For Basehor-Linwood girls, it’s state or bust
On the first day of practice this season, Basehor-Linwood girls basketball coach Noah Simpson passed out goals sheets to each player and asked them to write theirs down.
“It was interesting that 95 percent of those goals matched up,” he said. “A big goal that they had was to make a run at the state tournament and get back to Salina. The last two years the coaches have set that. Now we see players set it and know that is always the goal we should strive for. It is good to see that focus, and it’s good to see that is the goal they want to set their sights on.”
There are reasons for such optimism.
The Bobcats return a talented group of players from last season.
Junior Megan Bergstrom leads the way. The 5-foot-11 forward was an All-Kaw Valley League selection last year, and Simpson said Bergstrom improved during the offseason.
“She will be a force for people to guard against,” he said. “Over the summer she added a mid-range jumper and a 3-point shot. She should be a complete player the next two years.”
Cassy Bever also returns for her senior season and can play inside or outside.
Junior Courtney Poe also returns and is set to start at point guard after seeing major minutes off the bench as a sophomore.
Senior Taylor Johnson had a good summer for the Bobcats and should contribute this season, Simpson said.
“She just played lights out and blossomed as a player,” Simpson said. “She will be a nice little shooting guard for us.”
The Bobcats will be in need of shooters. They lost Bren Koontz, Amber Jeannin and Kara Douglas to graduation. Koontz was the team’s leading scorer and one of the school’s most prolific long-range shooters.
Even with the key graduations, Simpson said he was confident new players would step up and take advantage of their opportunities.
“I think that we are at a place in our program where when we do have talented seniors leave, we have younger kids that work hard in the offseason who will be ready to step in and play,” he said.
Among those Simpson is counting on to step up is junior Amanda O’Bryan. She will play guard and is expected to be a talented defender for the Bobcats.
Junior Shelby Equels also returns to the varsity squad. She is a left-handed guard who is a talented shooter and defender.
Sophomore Cara McCarty is a varsity newcomer that Simpson said should make an immediate impact.
“She is very, very athletic,” Simpson said. “She plays good defense and is going to get a lot of post time. She is extremely athletic. It amazes me at times how well she handles the ball, and she shoots the ball well.”
Early in the season, Simpson will use an eight-player rotation and add new players to the rotation as younger players improve.
So far, practices have gone well.
“The kids work hard and push each other in the right direction,” Simpson said. “Competitiveness has been a positive and is a strength for us.”
Dedication and hard work will be pivotal for the team if it hopes to play in the state tournament.
“I think our main thing is when you set goals for yourself, you don’t let anything get in the way of attaining that goal,” Simpson said. “They have to learn it is exciting to go through the process. There will be bumps along the way, but the main thing is to keep everything in perspective and remember the main goal is to be clicking in February and to make a run at the state tournament and get back to Salina.”
Basehor-Linwood opens the season against St. Thomas Aquinas at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 10 in the St. Thomas Aquinas Invitational. The Bobcats will play three games in three days to begin the season.
“We look forward to that game. It’s definitely a storied program that has been to state,” Simpson said of Aquinas. “It is a good one to start out with, a good measuring stick to see where we are at.”
This is the first year for Basehor-Linwood to play in the St. Thomas Aquinas tournament. The tournament field is stacked with top teams from Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Missouri.
“We want to simulate the state tournament,” Simpson said. “Tough competition each game is nothing but a benefit to our kids.”
Meet the Bobcats night
Basehor-Linwood will play host to a Meet the Bobcats event at 6 p.m. Dec. 4. The boys and girls basketball teams will be introduced. The girls will then scrimmage for two quarters followed by a scrimmage by the boys.
“It is a chance to be in front of crowd, get jitters out the way and have a little fun with it,” Simpson said.