KALIDA – Resilient.
That is the word Kalida head coach Adam Huber uses to describe his team and it is this team’s ability to recover despite adversity that has landed the Wildcats in the Division IV regional semifinals against Wayne Trace Thursday.
This is Kalida’s first trip to the regionals since 2009.
Kalida faced its first major crisis early in the season when the Wildcats opened the year with a 2-4 mark. Without some key players, the team struggled and wins were hard to come by.
Even though the wins were not there the veteran head coach said he wasn’t overly concerned.
“I’ve been doing this a long time and you know our schedule is tough to begin with and you are always incorporating new kids and were not playing with Abby Wurth our leading scorer and rebounder from last year so anyway we knew we might take some lumps early but we knew we were competitive and getting better in practice and we knew if we stuck with what we were doing that we were going to be alright.”
Huber admits that his players want to see wins and he was a little concerned that if they didn’t see the results their approach might change. However, he adds the players never waived.
“It has been like this here for a lot of years but we have kids that buy in and understand what it was and what we were trying to do and they saw we were making strides and getting better and things would start to come together and fortunately they did for us.”
Huber said he saw the team begin to turn the corner towards success and it was actually after a loss.
On Jan. 9, Kalida lost a tough battle against Liberty-Benton, 39-32, and Huber said he felt that was a game that the Wildcats could have won.
“We came off a tough Christmas break stretch where we lost to Ottoville and lost to Wapakoneta,” Huber said. “We beat Lincolnview but it was actually a lot to Liberty-Benton. We were right there in the fourth quarter where it was a three point game late. We just didn’t make enough plays but as a coaching staff we talked and said this might be what we needed to realize that they are as good as we are saying they are if we continue to work at at so I think that actually might have been a little bit of a turning point for us.”
Huber added the fact that Wurth was starting to get her basketball legs under her also helped.
Since that loss to Liberty-Benton, the Wildcats have reeled off 14 straight wins and entering the postseason with plenty of confidence.
This season the Wildcats are averaging 44.2 points a contest. Junior Grace Klausing is averaging 13 points a contest and hauling in 6.9 rebounds a game. McKayla Maag is second on the team in points scored and is averaging 7.5 points a contest . In her 19 games, Wurth is putting in 6.7 points a game and averaging four rebounds. Kathryn Siebeneck is tops on the team in assists with 39 and Brenna Smith is second on the squad with 30 assists.
“We get good shots in games as long as we are not turning the ball over which we have done a much better job of this year,” Huber said. “If we make shots then everybody feels good because our defense is going to be there.”
Defense is the mainstay of the Wildcats’ program. Kalida is giving up 36.5 points a contest and in the playoffs and has held teams to under 32 points in four of the five games.
“We always talk that our defense should always be consistent whether you are making shots or not so that has been pretty consistent from day one,” Huber said. “We are pretty locked in on the defensive end of the floor and if we can make some shots we are a pretty dangerous team.”
Another important factor in the Wildcats’ success is the team’s camaraderie off the court.
“The kids get along on and off the court. They really do,” Huber said. “Like any family we have disagreements with me or anyone else. But they stick together and hang out off the court. They look you in the eye and they buy into what you are selling every day. We just try to get better each day. It is a fun group to be around and I look forward to going to practice everyday.”
Huber said it was the old ‘one day at a time’ approach when the postseason arrived.
“You try not to treat it much different even though the stakes are higher,” Huber said. “We’ve pretty much done the same thing from November to now from prep to practice to game so.”
Kalida opened with back-to-back wins to notch a sectional final to open the tournament.
A 10-point win, 41-31, win over a tough Arlington team in the district semifinals was followed by an even more impressive win over top-seeded and Putnam County League rival and No. 1 seeded Columbus Grove in the district finals that exemplified this team’s resiliency again.
Huber said the defense kept them in the game and added that he reiterated to the team that they had nothing to lose and the team responded with hitting big shots and eventually securing the win in the pressure-packed overtime.
“I knew we were getting tired but what does it matter if you can’t walk off the court at the end of the game because there is no tomorrow and they summoned something deep down and a couple of kids stepped up and hit some big shots,” Huber said. “It wasn’t the prettiest game but you don’t have to be the best team in the state that night but you have to be the best team in the gym that day.”
The Wildcats will face another major challenge when they face Wayne Trace Friday. Wayne Trace features Claire Sinn who was a first-team All-Northwest Ohio selection and is averaging 16.7 points a game. She recently became the school’s all-time leading scorer.
Against Columbus Grove, the Wildcats shut down both Kenzie King and Angel Schneider and that was instrumental in the Kalida win as both players were held to single digits in scoring.
“It will be another tall task for our defense and you can’t completely stop her but you can make things tough on her as possible and they are aggressive defensively as well and get up after you and throw some 1-3-1 zone,” Huber said. “We have our work cut out for us but we are glad for the opportunity to keep playing.”