The Lady Maverick Varsity Basketball team ended their season on March 1 with a loss to the Sterling Black Bears in the second round of sub-state. Though lacking some height, the extremely athletic team entered the tournament on a 3-game win streak. First year returning head coach Staci Derstein said the loss to the Black Bears was a disappointing ending, but felt the final weeks of the play were some of the best of the season.
The Mavericks had trouble finding their rhythm for most of the season.
They didn’t have a back-to-back win until Feb. 15 winning 50-33 against the South Grey Rebels, the second of four consecutive wins in the final weeks of the season, preceded by a 39-37 win at home against the Hodgeman County Longhorns.
The early season was tough.
They opened the season on the road, winning 55-30 against the LaCrosse Leopards, but dropped the opening game of the Keady Classic on Dec. 3 against the Larned Indians 39-50. They salvaged a win in the second round, blowing out the Macksville Mustangs 53-22, but had a tough 41-60 loss against the Elinwood Eagles in the third round.
They followed it with tough 41-48 loss against the South Central Timberwolves on Dec. 11.
“I don’t feel like we should have lost our game against So. Central,” said Derstein. “I felt like we didn’t keep our composure in a tough, tight game, but it was early in the season. We were still in a period of defining roles.”
In the first five games of the season, the Mavericks went 2-3, but outscored opponents 229-210. A seemingly tight margin, they won by an average of 13 points and lost by a 12-point average. In early season play they were winning by large margins, or loosing by large margins, with the exception of the 7-point margin loss to the Timberwolves.
“Anytime a coach takes over a program, whether things are done differently or not, it takes a while for kids to get used to your expectations,” said Derstein. “I think it took us a while to get roles defined and change some philosophies. It took us some time to get kids confident and comfortable in the roles we needed them to play.”
Derstein returned to coaching this year after a number of seasons away from the bench. “Maybe the coach needed to get smarter at who to play, and when,” she quipped. “But It all takes time.”
The Lady Mavs went into the winter break 3-4, ending 2012 with their second win against the Mustangs a 56-42 home game on Dec. 14 and a tough 51-53 road loss against the Fairfield Falcons on Dec. 18.
Page 2 of 4 - “I think they are kids, sometimes they play well and sometimes they don’t play well. We put a lot pressure on them. I think it is what it is. Sometimes kids would have a bad game, but I never felt like it was from a lack of trying on their part.”
In a pre-season interview Derstein acknowledged the lack of height on the team but said their athleticism would carry them a lot farther than other teams would expect.
Post-season she agreed with her early-season prediction.
“I do think our athleticism made up for our lack of size,” she said. “We could get into a mismatch, but I think our athleticism negated that. It sometimes changed our defensive plan, but some of our post players like Angela [Liggett] and Heather [Melton] have some size and they are athletic. I would take 5’9” athletic player over 6’0” player that can’t run or jump.”
The Lady Mavs started 2013 with a one-point win over Minneola, besting the Wildcats 31-30 in what would be the lowest scoring game of the season.
They went 3-3 in the month of January, winning 40-33 against the Kinsley Coyotes on Jan. 11 as well as a 63-38 SPIAA Tournament second round win against the Longhorns, who couldn’t solve the Mavs in either of their two season match-ups.
Derstein said that two January losses were the turning point of the season, a 31-45 loss to the Ingalls Bulldogs on Jan. 15 and a 39-49 loss to the Bucklin Red Aces in the first round of the SPIAA Tournament in Dodge City on Jan. 21.
“Against Ingalls we started to see the kids were believing in what we were doing,” said Derstein. “They were believing in each other and had confidence in each other. The loss to Bucklin was a game when the girl walked off the court and could see about three plays that made the difference. I think they could see ‘oh, if we could get this turnover here’ or of we could make that basket, the ball game could have been different.”
They finished January with a heartbreaking 22-44 blowout against the Spearville Lancers, but February would be an entirely different month.
“The last month of the season, everything we had been working on started to make sense and the little pieces started falling into place,” said Derstein. “And, of course, the ball fell in the basket when we needed it too.”
The Lady Mavs went on a tear in February, going 5-2 in the final month of the season, their only losses coming against the Ashland Blue Jays (29-36) and the season ending 26-60 blowout against the Black Bears
Page 3 of 4 - “We ran into a buzzsaw,” said Derstein. “They were just a better team. We didn’t handle the pressure well and they were a quick and physical team. Their bench was as good any of their players on the court. We never really got started in the game, we never got into the game and it was a disappointing way to end the season.”
Derstein said the loss was especially tough on her seniors.
“They were disappointed because they wanted to do better and they believed they could. As a coach, that’s all you could want. You feel bad for the kids. Who knows, maybe we’ll have an opportunity next year but those seniors that worked their tails off this season; they won’t be part of it. That’s the hardest part when the season ends like that.”
Derstein led the Lady Mavs to an 11-10 final season record, in large part due to good tournament play and their end-of-season four-game winning streak.
They went 4-1 at home, 3-6 in their away games and 4-3 in neutral games on the season.
Kiowa County averaged 42 point per game, with a total 890 points on the season.
They finished fifth in the Southern-Plains Iroquois District standing with a 5-4 league record, behind Spearville (6-3), Bucklin (7-2), Ashland (8-2) and an undefeated Ingalls team that went 10-0 in district play and 25-0 on the season.
They topped the rebounds per-game stat sheet with more than 31-per game, beating out So. Gray (28.9) and Fowler (28) for the top spot. They were second in steals, averaging 11.4 per game, behind Ingalls with 13.6 rebounds per contest.
Derstein, who is also the junior high and elementary school principal, is expected to return next season along with assistant coach Kim Heft.
“Ask any of the girls, when I came to practice, it was the most fun two hours of my day,” she said. “I enjoyed being around the kids and being in that role with the kids. For the rest of the day I’m being a principal, enforcing rules and taking care of problems, those kids of things. Here I get to be the coach. I get to spend time with the kids and enjoy that time. I had a whole lot of fun.”
The Lady Mavericks will lose a number of this season’s players including starters Angela Liggett and Halie Headrick as well as Chelsea Oberle, Erica Bertram and Kadie Larsh.
“Losing Halie’s outside shooting; that will be a tough one to fill. There are several girls that have worked hard on their shooting and are on the verge of being able to contribute. They need to shoot the basketball. You don’t just suddenly become a good shooter in November. You need to shoot the basketball over the summertime and in the off-season.
Page 4 of 4 - We’ve got several girls that have worked on their shooting and if they continue this summer I think we can make up for that loss.”
Katelynn Gamble, Dena Liggett, Heather Melton and Riann Heft are all expected to return next season. Hannah Brown, McKenzie Heft, Mackenzie Rose and had varsity minutes this season and are expected to contribute.
Derstein also sees future talent coming into and migrating out of the Lady Mavericks junior varsity squad.
“I was pleased with our JV girls,” she added. “I am excited about some of the 8th graders coming into the program next year. I don’t expect them to play a lot of minutes but I think some of those girls are very promising. We have several kids that, if they continue to work, will be up to filling some of those empty shoes on the varsity squad. It was a luxury for me that we had some depth. We had kids that we could pug in if a starter had some foul trouble. I see us being able to continue that.”