High expectations are the norm. When any time goes on a run as dominant as the Lady Cats, people take notice. With the team hitting the court for their first practice Nov. 25, everyone is back on the daily grind.
“It’s nothing new and they’re pretty well versed in handling stuff like that,” head coach Cody Helenbolt said. “With at least our top nine kids we’re ahead of schedule.”
This is the seventh year at the helm for Helenbolt and the Douglas high school girls are the cream of the crop in 3A. While parts of the roster are unchanged from last season, the second of their back-to-back State Championships, there are still changes that will need to be worked out.
Namely, the loss of Haedyn Rhoades, Emily Curtis and Britney Porter. At the point guard position, junior Joslin Igo is poised to take over as the team’s lead facilitator. Igo has been with the team every year she’s been in high school and is looking forward to all of the responsibilities that come with being a point guard on and off the court.
“Playing under Haedyn the last two years has really prepared me for what playing point guard is all about,” Igo said. “Seeing the leadership she had, doing all the little things right — more than just playing.”
While Igo will be taking over the reins at the top of the key, she has a steady force down on the block. Junior Allyson Fertig, already the school’s career blocks leader and committed to the University of Wyoming, is a walking advantage on the court according to Helenbolt. Putting in hard work and staying dedicated to the sport have helped her become one of the state’s best at her position.
This year’s schedule is expected to be just as rigorous as year’s past, with Helenbolt specifically looking forward to the Energy Classic Basketball Invitational in Gillette as a test against some of the best teams in the region.
In last year’s Energy Classic they beat Lynwood high school from California and Campbell County High School, the eventual third-place team in 4A. It was also the site of their only loss from the past two years at the hands of the 4A State Champions, Thunder Basin.
For their actual practice, the Lady Cats focused on what makes them so successful as a team — teamwork. The varsity girls spent a large chunk of time working on ther passing and off-ball moves. They ran the drill over and over, slowly getting back into the flow of basketball after not playing as a team since the summer.
Igo mentioned that it’s still clear it’s been a while since they’ve all played after just a few practices, but that they improved each step of the way. The last drill of the day was all about cardio.
Going up by odd numbers, the varsity and junior varsity girls had to run the length of the court in seven seconds. Igo pointed out that basketball is all about cardio and to play 26 or 27 games in a season, the girls will have to be ready to run.
While they will feel the loss of thier graduated trio, the Lady Cats have a handful of players returning to the varsity squad. Riley Seeds and Andi Hunsicker are the two seniors for the Douglas squad. The team boasts a deep junior class that will make up a bulk of the roster. Joining Igo and Fertig are Kamdynn Townsend, Brynn Zwetzig, Braiden Johnson and Kinley Johnson.
As ready as the team feels they’re going to be, there’s still three weeks of practice before they’ll hit the court in a real game at the East/West Classic in Buffalo, Dec. 13. While everyone on the roster wants to come away with a win, they know anything can happen when the game’s start to matter.
“We hope for good games. It’s more fun having a good game than winning by 40 every time. We look forward to challenging situations and things like that. It’s all part of having a competitive team,” Helenbolt said.
The Lady Cats have only lost one game the past two seasons and have outscored their opponents by 40 or more in 21 of their 53 wins. Their average margin of victory the past two seasons has been just over 34 points per game and both have ended with State Championship titles.
This year’s squad will do everything they can to make sure this year is a three-peat.
“We have the goal to win another State Championship, but it’s going to take a lot of work and teams are gunning for us so we’ve just got to make sure we’re still working hard,” Igo said.