February 21, 2024

Kronberg: Torn at the heart

SIOUX CITY — There’s times in our lives when we’re in a bit of a pickle.

We want something to work out for someone, but not at the expense of another.

Say you live in Mount Ayr, but have a relative playing for Interstate 35. You want the one team to win, but family allegiances have you rooting for another. Or you live in Creston, but have a family or friend in Harlan or Glenwood.

At the very least you keep the emotions in check and just hope for a great game where your family member plays well.

Well, that was me this last Tuesday night in Sioux City.

I was on assignment for the News Advertiser to watch former local standouts Jay Wolfe and Jackson Lamb play for the Briar Cliff men’s basketball team in the Great Plains Athletic Conference final.

If any of the other eight men’s teams in the league were playing, I would’ve had no ethical or moral dilemma here.

But they were playing that one team.

Where I went to school — Northwestern College in Orange City.

And where I still have some deep personal ties to the men’s basketball team itself.

Northwestern coach Kris Korver, the uncle of the three standout Korver brothers that played prep ball at Pella High School, arrived on campus at roughly the same time I did. One of the first big stories I did for the student paper was a preview of that season. I can still remember being in his office, talking with him and star shooting guard Lance Reinke about the season.

Coach Korver even offered me the job of being the JV student manager for the basketball team.

I went back and forth with the decision — between doing that or the part-time writing gig I had going on in Sheldon at The N'West Iowa Review newspaper.

Eventually I had to tell coach I couldn’t do both and chose the writing gig.

It was one of the hardest decisions I’d made at that point. I wanted to do both, but couldn’t.

Bless him, coach Korver still found a way for me to help the team. From the middle of my freshman year all the way through my senior year I ran the video camera for all the home games. I didn’t miss a game, even made it back for the game against arch rival Sioux Falls four days after I shattered my femur in a fluke accident while playing a pickup game of basketball.

Our relationship went deeper when for the last two seasons I was the chief beat writer for the Orange City paper.

Coach and I spent a fair amount of time together in season.

Often it wasn’t talking about basketball either. Sure, we’d do the normal game recaps and whatnot.

But we’d talk about life, school, family, faith.

Sure there’s a lot of things I don’t recall from college.

Those times with coach I’ve savored, cherished.

They’re memories that have lasted long beyond.

Through a lot of good times.

And through a lot of really, really dark days.

Those encouraging words coach had to say, insights into life, about how my faith journey was going, that I still cherish.

So, when the final was set and it was decided I was going to go to Sioux City, all I wanted was a great game and for the local guys to do well. The score was irrelevant, especially since both were guaranteed a spot at this week’s NAIA Division II national tournament in Point Lookout, Mo., just south of Branson.

Briar Cliff jumped out to a huge lead. I got the shots I needed and was settling in, looking for even better angles, images of Jay and Jackson. The setup of the Newman-Flanagan Center — built into the side of a hill on Sioux City’s northwest side — lends itself to some great angles. There’s an elevated walkway all around the court. There’s some great angles to shoot down from.

Both Jay and Jackson played well, contributed offensively and defensively.

Northwestern rallied from the early deficit and finally took the lead for good later in the second half, eventually winning.

I did my postgame duties with Jay, Jackson and Chargers coach Nic Nelson and compiled good stuff for the stories (that ran last Thursday and Friday).

Then it was off to wait for the Raiders to come out of the locker room to say hi to coach Korver and longtime assistant Rick Clark, who was also on staff when I was there.

It was fun, even if for a few moments to see coach, catch up, chat.

Sure it wasn’t long enough, but it never is when you’re with your mentor.

A cherished friend.

At least there was those few moments.

Congrats to Jay and Jackson on a well-played game. Best wishes in Branson this week, and hopefully into the week after.

Coach, it was great to see you. Congrats on the win and best wishes at nationals.

And thanks for all you did for me then, the lessons that have carried on and will continue to carry on.

Contact the writer: rkronberg@crestonnews.com. Twitter: @ryankronberg