Girls basketball team’s unity drives success

Jansen Hess, Sports Editor

Monday, Feb. 6. Home game against BV Southwest. Final Score: 49-17. Win for BV.
Leading scorers — senior Mackenzie Johnson and junior Bailey Geiman, both with 11 points.
Leading rebounder — Johnson with 11. Four offensive, seven defensive.
Leading stealer — sophomore Brooke Zimmerman with two.
Leading 3-point shooter — senior Taylor Leathers with two three-pointers on the night.
Coach Andy Unrein said the Lady Tigers have a special connection on and off the court that helps them out-will other teams.
“They get along better than any group of kids we’ve ever had,” he said. “We’ve had some groups that have been really close, but there always seems to be some drama at some level. There really doesn’t seem to be any with this group at all, which I think has been a huge reason why they’ve been able to be consistent — just focus on what they’re supposed to do and not a bunch of other junk.”
Johnson said the team’s chemistry is the best in the EKL.
“We know what we’re doing before we do it,” she said. “I think we know each other better than we know ourselves.”
Geiman said she and Johnson have a unique bond when they play together.
“We always find each other open, and we always are passing to each other,” Geiman said. “I mean, I always pass to everyone, but we have something special. We know where each other is on the court.”
Geiman and Johnson have been playing basketball together since fourth grade.
Unrein said since they learned the fundamentals together, they play the same way.
“A lot of them have been playing together for a really long time,” he said. “You start to develop a sense of what each other is doing and how they’re trying to do it. That goes a long way as them being successful as a group. We’ve had teams that have been good, but they didn’t really play well together because they didn’t understand what each other was trying to accomplish.”
Geiman said learning the game with Johnson has helped throughout the years.
“We know each other’s weaknesses and strengths,” she said. “I knew when we were little what things we were good at and what things we were bad at.”
Unrein said the team doesn’t have one go-to-player — everyone plays a part. During the SW game, all but one Lady Tiger scored a basket.
“We have a lot of kids that share roles and that from night-to-night can fill those types of roles,” he said. “One night, it can be one of the seniors, one night it could be a junior, one night it was a bench kid that kind of lifted us. I think that’s one of the things that’s so great about it — they don’t have to lean on one person. It cuts the anxiety down.”
Geiman said each player has a main role, but their responsibilities can shift depending on the night.
“Kenzie’s the post, we look for her inside,” she said. “Taylor, we look for her to drive and spot up.
Geiman said junior Sara Hanna is the team’s ultimate rebounder and aggressor. Sophomore Sydnie Hanson helps handle the ball. Juniors Jarin Braithwait and Kelsie Carpenter come in and bring a lot of fire.
The Lady Tigers lost the State championship game last year, but Unrein said losing in the finals was not as big of a set back as people may think.
“It just proves a point that we can get to that point, and it’s fun to get to that point, but it’d be a lot more fun if we were able to get it done,” he said. “So I think it creates a little bit of hunger for the kids.”
Johnson said the team has a really good chance at winning State, especially if they keep improving.
“I think that the more that we’re together, the more we realize each other’s goals and how we are all going for the same thing,” she said. “We definitely know how it feels to be there in the end, so I think that losing helps you realize how much better you’d feel if you win.”
Unrein said the team unity will ultimately help them throughout the post season because they play for each other.
“I think this is something that’s consistent every year,” he said. “You want to try and win the state title, but I think the bigger issue is they don’t want to lose because they don’t want to let each other down. I think that’s the biggest thing. They don’t want to let the school down, they don’t want to let the parents down, they don’t want to let the coaches down, but the biggest thing is they don’t want to let each other down. That pushes them even farther.”