Crestwood girl cagers reach the summit during 2017-18 season
Wed, 03/21/2018 - 10:39am admin
Nate Troy Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
CRESCO - When it comes to basketball, the 2017-18 Crestwood girls’ team was unstoppable - literally.
The No. 1 ranked Cadets concluded an outstanding season with a 26-0 mark by crushing No. 2 Sioux Center, 73-48, in the Class 3A State championship game on March 3 to claim its first State basketball title in school history. Before this year, the last time a Cresco girls’ basketball team advanced to the title game was in 1922 when the Cresco High School Spartans lost to Audubon, 10-3.
The Cadets reached the championship game in 2018 by crushing South Tama, 66-28, in round one at State; and they bounced North Polk, 72-48, in the semifinals.
Seniors on the team included: Emily Friesen, Kaylee Thomas, Shannon Pisney, Brynn Bodermann and Ellie Friesen. Juniors included: Taylor Shelton, Kennedy Gaul, Annie Mast, Brooklyn Ferrie and Sam Balk. Sophomores included: Laken Lienhard and Sharon Goodman.
Crestwood placed three players on the Class 3A All-Tournament Team at State (Sharon Goodman, Shannon Pisney and Ellie Friesen) and three players on the First Team All-State squad (Pisney, Goodman and Ellie Friesen). Head Coach Doug Sickles was also named Class 3A State Coach of the Year by the Iowa Girls’ Coaches Association for the first time.
“Being named Coach of the Year is a testament to my assistant coaches and my players,” Sickles said. “This kind of award doesn’t come to a coach unless you have the assistants and players to back it up.”
Sickles noted one of the big reasons why the team was so successful this year is that this was an unselfish squad.
“There’s an old adage that goes, ‘You can accomplish great things as a team if you don’t care who gets the credit,’” Sickles said. “I’ve been coaching for over 30 years, and I’ve never truly experienced that until this year.
“This was a group of young ladies that was on a singular mission (to win the State title). They knew what it would take to accomplish that, and that started from the day we lost at State in 2017 (in the first round to Cherokee). The girls knew they had the talent (to win the title), but sometimes talent doesn’t get you there. I’m so impressed with how the girls put their egos aside for the common goal of the team,” Sickles said.
He added that the Cadets had the statistics to back up their success.
“We led the state in total assists (564) and we were second in Iowa in defensive average (31.6 points per game),” Sickles said. “We set the school record with our defensive average. Not only did our kids share the basketball well, but they worked hard defensively.”
The coach said Crestwood’s five seniors deserve much of the credit for this year’s team success.
“Your seniors usually set the tone in practice and games,” Sickles said. “They came in from day one working harder than they’ve ever worked, and they were willing to give of themselves. They set the tone for the whole season.
“The seniors motivated the younger players. They didn’t take drills off and they didn’t let the younger players do that, either. There were a lot of competitive drills, and everyone stepped up to try and win those drills,” Sickles said.
The coach also praised the younger players for “buying in” to the team concept.
“The younger players did a good job of working to improve during every practice,” Sickles said.
The coach noted he had a good feeling about this year’s team early in the season.
“After watching our practices and our first few games of the season, I really thought we had what it took to win the State title,” Sickles said. “There were two things that worried me: injuries and foul trouble. We were fortunate enough to stay away from those two things. I just felt really good about this group.
“The region final game (against Anamosa) was just a stepping stone for us. Our girls weren’t really worried about the region final because they had bigger things on their minds. We had a one-game-at-a-time mentality (in the playoffs), and State was the same thing,” Sickles said.
Once the team got to Des Moines, the coach said he was most concerned about the semifinal game against North Polk.
“North Polk was a dribble-drive team, and I was worried about foul trouble,” Sickles said. “Once we got through that game, I watched the Sioux Center semifinal game, and I felt confident about where we were (as a team). I felt like we could defend Sioux Center well, and they would struggle defending us.
“Winning the State championship was a validation of the type of program we run, the type of kids we have and our community,” Sickles said. “Our community has been so supportive of these girls, and it’s a really nice feeling to see how happy the community was to put Crestwood on the map.
“This championship was truly a community effort (including everyone in the Howard-Winneshiek School District). I felt that throughout the year, we were all one (as a community),” Sickles said.
He noted he was very proud to see three Cadet players named to the All-Tournament Team at State.
“The state tries to divide up who gets to be on the All-Tournament Team, and for Crestwood to have three girls on the team was amazing,” Sickles said. “Regarding school records, we set or tied 17 school records for five-on-five play (listed in separate story).
“We also set or tied several records at the State Tournament this year. We tied the all-time record for three-pointers in a championship game with 11. Ellie broke assist record for all classes with 37 total. We set the all-time team assist record with 61. We broke the Class 3A record for fewest turnovers per game (7.3 average). Brynn Bodermann tied the record for most three-pointers in the championship game with six.
“We just had a collection of great kids doing great things. These kids are even better kids off the court. The kids had a lot of fun this year and that showed in their play (on the court). Our juniors are motivated for next year.
“I’ve even had one parent come up to me and told me how our team affected her daughter in elementary school. The girl came home and told her parents that she wanted to be like this player or that player. Hopefully, our team has also motivated the elementary kids to dream big,” Sickles said.
“One thing that most people might not realize is that this was a group of talented young girls who were not afraid to work to improve themselves. They worked hard not just during the season, but also in the off-season.
“They didn’t just show up (in November) and win the State championship. (The title) came from a lot of behind-the-scenes work from these girls. They played summer ball and worked out at the fitness center to improve themselves. They were self-motivated (to improve),” Sickles said.