Opinion: A battle for all the marbles
It has been years since the Basehor-Linwood High School boys basketball team had any kind of impact on the race for the Kaw Valley League title.
But the wait is over.
Tuesday night, when the Bobcats (12-4 overall, 10-0 in KVL play) travel to Piper High School (14-2, 9-0), they will do so knowing that if they play their best game they likely will deliver the school's first league championship since the 1995-1996 season.
At that point in time, Basehor-Linwood basketball was in its prime. Seasons like the one the Bobcats are currently enjoying came frequently and BLHS was a major player at the league and state levels.
The 1994-1995 team earned a trip to the 4A state tournament and finished fourth. One season later, the Bobcats reached the sub-state championship game, where they lost to Gardner-Edgerton, the eventual 4A state champion.
After its memorable run of success, the BLHS program fell on hard times. Wins were hard to come by and losses piled up season after season. Basehor-Linwood was forgotten in the world of high school basketball, left for dead as the doormat of the Kaw Valley League.
But, three years ago, in stepped Mike McBride, a confident, young coach determined to do whatever it took to turn the program around. After the Bobcats suffered through back-to-back 2-19 seasons, McBride's first squad showed improvement and finished 5-16. The following year, BLHS improved again, although only slightly, and finished 6-15. But something clicked this year and the Bobcats have enjoyed their best season in more than a decade.
But it wasn't simply by chance that the Bobcats reached new heights during their third season under McBride's tutelage. The same thing happened at his previous stop in Licking, Mo. And the words he uttered just hours after accepting the BLHS job have proven to be prophetic.
"I was looking at the third year to be the year," McBride said in his first interview with the Sentinel back in 2004. "To say it's going to turn around in three years wouldn't be a concrete thing. It may take a little longer than that, but anybody you talk to that knows me, knows I don't quit. If they stick with me, we'll get it done."
The Bobcats are on the verge of doing just that, but by "get it done" McBride wasn't talking about just competing for or winning the league title.
He's emphasized it more and more every year and this year he's talked about it constantly -- the team's goal is to get to state and to do some damage while they're there.
A victory Tuesday would validate the Bobcats' chances of achieving their goal, but it won't come easy. The Pirates enter the game as the No. 2 ranked team in Class 4A.
In seniors Nate Daniels and Austin Bond, they feature two of the best players in the area and, quite possibly, the two best players in the league. And the two superstars' supporting cast is talented, athletic and capable of picking up the slack on any given night.
The gym will be packed. The game will be a dogfight. Piper High School will be the place to be for high school basketball fans on Tuesday, Feb. 20.
I know I'll be there.
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