Coach holds a lot of optimism for next year
By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
For more than 30 years, Chase County’s varsity girls’ basketball teams haven’t won more than 13 games.
That changed this year when the Lady Longhorns recorded a 14-11 season finish for the Chase County record books.
In the 1982-83 season, the Lady Longhorns finished with a 15-4 record. That’s the last time the girls’ varsity had more than 13 wins.
The Lady Longhorn captured that elusive 13th win after their last regular season game Feb 14, then went 1-1 in subdistricts to finish 14-11.
The way his team finished the season is one of Head Coach Mark Bottom’s highlights of 2014-15.
“Getting to that No. 14 win was a goal. They were focused on that,” Bottom said.
Despite a tough six-game losing streak between Dec. 18 and Jan. 13, his team came back to finish 11-3 in the final 14 games.
And the way they won some of those games will always be memorable, including the two-point O.T. victory over North Platte St. Pat’s and another two-point, last second win in the first round of subdistricts.
Along with those two big wins was getting to the finals of the SPVA Conference tournament as the No. 6 seeded team.
The past season, Chase County defeated every one of the other SPVA teams at least once. The only loss went to St. Pat’s in the SPVA tournament, which was reversed when St. Pat’s came to Imperial on Feb. 6 for its regular season game.
However, Coach Bottom said that means Chase County won’t be “sneaking up” on anyone next season. Their fellow SPVA teams will be expecting a good Chase County squad next year, he said.
While the team loses seven seniors from this year’s squad, with just one junior on the 2014-15 roster, the coach has a lot of optimism for next season.
One is the fact two sophomores, Taylin McNair and Destiny Reinke, were starters and both finished as the top two scorers on the team.
Added to that are two other sophomores, Kadyn Milner and Josie Peterson, “who were vital down the stretch,” especially in those two big wins against St. Pat’s and Gordon-Rushville, he said.
Then you can add a JV team that completed a 17-3 season after winning their last 14 games.
“And, we’re going to inherit some pretty good junior high players,” he said.
But, there is some anxiety for next season, too.
Bottom said they’ll lose some height, but the girls coming back have a lot of speed and the skills for finding the open spot and being quick to the rebound.
And then there’s the agreement.
Coach Bottom said all of the returners have already signed a pledge for next year to “keep the bar high that the 2014-15 seniors raised.”
A big portion of the team’s success this season can be traced to a good group of seniors who provided “phenomenal leadership,” Bottom said, and a growing confidence in their abilities as players.
Coach Bottom also said Jeff Gleisberg was a good addition to the staff with his knowledge of the game and skills. Kyle Bottom also was an assistant coach, providing some additional technical knowledge of the game, he said.
Coach Bottom said the Lady Longhorns were blessed with some excellent leaders in the senior class this season.
“They pulled the team together and put themselves out there,” he said.
He credits the seniors for the growing confidence he saw among the entire team as the season progressed.
“We just had a good balance of youth and seniors that helped us shake off some of the history” of girls’ basketball at CCS, he said.
Each senior player made her contribution. Here is what Coach Bottom appreciated most from each of them.
Paige Spady was a team anchor, great leader and hard worker. He dubbed her the team “workhorse.”
Valeria Cervantes, whose season was cut short in mid-February with an ACL tear, showed “great, great improvement. She kept sticking with it,” he said.
MaKenna Ketter worked as hard away from the court to be an improved person as she did on the court and was a great asset. And, she was “a rebounding machine,” especially on offense.
Makenna Wallin was the team’s emotional leader with great character. “And she really worked hard, too.”
Taylar Nickless, new to the team as a senior after moving here, brought good energy and a hard work ethic. “If I asked her to jump, she’d ask how high?”
Emma Bauerle came on strong late in the season and always kept her focus.
Jessica Hartman always did whatever was asked. She exhibited the best team character, he said.
Stats tell story
Just a look at this year’s season statistics tell the story for the Lady Longhorns’ improved 14-11 season. Last year, the team compiled just five wins.
One of the areas that sticks out big to Coach Bottom is the number of shots take from both two and three-point range.
This year’s team shot 300 more times (1,272 vs. 972) than in 2013-14, a big factor in that Chase County’s point-per-game scoring average went up by more than 10 points (33.2 to 43.8).
The Lady Longhorns averaged more around the 50-point-per game mark their last 10 games, too.
“So that shows how strong we came on the end of the season,” he said.
Overall, the team’s shooting percentage (twos, threes and free throws) went from 26 to 35 percent this season.
From specific areas on the floor:
Two-point—Improved from 28 to 37 percent.
Three-point—Improved from 15 to 24 percent.
Free throws—Improved from 49 to 55 percent.
Individually, McNair led the team in scoring with 253 points and a 10.5 per-game average.
Second was Reinke who tallied 208 this season or just over nine points per game.
Others scoring over the 100-point mark were Ketter (157), Spady (141) and Cervantes (108).
Spady led the team in both assists (38) and steals (56).
Ketter was the rebounding leader with 135, 52 on offense and 83 on defense.
Reinke had the most treys this season with 31, while McNair’s 88 buckets led the squad on two-pointers.