Garden City, Kan (westernkansasnews.com)-It’s early on a Wednesday morning in his office. Garden City boys basketball coach Jacy Holloway, decked out in his traditional gray Buffaloes shirt and gym shorts, with his patented whistle around his neck, sits back in his chair while getting ready for another day of team camp. But there’s something on the fifth-year skipper’s mind on this day beyond his own squad. It’s something much bigger than x’s and o’s.
Two decades ago as a freshman guard at Moundridge High School, Holloway’s scintillating marksmanship helped produce one of the best four-year stretches in Kansas high school basketball history. Of course it’s been 21 years since the last time he and his teammates hoisted the gold ball, but the memories of the so-called ‘golden years’ never fades.
“We had a lot of fun on those four different teams,” Holloway said with a huge smile on his face. “And people don’t realize that we won championships with four completely different squads.”
A lot has changed for the 39-year old coach since his high-school days. His boyish face has been replaced with a shaggy beard, one that resembles Tom Hanks in the movie ‘Castaway’ more so than the guy who averaged 26 points per game his senior season. His 5-10 skinny frame has morphed into a 6-1 athletic build. And he’s a family man now; the father of five children. But one thing is for sure: the man still has it.
“I have a goal every year,” Holloway said. “I want to prove to people that I can still dunk at 40. I’m still working on it.”
He doesn’t officially turn 40 until October, and he doesn’t have plans of posterizing anyone these days at the rim. But if you spend five minutes in a room with the guy, you’ll understand his competitive fire is contagious.
Saturday, the Kansas Basketball Coach’s Association will induct Holloway, his teammates and legendary Moundridge Coach Vance Unrauh into its Hall of Fame. And if you ask anyone close to the Holloway family, it’s long overdue.
“To still be recognized now for what we did then is unbelievable,” he said. “The older I get, the more I understand just how hard it was.”
It’s 1988; Holloway is an eighth-grade student-still one year from joining the varsity team. He sits from a distance and watches Moundridge lose a 47-45 heartbreaker in the finals to Garden Plain . That’s something that still eats at him.
“Thinking back on it, we really could have won five in a row,” Holloway said. “It’s crazy.”
As a freshman in 1989, Holloway and his mates got their redemption. The 14-year old guard teamed up with his brother Brian to lead the Wildcats back to the state championship game. This time there would be no disappointment-Moundridge blew out Uniontown 75-50.
“Playing with my brother that year was pretty special,” Holloway said. “Him and the other upperclassmen definitely made the transition a great experience.”
After a few hiccups during the 1990-91 season, the Wildcats persevered, and with a resounding 95-47 victory over Ell-Saline late that year, so began one of the most impressive streaks in state history.
They finished the season by winning their final six games, including a 47-42 triumph over LaCrosse to claim their second straight title. But that was just the beginning. What ensued over the next 24 months would engulf Holloway and his teammates into Kansas basketball fame.
Back-to-back 26-0 seasons capped off with state title victories over Wabaunsee and Valley Falls, and Moundridge had reeled off 58 straight wins.
“We’re not in that kind of world anymore of being highly competitive,” Holloway said. “Our guys got along, but we had a lot of conflict too.”
In four seasons together, Holloway, swing man Dwight Helms and Coach Unrau epitomized consistency. They combined to go 99-4 during that span with four state championships and a 58-game winning streak. Sprinkle in a few competent role players, and the Wildcats were unstoppable in the early 90’s.
When the dust had settled following the 1993 campaign, Moundridge High School was firmly etched in the history books. A program that won its only state title 22 years earlier, collected four rings in the span of 1460 days. Consider this also: the Wildcats went more than 8,000 days without a single state tournament victory. That unheralded streak ended with a 71-70 victory over Lebo in the 1989 2A state quarterfinals.
Once Holloway collected his diploma in 93 and dashed on to star at Iowa State, the streak continued. The wildcats started the 93-94 season with a 54-44 win over Andale, and it appeared as much as things had changed, they stayed the same. But the reality of losing Holloway, Helms and the cast of characters that put a town of less than 2,000 people on the proverbial map hit hard, and Moundridge watched their streak end the following game-losing to Hesston 47-15.
“That will always stay in my mind of how highly competitive we were,” Holloway said. “It didn’t matter if we were playing basketball or kickball in P.E, you’re talking about a group of kids that really got after it.”
That remarkable streak stood until 2012 when University of Kansas star Perry Ellis and Wichita Heights splashed through with 62 straight wins.
These days, Holloway’s public fame has cooled off. His notoriety has fizzled. But as he walked out of his office, through the long corridor that leads to Garden City’s state-of-the-art gymnasium, one of the best high-school players to ever lace them up snaps back into reality; into the moment:
“I don’t get asked for autographs anymore,” he said with a distinguished look in his eye. “But that’s okay. My goals now are to lead the Buffaloes to the state tournament every year. In 6A it’s tough, but it’s something that I know we can accomplish.”
Holloway doesn’t have to look too far for precedent. He made history. Now he’s leaning on it, and hoping it can repeat itself like it did 21 years ago.
He opens the gym doors and stares at his current group of players; the ones he believes will fulfill his coaching prophecy.