Natoma's Meiers notches 52-point game
By CONOR NICHOLL
By CONOR NICHOLL
PALCO -- Natoma High School boys' basketball coach Kurt Grafel thought 5-foot-11 senior guard Jackson Meiers finished with around 30 to 35 points in Monday's contest against Tescott.
Aaron Homburg, the Tigers' girls' basketball coach and principal, watched the game and believed Meiers might have hit 40.
Meiers thought he had about 20. However, others helped Meiers keep count.
"People were flashing me signs on the sideline," Meiers said. "Oh, '4-0, 4-0, already.' "
Meiers, a four-year starter, eventually finished with a career-high 52 points in the 81-70 victory. Meiers shot 23 of 38 from the field, including 5 of 7 from the 3-point line and 1 of 3 on free throws. He also collected four assists.
"I got hot early, and they just kept feeding it to me," Meiers, who averages 19.7 points per game, said. They were giving me the shots I wanted -- the easy ones, a lot of them close to the basket. That's where I do good at."
Homburg talked with Linda Crawford, a former Natoma standout and the mother of Jason Crawford, a former Hays Daily News Player of the Year. Crawford has kept records throughout the years.
Meiers' point total is believed to be a school mark; Linda tallied 40 one game in 1982, Jason had 39 in a contest and Danica Casey scored 38.
After the contest, Grafel's assistant asked him how many points he thought Meiers had. Grafel guessed in the 30s. When the assistant said, "52," Grafel couldn't believe it.
"That was a quiet 52," Grafel said. "He shot a lot, but he shot a great percentage. ... Got a lot of layups. He is quick to the basket. He can elevate. I have never, ever seen that. I am glad I got to, and I am glad I got to coach him, because he is a tremendous athlete. It was fun. The other coach was excited, too. He said, 'That was something to watch.' "
The state's all-time mark is 69 set by Larry Hobbs of Nortonville in 1966, according to Kansas Sports Hall of Fame records.
Homburg, a veteran of nearly two decades of coaching basketball, has seen just two players have a game like Meiers: Claflin's Jackie Stiles and Burrton's Alex Santiago, who had 53 in the 2010 Class 1A, Division II state tournament, still a state tournament record.
"There were times you thought he should have shot more," Homburg said. "It's not like he was shooting it every time he touched it. He was making good passes. He was hot, and he missed some. The deal was, we kind of got in foul trouble and some of the other guys who score a little bit were sitting on the bench early. We kind of got in a flow, and they were trying to play man."
Meiers has already heard from plenty of people, especially from other towns.
"Word kind of traveled fast," Meiers said. "My Twitter blew up. I had about 30 tweets about it, all over the place. 'Who is this kid from Natoma that put up 52 points?' "
On Tuesday, Meiers tallied 17 points in a 68-41 victory at Palco that moved Natoma to 10-9.
Meiers went 8 of 24 from the field and missed his first seven shots before he hit a trey from the left wing with 3 minutes, 15 seconds left in the first half.
"Just tired," Meiers said. "Really tired."
He collected 10 points in a 30-point third quarter that gave the Tigers a 49-32 lead. Palco played its normal man-to-man and zone defenses against Meiers.
"We heard that he was pretty decent," said first-year Palco coach Ethan Kosjer, a former Fort Hays State University All-American punter. "He has good nights and bad nights, and we were hoping that one of these nights would be his bad night. I thought we defended pretty well the first half, but they went on some runs. It's five, 10, 15 points in the blink of an eye."
Many of the baskets came off steals and sometimes fast breaks. A few times, Natoma threw the ball down the court ahead of Meiers and let him run it down.
"We work that a lot in practice," Meiers said. "That's how it is. We just run, run, run."
Meiers said he had around 20 points in similar situations Monday.
"We like those track meet kind of games," Meiers said.
Meiers has 806 points in his career, but never shot above 33 percent in any of his first three years. This winter, Meiers is at 40 percent overall and has already hit 42 treys, 18 more than any other season.
"I have been working real hard in the gym," Meiers said. "Just hand-eye coordination, stuff like that."
He has helped the Tigers improve from a 7-13 mark last winter and achieve double-digit victories for the first time in his career. Natoma has averaged 67.2 possessions per game each of the last two seasons, but has 58.8 points per contest this year compared to 53.1 points a game last winter.
Five players average seven or more points a contest, including senior Elijah "Lou" Holmes at 12 points a game. Senior forward Cale Hooper, the team's leading rebounder, also had 17 versus Palco. Meiers hadn't scored more than 28 in a game before Monday.
"It's my last year, you've just got to make it worth your time," Meiers said.