Good Luck

June 14th, 2021

redskins1By EARL WATT

Leader & Times

There’s no denying just how good last year’s 23-0 Lady Redskin team was, but that team was only a couple of seconds away from two losses.

On a night Katie Horyna was struggling to score in The Big House, she nailed a buzzer-beating three pointer to force overtime against Dodge City last year, and Mullens fouled out in the extra period before Liberal held on when a Dodge City shot missed late for a 51-49 win.

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On Jan. 31, the Lady Redskins found themselves chasing the Hugoton Lady Eagles, but once again Horyna connected on a late shot, and the Lady Eagles missed a shot at the buzzer, and Liberal held on for a 42-41 win.

What may be considered the best Lady Redskins team of all time last year was that close to two losses.

Two years before that, the Lady Redskins lost in Hays 48-41. Liberal didn’t lose again until the second round of the Class 6A state tournament that season, and they went on to finish third in the state.

Last year, despite two close calls, the Lady Redskins put together a 23-0 season and a first-round win at the Class 6A State Tournament before the coronavirus ended the tournament unfinished.

Comparing this year’s team to last year’s team is simply apples and oranges, but to believe last year’s team was indestructible is also unfair. They found a way to win those two close games, and that will forever be a credit to a year many of us will never forget. But had those two games ended in losses, it would not have prevented Liberal from getting back to the state tournament and having a chance to win it all.

That’s why these two losses so far this year shouldn’t have Redskin Nation rattled, either.

Let’s take a look at where last year’s team was and why it had a distinct advantage over this year’s team.

First, last year’s team was senior heavy. Three of the six seniors started regularly, and a fourth received significant playing time.

 Liberal coach Brandi Fowler has four seniors total, and only one starts.

Last year’s team was bubbling with experience, and by this time last year, there was very little room for improvement from the group on the floor with a couple of exceptions. The seniors had the experience of an entire high school career except for the final few games of the season.

Fowler routinely has freshmen on the court this season as well as some sophomores and a pair of juniors.

They have so much higher they can climb this year alone than last year’s team had at this time.

This year’s team is also learning from a new coach. Any time a coach changes, there will be a learning curve, and the Lady Redskins are no exception to that rule.

Despite the challenges, the Lady Redskins are 6-2, and the two games they lost were winnable.

It is quite possible the Lady Redskins suffer other losses this season. Salina Central is the No. 1 seed at this weekend’s tournament, and the Hugoton Lady Eagles are of to a stellar start. Plus, the Lady Redskins will have rematches with Garden City and Dodge City.

This is a challenging season to say the least, and yet, it is clear this group of Lady Redskins will be much better at the end of the year than they are right now. 

I doubt if I could say the same for some of the teams they are playing who are senior heavy.

Every practice and every game is giving these underclassmen valuable experience, and they already have the talent to compete at a high level.

Halle Contreras has been able to light up the scoreboard from outside, and Elle Hatcher has provided much needed size in the paint.

Rylie Hallman has led a group of sophomores and has tremendous athletic ability. And those varsity-game jitters are quickly wearing off of all of these underclassmen.

Aubrey Warden and Ashley Carrillo have had tremendous pressure to fill shoes form last year, and they are getting more and more comfortable in those roles.

This team is doing just fine, and they are exactly where they need to be.

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