By Jason Hirdler
On Jan. 5, the Mound Westonka High School girls basketball team traveled to New London-Spicer to try and cage the Wildcats. The Wildcats, who are no stranger to competitive basketball, were lying in wait and sprinted out to a 10-0 lead. But the White Hawks were able to claw their way back and managed to make it a respectable road game.
The White Hawks were able to gain some momentum when junior guard Makala Shelton slapped away a Wildcats layup that echoed off the gym walls and shook the countless award banners that hung from the New London-Spicer ceiling. On the next defensive play, it was senior forward Jen Schaible’s turn. As the Wildcats’ local hero point guard released the ball, Schaible sent it into next week, leaving only shards of orange debris scattered on the floor, like school lunch on Halloween.
Throughout the first half, the White Hawks struggled a bit to find the hoop, but the silver lining to this New London-Spicer cloud was the White Hawks defense. Seniors Maya Thurston and Ela Springer built up their patented security wall around the MWHS hoop.
On offense, junior forward Melissa Drill helped keep hope alive by driving through the Wildcats’ defense like Moses parting the Red Sea. At one point, Drill dropped in a hard-hitting layup and drew the foul, as guest referee Jerry Van Dyke reminisced about his days as assistant coach Luther Van Dam on the hit TV show “Coach.”
The offense had a few other sparks throughout the first half. Freshman Megan Wanner gave a Disney-esque “Holiday on Ice” spin move in the squared paint that left the two defenders staring at each other like they were just abducted by aliens.
The second half brought new life to the White Hawks, who flexed their defensive muscles even more. The White Hawks held the Wildcats to a mere five points up until the 8-minute mark (and one of those points was a free throw). To put it in perspective, the Wildcats have been to the state tournament 16 times since 1991. In four out of the 16 appearances, the Cats were either champions or runners up. To be able to hold an “AAU-stacked” lineup to so few points is commendable, if not remarkable.
The second half was also about motivation. When the White Hawks were down, they stuck to what they do best – defend the hoop. Some fans wondered if the motivation came from the coach’s halftime speech, while others thought it came from Scott Eidsness sitting behind the players’ bench with multiple Dilly Bars dripping on the hardwood floor. Whatever the case, the White Hawks have shown throughout the season that they can compete with just about anybody. They may not win every game, but they definitely will not go down without a fight.
George Steinbrenner once said, “Beware of the underdog. Don’t talk to me about aesthetics or tradition. Talk to me about what sells and what’s good right now. And what the American people like is to think the underdog still has a chance.”
The final score was 56-31 in favor of New London-Spicer.
Coaches Corner: “We didn’t execute well offensively. We were only 2-14 from the free throw line, and you’re not going to compete shooting that poorly. When we were aggressive and attacked their zone, we did well; but we were not consistent in attacking it, and we missed a few chances to close the gap in the second half and didn’t cash in. We’ll have to be much more aggressive and consistent in order to beat Annandale.”