Aquinas girls narrowly miss district final
After a season that seemed sure for a trip to Lincoln, it was at a regular season boys game where Aquinas girls basketball found out it was over.
The Monarchs, assigned one of, if not the, toughest sub-districts in Class C-1, lost in the first round and was forced to wait and see how other results played out. For an opponent that finished 20-3, there was no shame in going down to the Cavaliers.
But hanging onto one of the top spots in the wildcard standings became extremely tenuous.
Upsets two nights later by North Bend and Hastings Adams Central, while the Aquinas girls were watching their male classmates play at Scotus, pushed the Monarchs out of wildcard contention.
When it was all said and done, the Monarchs came up one spot short of the four wildcard teams that join the 12 sub-district winners in the district final round.
Eight district final winners advance to the state tournament - something Aquinas has missed out on since 2013.
That seemed incredibly cruel for a squad that was a in the top five rankings after a 10-game win streak, won 16 games overall and put together a 16-6 record against a schedule that included four state qualifiers.
Had the Monarchs earned a district final spot, and won one more game, head coach Tony Smith had no doubt they’d be a tough out at the state tournament.
“Our girls are so seasoned,” he said. “We have the eight seniors that play and other girls that I think, at that point in time, would have refused to lose. They would have had that mentality.”
Instead, the most Aquinas could do was watch helplessly from the stands. Smith checked results on his phone, looked over to the girls and shook his head. Most of the roster rushed to his location and embraced each other teary-eyed, suddenly realizing many of their careers were over.
“We had games we could have won, too, that would have got us (to state),” Smith said. “It’s tough being in our conference and playing against what we do. All of the teams we lost to were playing in those sub-district finals.”
“They just wanted so bad to play. We even practiced that afternoon and had a great practice.”
Dropping a 65-46 final to Neumann on Feb. 12 proved to be the final game in the careers of Sierra Meysenburg, Valerie Bohuslavsky, Larissa Sellers, Kloe Ruth, Morgan Birkel, Faith Kozisek, Micaiah Vrbka, Jadyn Krafka, Vanessa Bohuslavsky and Breanna Stouffer.
Stouffer was arguably the team’s best player night in, night out, and was certainly among the best in the Centennial Conference. Her ability was so complete all over the court, she impressed former 13-year Aquinas head coach Joe Pipal who told Smith he thought Stouffer was the best all-around player in Monarch girls basketball history.
Unfortunately for Stouffer, she’ll have to be content with raising the program to a level it hasn’t been at since the last winning season six years ago, Pipal’s last season.
“The good thing is we have one junior that played quite a bit in Macey Thege,” Smith said of where the team goes after losing so many seniors. “She really rounded out her game by the end of the year. She’s someone that can be a great leader for those girls. A lot will be on her. We have three other juniors. In any other year, those juniors would have got significant playing time. ”
Other returning juniors are Darian Krenk, Isabel Coufal and Jadyn Siroky.
Peter Huguenin is a sports reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at DVDsports@lee.net