about how this should be a story written in a book,” Ebert said about Frankfort’s season.
“I feel like we could of done it before — we were runner-ups in 2004 and in 2007 we were third — but it was definitely a very nice thing to happen. I’m very proud of the kids.”
Ebert praised Broxterman’s ability to surprise opponents.
“If you were to look at him just walking down the street you are thinking, ‘Wow, I bet he’s a good football player… he must be an offensive or defensive lineman,’” Ebert said. “So, I think a lot of people underestimate how well he moves and how good of footwork he has in the post… how well he can maneuver his body and get some shots off that most people probably don’t think that he can get off. Just looking at him you are thinking, ‘there is no way this kid can play basketball,’ but he was obviously our leader and was a big factor. He can pass the ball, too. Him and Jonathan Keating — our other post — worked really well together and we are going to miss them both.
“But Jacob had a nose for the ball and a nose for the game and is just very basketball oriented and knows how to play.”
When Broxterman fouled out during the second overtime of the title game a few weeks ago with 2 minutes left in the period, his team was still trading baskets with Otis-Bison and the outcome was still much in the air.
Broxterman, who had a game-high 21 points and 10 rebounds in the game, shook the hand of his replacement, sat on the bench and prayed.
“It was something that I don’t think I’ll ever experience again in my life,” he recalled. “It was hard (not being out there), but we found a way to pull it off.”
Just before Christmas break Broxterman didn’t see himself in the scene he just described. The team had a shaky 2-3 start and didn’t look like a squad that would eventually be clearing space for a state championship trophy.
“We really didn’t know what to think about that,” Broxterman said of the slow start. “We didn’t know what the deal was. I think part of it was that at the beginning of the season was that we were playing a lot of zone.”
Tough practices over break, though, seemed to change the direction of the team, according to Broxterman.
“We had a few, uh, ‘hard,’ practices over Christmas break,” he said. “(Coach Ebert) worked us a little bit. Then we just got on a roll.”
What really made the Wildcats’ season storybook worthy was a question junior Calahan Brown — who was second on the team in scoring with 11.4 points per game — asked Ebert shortly after the team’s league tournament.
“He kept asking me how many wins did I need to get to my 200th,” Ebert said. “The reason he was asking was because his older brother was on the team when I got my 100th win and he wanted to be on the team that got me my 200th. I kind of put him off, because I didn’t know for sure, but then one day I actually looked it up.
“One day I told him after he asked me again, and I just told him, ‘Well, Callahan, you’re going to have to win out… you can’t lose again.’
“He said, ‘OK.’”
And like any great Hoosier-esque story, that’s exactly what Brown, Broxterman and the rest of the Frankfort Wildcats did.