MEDIAPOLIS — There was a moment on Saturday night when Saturday’s Class 3A girls basketball regional quarterfinal between Central Lee and Mediapolis felt like a November jamboree more than a February postseason game.
Central Lee trailed by 30 points in the second quarter when coach Taylor Hickey told her team to just stop for a few seconds as the players came up the court on offense. From the sidelines, she told them the play they were running, directed everyone where to go, and then the Hawks tried to execute it.
Central Lee got a good shot that missed, but it was a teaching moment for Hickey and her young team.
“For us, when I did that situation, we were trying to set up a certain play,” Hickey said after the 67-23 loss to the Bullettes. “We were getting in a running match, where we were either missing shots or turning it over. So I wanted them to walk it up, stop, slow down, get it set up, show them we can score on offense, you just have to remember what you’re doing. I set it up almost like you would in practice.”
It’s been that way a lot this season for Hickey, who had no seniors and only five juniors on the roster. The Hawks finished 6-16, and Hickey’s message to the team after the game was to start working for next year.
“At some point, as I told the girls, it gets defeating,” Hickey said. “It gets defeating looking up at the scoreboard knowing every time you shoot it’s not going in. And so, for the girls who are young, it can be draining mentally.”
The two teams had just played Tuesday night in the final game of the regular season, with Mediapolis (17-4) taking an 80-42 win.
The Hawks worked on breaking Mediapolis’ pressure defense since that game, and Hickey thought their execution of what they had learned was fine. The problem for Central Lee was more the turnovers in the half-court game or the missed shots.
The Hawks were down 21-5 at the end of the first quarter and trailed 43-14 at halftime.
“Honestly, the first quarter, take out our turnovers, and I thought we were playing pretty well,” Hickey said. “We had focused on their press the last couple of practices after facing them Tuesday, and honestly, the press didn’t bother us. We did well with this new press breaker we had put in, staying calm. It was when we were in the half-court setting, when it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, we beat it.’ And then we didn’t make the shots, or turned the ball over, and that’s something we’ve been struggling with all season.”
The season has been an education for the young Hawks, and Hickey wished she could do some more teaching in this game like she did with that second-quarter play.
“Oh, a hundred times tonight,” she said.
It’s been an education for Hickey, too.
“I’m learning as a coach,” said Hickey, who finished her second year as head coach. “Maybe the first couple of weeks, we don’t focus so much on getting in shape and skill development, we focus instead on press breaking, defense, and offense, because those are the things you need to get up to speed in your mind.”
Freshman Lizzy Mason led Central Lee with 10 points. Taylor Jones had seven.
Haley Steffener led Mediapolis with 18 points. Hanna Wagenbach had 14 points.