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Area official prepares for buzzer on 40th basketball season

Published Feb. 13 at 7:17 p.m. | Last updated Feb. 13 at 12:22 p.m.

As Joe Kleinsasser’s 40th, and final season, as a high school basketball official comes to an end, he is greeting it with his usual sense of humor.

He was recognized for his years of officiating by El Dorado tournament directors before a game in January, and naturally questioned whether that was a good idea.

“It was non-controversial,” Kleinsasser said with a laugh. “Then at McPherson (for the girls tournament), the applause was nice. I don’t know if it got louder after they announced I was retiring or not.”

Kleinsasser, 60, decided to retire in order to spend more time with his wife of 30 years, as well as their two adopted sons who are 16 and 11 and have special needs.

“To be fair to them, I want to spend more time with them,” said Kleinsasser, who is director of news and media relations at Wichita State. “I still want to be active and exercise, which is probably better than chasing 17-year-olds, who never get any older, for three hours.”

Kleinsasser is quick with a self-deprecating remark, which has worked well with coaches.

“Most (coaches) have been reasonable and good to deal with,” he said. “Most of them know I’ve never claimed to be perfect. Sometimes I’ve told coaches before games, ‘I hope you don’t question my judgment because if I had good judgment, would I be here?’ 

His goal, even while officiating college basketball or one of his estimated 28 state tournaments, has been to be consistent and communicate.

“I’ve always wanted to do the best I can, apply the rules, hustle, trying to be in the right position to make the best call, and limit my mistakes, trying to have as few as possible,” he said. “… We all miss a couple calls a night. Between the calls you could have made or should have made, you’re going to miss a couple.

“We’re not as good as we think we are, not as bad as everyone else thinks we are.”

And then Kleinsasser laughed again.

South girls keep winning — The South girls faced Carroll and Kapaun on Feb. 7 and 8, coming away with wins to join Kapaun atop the City League standings.

But South (15-1), winners of 14 straight and 38 of its last 39, isn’t at the level coach Antwain Scales wants. Not yet, anyway.

“We haven’t been playing well,” said Scales, whose team avenged its lone loss by beating Kapaun 40-39. “We’ve been getting wins. I’m not trying to be funny, but we haven’t been.”

South returned its entire starting lineup from the 2013 Class 6A title team, including All-Metro selection Kendrian Elliott, a sophomore forward.

The Titans’ goal is firmly set on repeating as 6A champs, which is why Scales sought out Heights boys coach Joe Auer while both volunteered at the VarsityKansas.com Skills Day on Dec. 28.

“I was sitting there talking to him about, ‘You had Perry (Ellis) and all that success,’ and one thing he told me that stuck with me was you have to start setting daily goals, practice goals,” Scales said. “You know the long-term goals, let’s start setting daily goals to challenge them to do the things daily instead of working on the bit, long-term goal.

“That’s what I’ve been kind of taking his advice into our game plan and our practices now.”

Milestone for Cordell — Thursday morning ,Little River girls coach Shane Cordell laughed when asked if he’d ever expected to have 599 victories.

“Oh, no,” he said. “That wasn’t the reason I got into it. I think it was the challenge. I loved sports growing up, and when I got to the age where I had an opportunity to coach … I thought, ‘This is kind of cool.’ It just kind of happened.”

Cordell, 59, is in his 34th season coaching girls basketball and Little River (11-5) beat Goessel on Thursday night for Cordell’s 600th win.

Cordell led Little River to four Class 1A titles from 1995-98 and a record 91 straight wins. He also coached all eight of his children in basketball or football.

“Especially in a small-school setting, the talent pool goes up and down and to an extent, it will determine records,” he said. “But my No. 1 goal is to try to teach them life lessons — be on time, communicate with us if you’re going to be gone.

“Then try to carry it over to basketball and football, and work your tail off trying to do the best you can with them.”

Allen goes into SE hall of fame — Southeast will induct Ron Allen, who coached two Class 6A basketball titleists at East, into its hall of fame on Feb. 21. He was an All-City League football selection in 1968 and 1969.

Also being inducted will be Leon Edwards, an Eagle Top 11 selection in 1988 and 1989, golfer Jeane Orr, soccer and tennis coach Larry Saksa, football and track athlete Paul Savage, and baseball player Jim Thomas.

Reach Joanna Chadwick at 316-268-6270 or jchadwick@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @joannachadwick.