Girls Basketball ‘one-game mentality’ aids success

Luca Vitale, Sports Editor

After being eliminated from the playoffs last season by getting blown out in the regional championship game against Lake Forest 64-39, the girls basketball team had high expectations for their next season. With key players including senior Kendra Lee, senior Zori Angelova and senior Alyssa Ramos all returning for their last season and new stars emerging like freshman Kora Kipley and sophomore Leah McKenna, the Bison were expected to be a force in the MSL-East. Unfortunately, injuries piled up as Angelova was sidelined with a broken hand bone and Ramos with a rolled ankle. According to Kolodziej, critics were ready to count the Bison out with all hope gone, but the Bison have proved them wrong.

“I’ve told the kids all year the most important game of the season is the next game and we need to have a one-game mentality,” girls basketball coach Steve Kolodziej said. “We’ve invested a lot of time and interest into these conference games because one of our team goals was to win the conference championship.”

As the season comes to a close, BG holds a 15-10 overall record including having one loss in conference which Hersey beat the Bison 62-40. The Bison have won against Hersey once, Wheeling twice, Prospect twice, Rolling Meadows once, and Elk Grove once. That leaves the Bison with a conference record of 7-1. 

According to Kolodziej, multiple  people count the Bison out of making a deep run in the playoffs because injuries have plagued this team and younger players like Kipley and McKenna have played very few minutes on the court.

With this team having had to face multiple obstacles, veteran players have had to elevate their leadership and even first year players have had to step up their game in order to win games and be a part of the playoff discussion. 

“I started off on the bench and because those two [Angelova and Ramos] both went down I had to step up,” freshman basketball player Kora Kipley said. “I started a game and I had to change what I did and how much I contributed to the team.”

Kipley has averaged 27 minutes a game, just trailing seniors  Lee’s 31 and Floro’s 29. 

 Lee, who became the fifteenth player in BG history to score 1,000 points in her high school career, not only is making history but she’s playing a different position due to the plague of injuries this team has faced.

“For my whole high school career I’ve basically played the wing, but since [Angelova] got hurt, I had to start playing in the post more,” Lee said. “I had to use my height to my advantage and use my physicality.”

Lee has played four consecutive seasons with coach Kolodziej and never in her career has she had to fight adversity in a team aspect like this. According to Lee, she didn’t just have to adjust to playing a new position she’s not so familiar with, but she had to take a bigger role in leadership such as mentoring the younger players.

“Because we’ve always been the younger girls and we’ve kind of been the ones not in the spotlight, now that we are seniors the spotlight is now on us,” Lee said. “Everyone looks to us to see our response to adversity so that’s been a change.”

Adversity can mentally challenge an athlete to the point of mental exhaustion. Younger players like Kipley have been challenged this season and they have responded by playing stronger and proving they belong on varsity. Kipley has done just that as she scored the game winning shot against Hersey on Dec. 20 and averaging two steals a game. 

“I’m giving it my all at practice, not being afraid to talk, showing leadership, working with my team and learning their plays,” Kipley said. 

By experiencing adversity, it teaches student athletes how to deal with minor setbacks like losses or injuries early in life and prepares them for inherent challenges that will arise later, when the stakes are higher. 

The girls have definitely used the key ingredients to fight through their adversity to succeed. These ingredients include having the right mindset, having self confidence, trusting the process and putting in hard work.

“The key ingredients are your mindset and your mentality, the grit to continue to push through,” Kolodziej said. “I think in basketball and in life you’re always going to have a ton of adversity and I try to tell this to the team all of the time. Are you going to push through and fight for things that you want or when it doesn’t come easy are you going to fold and quit?”