Bollig, Railers bounce back to Bramlage
By RANDY GONZALES
ELLIS -- Even though it was more than two decades ago, she still can remember going to state as a player.
Now, Jessica (Rorabaugh) Bollig, a starting forward on the Ellis High School girls' basketball team that went to the Class 2A state tournament in the 1992-93 season, will be making the trip to Manhattan later this week -- as an assistant coach for the Railroaders.
The No. 6 seed Ellis girls (19-4) will play No. 3 seed Washington County (20-2) at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday in the 2A season finale at Bramlage Coliseum, home of the Kansas State Wildcats.
"It was intimidating, I know that, just knowing you're playing on a college court like that, Bramlage," Bollig said. "That was a huge deal, watching all the college kids play. Actually stepping on that court is big."
Bollig said she planned to talk to the players in practice Monday about the depth perception when shooting the ball in a big arena, as opposed to the small gyms the girls are accustomed to playing in during the regular season.
"Definitely at practice, I'm going to talk about the court," Bollig said. "I want them to go there and get a feel of the court before we play. Just relax and play like we're at our home court."
Ellis wasn't quite ready for the big stage when Bollig was a player, losing in the first round.
"We were really good. We had high expectations," Bollig said. "We just didn't do very well first round. We were overwhelmed."
Bollig hopes for a better result sitting on the bench this time.
"Just telling the girls to play our game, no matter who we're playing," Bollig said. "I always tell the girls, 'Do what you're good at.' You're a good 3-baller, shoot the 3-baller; you're good defensively, do what you're good at."
Bollig, who also is a nurse at Trego County-Lemke Memorial Hospital in WaKeeney, is in her fourth season as an assistant to head coach Perry Mick. She always wanted the opportunity to coach, and now she not only helps out on the varsity, but she coaches her daughter, Brittany, a freshman on the junior varsity team.
"It's exciting coaching her," Bollig said. "It's brought me to tears. The first time she stepped on the court as a high school kid, it was overwhelming."
Bollig has a son, Brandon, who was a junior point guard for the Ellis boys until he hurt his back.
Bollig's father is Chris Rorabaugh, the former longtime coach for the Railer boys who is back in his second season coaching the team. Bollig said she has learned a lot about the game from her dad.
"I go to him with everything," she said. "In fact, when he coaches, I usually sit behind him on the bench. I learned a lot."
But you never learn what it's like to play at state. You experience it. That's something the Ellis girls will find out first-hand come Wednesday evening.
Bollig remembers her feelings about first stepping on the court at state.
"Seeing on TV is one thing," she said. "Being there on the court is a whole other excitement. It's very overwhelming."
* There will be a pep rally for the team at 1:25 p.m. Wednesday in the school gym.