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During the week leading up to Northview s girls basketball team playing in last Friday s Division I state semifinals, The Blade asked two of the team s starters, Brooke Amstutz and Julia Dempster, to keep separate diaries of their week, one of the biggest of their lives. What follows are excerpts from each.
Having a father as a coach I have been taught to abide by a 24-hour rule. You can only enjoy a victory for 24 hours (we won the regional final on March 12), then you must focus on your next opponent. I never realized how fast a day could go by. This day started out like any normal Sunday by going to church with my family. But it soon became unlike the rest when I was receiving more positive attention than my dad. From the moment I walked into church I was approached by several members who shared in my excitement over our victory on Friday. Many people said they were following us all the way to Columbus.
At 7 p.m. our team stepped onto the gym floor ready for practice. We could tell the coaches had planned an intense two hours by their hurried excitement to start practice. After 15 minutes of running line sprints and doing defensive slides, we realized that our assumptions were correct. After the conditioning and drills we proceeded to do a checking-out drill. We also did many foul shots throughout the two-hour practice, and did more conditioning at the end. Tonight my bed never felt so good, and my dreams of state were ever so vivid.
Our trip to the Final Four didn t start when the tournament did, it began over the summer when we worked in the gym. It began when we went into the weight room, and every Saturday morning when we woke up before the rooster crowed to get into the gym. And when we got on the floor for our last Sunday night practice, these were some of the things we kept in mind.
We didn t get the game tape yet so we didn t get into the specifics about Mount Notre Dame. Coach (Jerry Sigler) did tell Niki McCoy and me that they have three girls that are 6-1 and rebound very well. After hearing that, it was pretty obvious why we spent the next 45 minutes on a box-out drill.
Coach sat us down after told us that players from the Northview state semifinal team in 1978 were coming from all over the U.S. to watch our game. For me that was more fuel on the fire, another reason to play that much harder. He reminded us to enjoy every minute this week because it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. When we walked to our cars, we saw the parents had decorated them, along with the school doors. A balloon tied on my Jeep stayed on the whole way home.
Woke up today and the legs were a little sore from our defensive slides yesterday. On the drive to Northview this morning, the sign out front read “Two words ... FINAL FOUR! Great job Ladykats!” When I walked in, there were signs everywhere.
Walking down the hall, people were saying, “Great game on Friday,” and “I m coming dressed really spirited for your game!” It was a great feeling to know we had so much support.
Our practice today was all about working on our offenses. We had six people on defense against us the whole time to create even more pressure. After practice coach told us more about what was going to happen later in the week. We found out we were getting on the bus on Thursday after a send-off assembly.
Tonight we had our winter sports banquet. When Mr. (Larry) Jones announced the girls varsity basketball team, we got a standing ovation from all the parents and athletes. Coach was presented with the coach of the year award from the district, and then the other seniors and I got to present Mr. (Kevin) Gorman, the principal, with the trophies we won. I wanted to make sure that I thanked all the parents there, not just our own, because most of them came to support us even without their kids on the team.
After being sent to the dessert table twice to get more cookies for Coach (Melanie) Rogers, we had a meeting with all the girls and their parents. Mr. Jones told us about this great hotel we were staying at and our schedule for the weekend. It was weird because there were two different scenarios depending on if we won or lost. It was really exciting to hear about our trip, and I just wanted it to be Thursday already. I wanted to just hear about the winning scenario, but I knew we would have to earn that.
Then Mr. Jones told us how the bus was going to drive us around to all the Sylvania schools where people would be out wishing us good luck. I was excited to hear how much of the community was behind us, and our old teachers and coaches. The balloon tied to my antenna survived Day 2.
The team was the big talk around school. Windows painted, posters hanging, cars decorated, plans being made for the eventful weekend. The faculty and students were all hyped about the state tournament.
After school we had a typical practice with game-like intensity. Our focus has been on conditioning in preparation for the Schottenstein Center court that is 10 feet longer than the normal high school court. We perfected our offensive plays and had partner shooting for 20 minutes. Practice concluded with our usual team cheer.
It promises to be a very special and memorable weekend due to the planned festivities. It has finally hit me that we have reached the final four. It is absolutely awesome.
Having the snow-day today was really great for our team because it seems everyone is catching colds again. The more sleep we can get, the better. Before practice today we watched a tape of Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame against Pickerington North. We got a feel for the girls we are guarding and how their team likes to play. The plan is to outrun them, since we don t think they are going to keep up with our quickness.
Coach informed us that tomorrow we are going to be on radio again and then get to practice on a larger floor like the one in Columbus. Even with all the snow my balloon made it through Day 3.
The day started off awesome with our team receiving my mom s homemade sugar cookies at school in a little goody bag. Our parents have been so supportive and encouraging to us that it has made this experience so memorable. Not only did they put signs up around town, but our parents have given us many goody bags and prepared team dinners for us.
For practice we headed to Swanton, which has built a new high school with a beautiful college-size basketball court, so we went over there to see what it was like.
After practice I believe our team is so eager to go down to Columbus and play that we can hardly stand it. We all talked about how pumped we were at our team dinner at Charley s Restaurant. It was probably one of the most enjoyable team dinners we have had all year. All of this outside support and all of our hard work in practices this week have made this experience wonderful.
After school today the seven seniors were interviewed on the radio. It was different than usual because we were asked fun questions such as, “What s your favorite gym to play at?” and “Do you prefer McDonald s or Burger King?” and had to respond to them quickly, like being in the hot seat. At practice we split off into our guard and post groups, and the posts and I worked on how we were going to defend their big girls. Halfway through the drill I was on help-side defense for McCoy when Abby (Diehl) and I collided and there was a loud noise. Abby s front tooth broke in half and my elbow had a gash in it. Luckily (trainer) Doc Engel arrived and took care of us both. The coaches always told me to use my elbows more.
All the girls on the team are excited about leaving for Columbus tomorrow and hopefully we will all get a good night s sleep. Even though it looks like a potato, my balloon made it through its fourth day.
Today we are off to Columbus. Our school gave us a pep assembly rally to send us off. This assembly was the most spirited and had the most students and administration I have ever seen at a pep rally at Northview. I felt like I had the whole school supporting me. It was amazing!
When we got on the bus and all of our student body and administration were waving us off, it felt so real that we were going to the state tournament. We then drove by every elementary school and junior high in Sylvania. Each and every school had their teachers and students out with signs all cheering and yelling for us. It was such a blast to see old teachers, and all of the children so ecstatic. It was one of the most exciting things I have done. This experience was absolutely wonderful, it showed how supportive our community is.
Our bus trip even drove us to Southview, where the girls basketball team waved us off. After the send-off we drove to Dublin Middle School in suburban Columbus to have our practice. This was a lighter practice. After the practice we went to our hotel, where we all hung out and played cards and ate. Nikki Cooper and I played our usual game of euchre against Coach Sigler and Coach (Jack) Dermer. And, of course, we beat them! The coaches always try to cheat but Cooper and I always come out on top. Playing cards with the coaches and teammates is one of those memories that will never be erased.
We had a pep assembly right before we left from school with all the students, teachers, and many of our parents. It was an awesome feeling knowing that all the hype was just for our team. The three guys from St. John s (B.J. Raymond, Brian Roberts, and Zach Hillesland) came with Coach (Ed) Heintschel, who gave us a very inspirational pep talk earlier in the tournament. After the pep band escorted us to the bus we drove to all the Sylvania schools. Seeing all the kids outside of every school cheering for us and holding signs is something I ll never forget.
It was a long bus ride and we stopped near Columbus and had practice at a junior high schoolAfter practice we went out to dinner and had some fun as a team, especially at the ice cream sundae bar. When we arrived at the hotel we were assigned our rooms and I was excited to be with Mrs. Sigler, Cooper, and McCoy. Everyone was anxious about our game the next day and it was hard to fall asleep.
We woke up this morning and ate breakfast as a team even though my room was a little late waking up. After eating, it was straight to the Schott. Coach wanted to get there early so we were sure to buy the State shirts we wanted. While we were there, we watched one of the Division IV games being played. It was exciting to think we would be playing there that night and I think it helped going early and seeing the place so we wouldn t be as nervous. We left the Schott and went back to the junior high for a little more shooting. We got back to the hotel in time to eat and nap before leaving for our game.
We watched half of the Dayton Chaminade game before ours. That was probably the most nervous I was the whole night. In the locker room, everyone was doing their own thing to get ready. Then we said our team cheer and ran out on the floor. Everyone in the stands was cheering and it was a moment that none of us will forget. The game started and it was a battle. The fouls on Cooper and McCoy in the first half really damaged our game. Even when we were down, on the court we knew we couldn t give up and we had to push harder. The thought of losing never crossed our minds. When the final buzzer went off, it was a shock. As we returned to the locker room, everyone was crying and didn t know what to say. Coach Dermer told us that we had an amazing season and even though it didn t end the way we wanted we will always look back and remember our accomplishments. Coach Sigler said he loved us no matter what.
It was hard for me to think that the game I just played was my last one ever. When we went back out and saw our fans and parents, I felt a bit better. Everyone said we played tough and we really showed heart.
After we got back to the hotel, everyone was in better moods. We got to see all the old players who came back to watch our game. Some of us went in the hot tub, then sat around and watched TV. Most of the seniors sat around and just talked for a while, realizing it would be our last time together as a team.
During warmups both our fans and Mount Notre Dame s fans were loud and cheering back and forth. At this point I knew I was going to have to focus even harder and keep my mind intensely on the game. It was an incredible feeling to be having this unforgettable experience. My heart was racing. As each team was announced the crowd went wild. My heart was beating rapidly. The game started with a bang. The game was aggressive and intense the whole time. When the conclusion to the game had come and we had lost by only a few points I was really upset. I felt like our team had worked so hard throughout this entire year that it made it even harder to lose. I thought about this being my last time playing with all of these awesome teammates and how much I am going to miss each and every one of them. I was extremely emotional along with the rest of my team.
Our team was very hard working, and reaching the final four was amazing Our team never quit. If we were going to go out, we were going to go out fighting. I am extremely proud of our team and I have had a great four years with all of our coaches.
Some of my teammates had stayed the night in the hotel still so we ate breakfast and decided to go shopping at the Easton mall. This felt very relaxing and was something fun to help keep our minds off the last night s loss. We saw many of our friends from Northview and many people had congratulated us and showed how proud they were of us. Later that night we went to the Division 1 championship game. It really hurt for some of us to watch this game knowing that it could have been us playing out there. I cannot even explain the feeling I had in my stomach while watching this game. I give credit to Mount Notre Dame, but it is just a hard situation to cope with.
I will never forget this weekend for as long as I live and I want to thank the community, my teammates, the fans, our coaches and our families for all of their support and encouragement throughout this journey.
I woke up this morning and felt like I had been hit by a truck. I have been tired and sore all day. We had team breakfast again and then a couple people went home with their parents. The rest of us who stayed decided to go shopping and spend the day together. It was nice to spend time together without worrying about getting the ball in the net. After shopping, more people decided to head home, including Kerry (Malley) and me. I felt I should stay and watch the final game that night, but I just couldn t do it. Tonight was the first time I read J.J. Huddle (a web site). My dad told me about the forum on our game and some of the great things people said about our team. They said that our game should have been the state final game and that we had represented Northwest Ohio well.
Tonight, I was surprised to hear that (Mount Notre Dame) had won by 15 points. I thought Dayton Chaminade was the stronger team. Dayton never had the lead, which says a lot about our team and how we played MND.
Tonight was the District 7 awards banquet. Many players and coaches said congrats to us for our accomplishments.
As I finish up this entry I want to thank everyone who supported us and followed us throughout our season. I would especially like to thank our parents who did so much for us. This was an experience of a lifetime and I just wish every athlete could have the same opportunity and experiences we did.