Todd Bostater sits on the brink of the most significant game of his brief career as the Southview girls basketball coach.
The Cougars journey across Sylvania tonight to face Northview, an established program that has won the last four Northern Lakes League titles, is in pursuit of another, and was a Division I state semifinalist a year ago.
Southview stands in the best position to alter Northview's league-title plans. Bostater, in his first season at Southview, has the Cougars a victory shy of pulling into a tie for first with the Wildcats.
Northview, ranked No. 2 in the Blade's Division I poll, is 12-1 overall and 8-0 in the league. Southview, coming off an upset win over St. Ursula earlier this week, stands at 11-2 and 7-1.
"I'm very satisfied with where we're at right now," Bostater said. "I think I've got them playing together and playing hard."
Even after losing four starters from last year's final four team to graduation, it's not a surprise that Northview is eyeing another league title under longtime coach Jerry Sigler.
The Wildcats have been masters of reloading from one year to the next.
After suffering a heart-breaking 63-56 overtime defeat to Northview earlier this season, Southview has an opportunity to even the score and knot the NLL race.
On the other hand, a victory for Northview would place the Wildcats in good position to win the league.
"Going into that first game our girls thought they could win," Bostater said. "Now that they've played once they know they can play with them and can beat them."
The Wildcats, winners of eight straight, are threatening to go undefeated in league play for a second straight year. But they expect a tough test.
"I know they want their program to be like ours, which I respect and really consider a compliment," Sigler said.
"It's going to be a very good ballgame. They're playing well and getting some things done, but we're getting some things done also."
The Cougars have succeeded quickly under Bostater because he's pushed the idea of playing as a team over the idea of a roster filled with talented individuals. He's benefited by working with many of the same players he coached a couple years back.
"I already knew there was some talent there two years ago when I coached the JV team and we went 20-0," Bostater said. "I also think the kids like me and they respect me and play hard for me."
Nearly everyone on the roster plays in every game, led by a starting lineup featuring four juniors and a senior.
Juniors Liz Tansey (12 points per game), Mandi Lisk (11), Jessica Hausfeld (5 steals per game), Morgan Gatwood and senior Ciara Gossett are the starters. Underclassmen Kelsey Navarre (5.1 rebounds per game) and Bahiyjaui Allen (4.5 rebounds per game) have made an impact off the bench.
"We're very deep," Bostater said. "We play 10 kids and I think that helps with the team camaraderie."
Sigler, in his 29th season, has leaned on Northview's starting front-court of Niki McCoy (17.9 points), Rianna Miller (13.2) and Lisa Johnson (12.5). McCoy is the only returning starter, but Miller and Johnson did see limited playing time a year ago when the Wildcats finished the regular season 20-0.
"[Southview] is a talented team and a young team. We have young players also, but I think we have a little more experience with playing in these types of big games," Sigler said.
Tonight's matchup is expected to lure plenty of people to the Wildcats' gym.
"I would expect the gym to be close to full," Sigler said. "It should be a huge crowd.
"Someone is going to win the ballgame, but we're both showcasing Sylvania girls either way it goes."
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