• Bill Althaus: Final two months of CHL season could be wild ride

  • The other day I was in the Missouri Mavericks locker room and began jotting down the standings that coach Scott Hillman had written down on a dry erase board next to goalkeeper Mike Clemente’s corner stall.

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  • The other day I was in the Missouri Mavericks locker room and began jotting down the standings that coach Scott Hillman had written down on a dry erase board next to goalkeeper Mike Clemente’s corner stall.
    “You don’t want those standings,” forward Brandon Smith said. “They’re old. They keep changing so fast, it’s hard to keep them updated.”
    That might be the understatement of the year.
    Going into Friday night’s game at Allen the Americans were sitting atop the league with 58 points, the Mavericks and Arizona were tied for fifth place with 48 points. Denver was in fourth with 52 points, and that is the next big stepping stone for the Mavericks because the top four teams enjoy home ice in the opening round of the playoffs.
    Eight of the league’s 10 squads advance to postseason, and Hillman is quick to point out, “It’s hard to get out of the first round without home ice. And with our great fans, we have a real advantage in any playoff series where we have home ice. That’s what we need to do, get to fourth or better.”
    He’s hoping for better, but right now, only five points separate the fifth-place Mavericks and ninth-place Quad City (43).
    “If you don’t win, and get two points, you’re in trouble,” captain Sebastien Thinel said.
    He could have added, “and Saturday at home against Tulsa and Sunday at Bloomington and Tuesday at the Events Center against Denver.”
    The schedule is crazy over the next two months and the team that rides a hot streak into the playoffs will enjoy home ice and the chance to reach the championship round.
    • People keep asking me who has the best girls basketball team in the area and I have to give them two answers – coach Mark Spigarelli’s 20-2 Wildcats, who have represented Blue Springs High School at the past four final fours – and Steve Cassity’s unbeaten 20-0 Truman Patriots.
    The two teams will meet in the state quarterfinals if each advances that far, and I believe that clash of the titans will happen. Right now, I would have to give an ever-so-slight advantage to the Patriots because they always seem to get stronger as the game goes along. In claiming their school-record 20th win in a row, they topped Lee’s Summit West 50-27 Thursday.
    On the same night, the Wildcats played host to a .500 Blue Springs South squad, got off to an 11-0 start and had to hold on for a lackluster 39-31 win in which they scored just five points in the fourth quarter. Both teams seemed to play great defense, but I wonder if it was defensive excellence or offensive ineptitude.
    Blue Springs Division I signees Lizzy Wendell and Karyla Middlebrook talked about the game being a “wake-up call” and how the Wildcats need to play as a team.
    Page 2 of 3 - I agree.
    Those have never been issues with the Patriots, but Cassity’s squad is heading into uncharted waters while the Wildcats are at home in postseason play and have been for years, having made four straight state final four appearances.
    If they meet in the quarterfinals, it will be King Kong vs. Godzilla and there may not be enough seats in the Events Center to hold all the fans who will want to see the instant classic.
    • I think it’s important to update everyone on Ryan Christian’s Celebration of Life, which took place last Monday at the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo – one of her favorite places.
    More than 150 people from around the country took part in celebrating the life of an 11-year-old girl who had such an impact on so many lives before dying from a rare form of cancer she fought like a warrior for more than three years.
    This is what her mother Dorie posted on Ryan’s Caring Bridge entry:
    “We had more than 150 people at Ryan's celebration, and it truly was a happy event, with lots of tears. We started in a pretty glass pavilion, surrounded by pictures and artwork created by Ryan. We then moved to the neighboring glass pavilion for a beautiful service. My friend, Su, who made 1,000 paper cranes for Ryan (they were all hanging in the pavilion), told the legend of 1,000 cranes.
    “Our friend, Brad Butler, then gave a beautiful eulogy to Ryan, using the many colors of crayons in a crayon box as his theme. My sister, Deena, read from Shel Silverstein (‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’), followed by a reading from ‘Winnie the Pooh’ by friends Emily, Laurie and Amy.
    “As the ceremony ended, the snow REALLY started to fall. We all stepped outside, with snow falling around us, to blow bubbles in honor of Ryan. Following the ceremony, we moved back to the neighboring pavilion for food, Disney music and a slide show of Ryan pictures. Friends created sweet centerpieces of stuffed animals, books and Monster High dolls. The zoo gave us a really fun treat by bringing in several zoo animals for the children to see.”
    Ryan, I miss you wiggling around on my shoulders when I would try to write a column while you and Stacy were scrapbooking at our house. I wish Stacy and I could have attended, but believe me, we were there in spirit.
    • Brian McRae, who was an all-state football player at Blue Springs High School and a 10-year major league baseball veteran, will join the baseball coaching staff at Park University.
    “This is an incredible addition to our baseball staff," Park athletic director Claude English said. "This is like Warren Buffett spending time with a business major. Any time you have the ability to bring in someone that's spent 10 years at the highest level, you've done something special for your student-athletes.”
    Page 3 of 3 - McRae, a former Blue Springs resident who never played baseball for the Wildcats because his family moved to Florida when his father Hal was done playing baseball with the Royals, played for five major league franchises, including the Royals, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, Colorado Rockies and Toronto Blue Jays. His major league career began in 1990 after being drafted by the Royals in the first round of the 1985 first-year player draft.
    He hit .261 in his career with 103 home runs and 532 RBIs, spending the majority of his career (1990-1994) in Kansas City, making his debut with the Royals on Aug. 7, 1990, against the Chicago White Sox. McRae played in more than 1,300 games in his major league career with over 5,100 at-bats. He also stole 196 bases.
    “Brian brings a lot of credibility to our program," baseball manager Cary Lundy said. "He played the game the right way and we think he'll be able to make an immediate impact on our guys. He was a great base runner and he's seen pitching at the highest level of this game. His main responsibilities will be hitting and base running, and obviously he's got a lot of knowledge to lend to our outfielders. He lived their dream, and our guys will get something out of this. He knows how to teach the game."
    McRae's coaching experience includes managing the Kansas City Sluggers, a traveling showcase baseball organization for 15-18-year-olds in Kansas City that included Royals first-round draft pick Bubba Starling two years ago. He also managed the 2012 Morehead City (N.C.) Marlins of the Coastal Plains League, a collegiate wood-bat summer organization.
    Bill Althaus is a sportswriter and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at bill.althaus@examiner.net or call 816-350-6333.

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