Powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas is first test for Basehor-Linwood girls
The Basehor-Linwood girls basketball team faces a daunting task at 6:30 p.m. today when it opens its season against powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas at the Saints Classic.
Aquinas is the tournament’s host school and finished 16-7 last season and advanced to the Class 5A state tournament.
The Saints are led by Deshaun Hardin, a junior who already has committed to play at Kansas University. Hardin is one of five returning starters from last year’s state team.
“It is definitely a great team in Aquinas,” BLHS coach Noah Simpson said. “Our goal is to go in and learn as much about our team as possible. In this tournament we want to win games, but the main thing is to create a learning curve for ourselves and see what we need to do in order to get prepared for March.”
March is when the Bobcats hope to be playing in the Class 4A state tournament. Simulating a state tournament level of competition is why the Bobcats jumped at the opportunity to play in the Saints Classic.
The tournament field also includes defending champion Bellevue (Neb.) West, Jefferson (Mo.) Helias, Junction City, Lawrence, Norman (Okla.) and Sumner Academy.
“I just think it is a great opportunity for our kids to experience top notch programs,” Simpson said. “These are teams that have won state titles, teams that year in and year out are competitive and have great years. That is what we are striving to be. It is exciting that on Thursday we get to see how we stack up against those teams.”
The winner of the Basehor-Aquinas game will play the winner of Lawrence and Helias at 6:30 p.m. Friday. The loser will play at 4:45 p.m. in the consolation bracket.
In order to prepare for the tournament, BLHS players have practiced against the boys’ freshman team. The competition with the boys helped the girls prepare for a more physical game, Simpson said.
Simpson’s philosophy on the tournament is that the team needs to focus on what it can control rather than worrying about wins or losses.
“We have got to focus on our stuff and run it well,” he said. “Defensively, we have to get after it. We have to get out and defend. We have told the kids that every one of the first five games is an opportunity to see where we are at. We want to see what we need to change and what we can do well so we can get after it in January and February. The goal is to get back to state and to be playing as well as possible in the last six games.”