After graduating a handful of key players from last season, the young Minnehaha girls’ varsity basketball players had to adapt to new roles on the court and significant changes in their team dynamics
After scoring 21 points for the night, senior captain Sarah Kaminski fouled out with three minutes and thirty seconds left on the clock.
Coach Josh Thurow turned to the bench and nodded to eighth grader Mia Curtis, who leaped onto the court to sub in. The cramped gym echoed with loud chants from the bleachers and sharp commands from the sideline.
On Jan. 12, the Minnehaha varsity girls’ basketball team faced off against an aggressive opponent in the boisterous Como Park gym.
After losing their highly-acclaimed player to the bench, the girls were forced to display their individual playing skills and their team cohesion under intense circumstances.
Both Curtis and freshman Navaeh Galloway contributed ten points that night, freshman Avery New had 11 rebounds, and the team made 14 free throws.
When the buzzer blared, the scoreboard blinked Minnehaha 63, Como Park 48.
Thurow congratulated the girls and expressed, “The love that you have for each other and the teamwork that you put forward, is what won this game.”
The Como Park game is commemorated as the most representative one of Minnehaha’s season, not because of the final scoreboard, but because of the tangible success that resulted from hard work and adaptations made throughout the season.
Minnehaha placed first in the Independent Metro Athletic Conference (IMAC), finishing with a 10-0 record.
They were ranked fourth in Quality Results Formula on Minnesota Scores Net, which considers the strength of a team’s schedule. Minnehaha was also ranked fifth in the AP poll.
With Section 4AA starting March 3, the team is ranked fifth and has hopes to qualify for State. However, numbers do not represent the complexity of a season.
After graduating five key players from last season, Thurow had to evaluate his expectations for the girls’ program this season.
The team reorganized positions with their young roster this year.
“I knew this year, we’d be relying on young [players,]” Thurow said. “That normally takes time and it’s a slow transition.”
Kaminski approached this transition with patience.
“It’s kind of the starting of a new journey together,” Kaminski said. “It’s not like last year where [all the seniors] had already grown up together, [this year] we’re growing up with each other.”
In order to grow as a team this season, many young players had to show significant improvement and adjust to new playing positions.
Responding to the situation, freshmen Galloway, New, and Taytum Rhoades stepped up to fill three starting positions.
Senior Tory Kronschnabel, junior Olivia DuBois, freshman Kae Seana Barth-Lofton, and eighth grader Curtis transitioned from role players to primary substitutes.
After senior Gracia Gilreath graduated last year, sophomore starter Terra Rhoades was expected to “handle the ball more.”
By the end of this conference season, Rhoades averaged 9.8 points and 2.6 assists per game. Furthermore, freshman New was challenged to fill a role that required more boxing out and rebounding.
She averaged five rebounds per game this season.
“The young players have surprised me with how quickly they have developed into outstanding varsity basketball players,” Thurow said.
“They’ve been able to transition from role players into people who are carrying the team onto victory,” he continued.
These individual improvements have resulted in a well rounded team: even with Kaminski on the team.
Kaminski signed to play Division I for George Mason University in November.
She hit her 500 career assist mark on Jan. 8 and her 1,500 career point mark on Feb. 6.
She leads the team with averages of 15.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game.
“She sets the tone. She sets a standard with her work ethic during practice. She doesn’t take a day off,” assistant coach Scott Scholl said.
However, though Kaminski is an essential asset on the team, she does not account for the entirety of the team’s talents.
“You cannot walk into the gym and say ‘If we stop Sarah Kaminski, we will win.’ All our other girls can beat you in their own right if you don’t pay enough attention to them,” Thurow said.
The 2015-2016 IMAC Conference Champions prepare for Sections. And as they practice finishing rebounds and putting in threes, they understand that a confidence in each other will get them to the Section Finals.
The team remembers the game against Como Park.
“On the night [against Como Park], they wouldn’t give up on each other,” Thurow said.
“That’s what love has to do with basketball,” he continued.
“If you are playing a game for something bigger and better and greater than yourself, it’s hard to give up.”