Opinion: Look out
Maybe the Basehor-Linwood High School girls basketball team -- the team with so much promise and so much talent heading into this season -- had to hit bottom before coming together.
OK, so maybe hitting bottom is a bit harsh. It's not like the girls opened the season -- their first with new coach Tami Holthus -- by playing flat every time out. No, they won their share of games, and looked sharp at times. But during the first 10 games of the season -- games against some of the top-ranked teams in Missouri and Kansas -- they had trouble putting everything together for an entire game.
Shortly after returning from winter break, the Lady Bobcats suffered a tough setback, when they lost at home to rival Bonner Springs. At times, Basehor-Linwood played well enough to win that game, but it couldn't sustain those moments for the full 32 minutes.
Then came Jan. 13, when the Lady 'Cats were blasted by 30 at Tonganoxie. The girls' confidence -- but not their ability to believe -- was shaken, and things needed to turn around quickly. Fortunately they did, last week, at the team's home tournament -- the Bobcat Invitational.
In a remarkable display of heart, will and execution, the Lady Bobcats turned in the school's best-ever performance at the tournament, advancing to the championship game and finishing second by a mere three points.
What they achieved was not lost on the players.
"When they saw the support of the community and their classmates, I think they understood in a very special way what this meant to the school and the community," Holthus said. "Our showing will help us tremendously in competing for other championships down the road."
In this one, the Lady 'Cats were spectacular in all three games. In the first round, they upset previously-unbeaten Holton, 30-28. In the second round, they knocked off Park Hill, also by two. And in the finals, against a fundamentally-sound and incredibly-talented Fort Scott club, they scratched and clawed their way to a three-point loss and an impressive second-place finish.
So what's changed? Is it as simple as saying this team is finally comfortable with its new coach and its new system? That's part of it. But, according to Holthus, very little has actually changed.
"I'm not sure things have changed as much as it might appear," Holthus said. "The girls have worked extremely hard all year. They've stayed the course and they've continued to believe. It was so nice to see them have success at the tournament because it's an important step on our journey."
That journey Holthus spoke of was one her players knew was coming the minute she arrived. When she was hired, Holthus talked about getting on a train together and heading out on a journey toward something special.
The train is moving full-speed-ahead now, and the team is approaching some of the most exciting stops on the journey.
It seems to me that their showing at the Bobcat Invitational will be the springboard to a strong second half of the season. If you love basketball, and like watching players give everything they've got every time out, I suggest you get on board.