Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Recognizing the "S" Word

The 2014-15 Boonville Lady Pirates basketball team and coaches gathered one last time, Thursday, March 19, 2015, in Windsor Gymnasium in Boonville, Missouri for a Final Four Recognition Awards Ceremony.  One last time to celebrate the most successful season (30-1) in Boonville high school basketball history. One last time for the students, team, and coaches to be recognized for their accomplishments and support. One last time for a coach to address his team.

Although the Lady Pirates finished the regular season 24-0, they knew the season wouldn't be complete unless they ended it playing in the MSHSAA State Final Four on the University of Missouri - Columbia campus. They set their goals high, but they also played one game at a time, never thinking ahead. They also didn't talk of about the "S" word even though everyone around them was and the expectations for them to make it there increased the further they advanced.

Thursday evening as Boonville head coach, Jaryt Hunziker, thanked the community, students, staff and media for their coverage and support this season, he also took several minutes to reflect back on the season, his team, and the sacred "S" word. For a coach to field a team with players who have the same goals, competitiveness and commitment can sometimes be a challenge and then to get to the tournament at the end of the season can be an even greater challenge. Not in Boonville. Not this year.

Thus I leave you with the words spoken by Coach Hunziker as he ended his prepared speech and spoke of his team.

Trophies from Boonville's successful 2014-15 Season

It has been told these past weeks that our team didn't want to say the "S" word throughout the season. Although I didn't say it, it doesn't mean that I wasn't thinking it the entire time.

I remember starting to think of the “S” word this past summer while taking the girls to area shoot-outs and my assistant, Coach Freese, specifically telling me to watch the opposing players and coaches’ reactions when our girls entered the gym.  I questioned what she was referring to, until we walked through the gym doors one day and all conversations stopped and all heads turned towards the girl.  I honestly had never noticed that before with any of my prior teams. I knew then that our girls had the RESPECT of other competitors.
I remember thinking about the "S" word during our tournament runs towards the beginning of the season, in which we went 8-0 and took home the championships in the Eugene, Centralia and California tournaments.  I knew then that our girls could play hard for a long string of games without giving up their INTENSITY.

I remember thinking of the "S" word when we were down 17 points early in the 2nd half to a very tough undefeated Fulton team and mounting an impressive comeback to win by 7.  I knew then that our girls had the DETERMINATION to overcome adversity and fight until the end.  Traits that are valuable the further you go in the postseason.

Historically, the North Central Missouri Conference is one of the toughest conferences in the entire state, so to go undefeated in the conference, which includes the likes of a tough Kirksville and Fulton team this year,  was not only impressive to myself but to other programs across the state.  I knew then that we could COMPETE with the best of them.  And then as we finished the regular season with a perfect 24-0 record, the "S" word was again on my mind.

Headline in the Boonville Daily News (Chris Bowie)
 I remember thinking of the "S" word when we won the District tournament by an average of 40 points per game and then after beating Kansas City O'Hara by 44 points in the Sectional game.

While competing with state ranked Chillicothe in the Quarterfinals, the look in the girl’s eyes and their body language reinforced the "we got this coach" attitude and more importantly, it validated why the "S" word was on my mind this entire season.
And to see how they bounced back on Friday to beat a tough Buffalo team for 3rd place at State- to finish the 30-1 season as we started it and as one of only 2 teams to finish their season with a win - I was so PROUD.  I still am.

Semi-Finals game - Boonville vs Cardinal Ritter

Coach Hunziker instructing the Boonville Lady Pirates

3rd place game - Boonville vs Buffalo
For me, the "S" word never stood for "STATE".  It stands for something much more than that.
My "S" word is SPECIAL.  Because that is what they are to me, it's what they are to our school, our basketball program and to this community. They are SPECIAL.
I am so proud of these girls for how hard they have worked the past 3 years and how dedicated they have been to the game.  Thank you girls for all that you have accomplished this SPECIAL year!

As for my seniors, Addy, Morgan and Olivia, I thank you for your commitment this past year and I wish you the best at CMU and William Woods next year, where I hope you will create more SPECIAL memories.

Boonville Lady Pirates win 3rd at MSHSAA State Tourney