DELPHOS — In 2012 Delphos Jefferson won the Northwest Conference girls basketball championship, something that had become a familiar end of the season occurrence after three NWC titles in a row and seven of them from 1998 to 2012.
But then the Wildcats’ fortunes changed. The next NWC title wouldn’t happen again until this year when the Wildcats shared the NWC championship with Crestview.
Jefferson finished this season 20-5 and with only one loss in the NWC, against Crestview. It reached the Division III district semifinals and its 20 wins were the most since the 2011 team won 22 on its way to the semifinals of the state tournament.
That turnaround and return to the top of the Northwest Conference standings earned Coach of the Year honors on The Lima News Dream Team for Jefferson coach Denise Lindeman.
Lindeman was in her first full season as the Wildcats’ head coach this season after being named interim coach five games into the 2019-20 season when Chrissy Billiter resigned. She also coached at the junior high level for many years and was a JV coach.
Lindeman played basketball at Jefferson, where she graduated in 1996.
“I guess the biggest thing we tried to bring back this year was just the pride. We really worked on setting high standards with these girls and this program. We talked high standards and discipline. We preached all summer that you have to do the work. Nothing in life, nothing great comes easy. You have to do the work. They heard that every day from me,” Lindeman said.
“They bought in and they are a phenomenal group of young ladies. They brought energy every day to practice. The attitudes were awesome.”
That buy in did not include a single-minded pursuit of the NWC championship, though. At least not outwardly.
“We never talked about the conference. That’s God honest. We never talked about winning the conference, just getting better every day as a team,” Lindeman said.
Two of the big confidence builders among the Wildcats’ victories came in non-conference games.
“New Bremen was a big one for us. That was like, ‘We can play.’ And we beat Ottoville. Those were big wins,” Lindeman said.
Lindeman had two daughters, Alycia, a junior, and Alyvia, a freshman, in the starting lineup and her husband, Bub, is a volunteer assistant coach.
Basketball and home are usually separate after games and practices.
“It only happened one time last year where we couldn’t let it go. But I still want to be a mom when I come home. I tell the girls, ‘I love you unconditionally. I know I’m a teacher and I’m your coach but I’m still your mom and I love you.’”
There are the occasional two-on-two games in the driveway at home, though. “We do two-on-two and they love that. They love taking on mom and dad. We’re competitors and we try to make our girls compete every day,” Lindeman said.
She hopes coaching is something that lasts a long time for her.
“I love coaching. As a teacher I look at it as an extension of the classroom. I’ve enjoyed it and hope to continue coaching,” she said.