The story of the 2012-13 Shawnee Mission South girls’ basketball team is one of trust.
The Raiders started the season with a 3-7 record, but coach Brendan Curran’s squad turned a corner by sticking together and keeping faith in one another.
Entering the final week of the regular season, SM South had won seven of eight games and was sitting at 10-8 entering Tuesday night’s game at Sunflower League-leading Olathe Northwest.
“It’s been a good stretch for us,” Curran said. “Defensively, that has been the major difference.”
He can’t point to a turning point.
Instead, Curran remembers a series of games when the undersized Raiders faced tough matchup problems.
“We tried different things in a lot of those games, especially on defense, and the girls trusted me,” Curran said. “We were fortunate to win a few of those games, but the girls have put some trust in me and kept plugging away. We got a little confidence, not just in each other but in themselves.”
Junior Sierra Roberts has been the sparkplug defensively in the backcourt, while senior Sam Bendrick has held down the fort in the paint.
While Roberts and Bendrick have been SM South’s most consistent players, it has been a team effort to right the ship.
“Each night, someone else has stepped up,” Curran said.
Senior Hayden Roberts, who is listed as 5 feet 9 and has battled a leg injury much of the season, has been a dynamic force on the boards.
Sophomore Chloe Matthews has brought energy off the bench, while junior Allison Hines, a two-year starter, brings savvy and experience.
Senior Amanda Schwabauer has had her shining moments as well, including leading the Raiders in scoring against Olathe East during the recent hot stretch.
Now, SM South has emerged as a team nobody is eager to face in the postseason.
Dropping to Kansas Class 5A, the Raiders are likely to hit St. James Academy in the first round with St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the top teams in the Kansas City area throughout the season, looming in a possible sub-state championship matchup.
“We picked a heck of a year to move to 5A when they’re just rolling,” Curran said of Aquinas.
But there is good news.
“We are playing as well as we have all season,” Curran reminded. “We’ve won some games probably on paper we weren’t supposed to, so it’s been fun.”
Falcons’ boys bouncing back
Early in the season, the Olathe South boys’ basketball team ascended to the No. 2 spot in The Star’s big-class poll.
The Falcons won six in a row at the start of the season, but they hit a few potholes when January rolled around.
Coach Jim Carr’s squad dropped five of its next nine games beginning with a 66-62 loss at Leavenworth on Jan. 8.
South has won three in a row again, however, and hopes its troubles are a thing of the past as it closes out the regular season this week.
“I hope that we are past those bumps in the road,” Carr said. “We’re a team that – and I’ve said it before – we have a small margin for error. If we don’t come with the right mindset every night and put the ball in the hole, we’re going to be in a fight for our lives.”
The Falcons, who are in position for a No. 1 seed but realize that doesn’t guarantee a state berth, lean heavily on junior Noah Knight.
“He’s the engine that makes it go, because he does so many things,” Carr said. “He’s been our leading scorer and probably is our leading rebounder as a guard. He usually defends the first or second-best player, and we ask him to play multiple positions.”
SMS, SME boys’ title game looms
There was a time when Shawnee Mission East versus Shawnee Mission South was among the best rivalries in Kansas City area high school basketball.
It will be again Friday night.
SM South, which entered the week undefeated, travel to meet the Lancers, who entered the week 17-1, for a 7 p.m. tipoff.
Assuming neither team endured a hiccup Tuesday – SM East was at Lawrence Free State and SM South was at Olathe Northwest – both teams will enter the regular-season finale undefeated in Sunflower League play.
The winner takes the title while the loser licks its wounds in preparation for sub-state.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.