Lady ‘Cats snag first winning season in 5 years
Editor's Note: BLHS girls basketball coach Tami Holthus resigned her position Tuesday afternoon. However, when reached by the Sentinel for this interview on Monday night, Holthus looked back at the 2006-2007 season and offered her thoughts on next year.
Cross the line. The motto appeared on banners, T-shirts and signs. It was spoken by the coaches and players. It was even chanted by the home crowd during the first round of sub-state.
For Basehor-Linwood girls basketball coach Tami Holthus, the words represent the hard work her team put in. The 2006-2007 Lady Bobcats campaign could indeed be looked upon in the future as the season where the proverbial line was crossed.
"We had our first winning season and sub-state win (in the same season) since '96-'97," Holthus said. "We set out to cross the line at the start of the season. We did that. The girls showed great progress this season in a lot of ways. I am pleased with where we are at."
The Lady Bobcats began the season promisingly at the Iola Tournament. After winning the first two games of their season, BLHS faced Parsons in the championship game. PHS edged out the Lady 'Cats in a hard-fought, defensive game, 32-29.
The loss was the first close, discouraging loss of the season for the Lady 'Cats. It wouldn't be the last, as BLHS finished 0-4 in games decided by three points or less.
"I think our mental toughness," said sophomore Bren Koontz when asked what the team needs to work on in the offseason. "I think there are some teams that we lost to that we definitely need to go in and beat next season."
The team won its next four games after returning from Iola. All the ingredients appeared for a statement season, but the young Lady 'Cats, with no seniors in the starting lineup, could never seem to put all the pieces together. A mid-season injury to star forward Michelle Chrisman didn't help either.
After the 6-1 start, the team went 1-5 in its next five games. The schedule, typical of the new-age of Basehor-Linwood basketball, was extremely tough.
"We were able to battle our guts out," Holthus said. "I knew it would be a gut check on a regular basis because of our schedule. We got a good effort every night from our kids."
The team secured home-court advantage in the first round of sub-state and a winning record with a victory over Piper in late February. The Lady 'Cats entered sub-state with an 11-9 mark.
BLHS knocked off Piper again in the first round of the postseason, 43-34, before bowing out later in the week to Tonganoxie. The Lady Chieftains proved to be a thorn in the Bobcats' side, defeating the BLHS girls three times, the first two in thrilling fashion.
"Definitely one of our goals (for next season) is to beat Tongie," Koontz said.
The team will remain motivated.
"We made a lot of progress," junior point guard Brooke Sanders said. "The losses were by a couple points. We are going to keep going. It didn't end like we wanted it to, but we still made progress."
As a team, the Lady Bobcats really improved in the rebounding department. Heading into the season, Holthus knew the work on the boards could make the difference in her team achieving its goals. The Lady 'Cats delivered.
"Rebounding was considerably up," Holthus said. "That was a huge point of emphasis. We were out-rebounded time and time again last season.
The rebounding may have come as a result of another Holthus goal: to improve the team's strength.
"One thing that we set out to accomplish was to get physically stronger and I am very thankful for the addition of coach Ross Schwisow," Holthus said. "He has worked with all of our student athletes, and I feel like the kids have made considerable strides with their strength and conditioning. He has been a valuable asset to all of the programs, not only physically but a mental aspect as well."
The Lady 'Cats were far too reckless with the ball last season, and this year they showed vast improvements in that area, as well.
"That was one of our goals, to get mentally tougher," Holthus said. "That has been something that we have made considerable progress with. One thing that shows up when you look at the stats is that our offensive possessions were more efficient. Our turnover totals were down. Brooke Sanders did a great job running the point."
Next year's team will look very familiar. The Lady 'Cats only lose senior bench player Amanda Vitt. Starters Sanders, Chrisman and Koontz return along with Cassie Lombardino and Ashley Jeannin. Kara Douglas, who started in place of Chrisman, also returns.
So what is a realistic goal for next season's Lady Bobcats?
"To win the league," Sanders said. "There is no doubt in my mind that we can and should win our league. We also want to go to state and compete."
The bevy of returning talent has the built-in advantage of knowing each other's strengths and weaknesses.
"I think we will do really good next year," Koontz said. "Next year will be our third year together. We will trust each other, and we will know what we are trying to do."
The current group has changed the face of the girls' program. It will have another year to cross another line.
"I feel like we changed the program around because this is the first time the Lady Bobcats made it past the first round in 10 years and the first time we have had a winning season in five years," Cassie Lombardino said. "So I think we're in the process of building this to what it can be."