Why not us?

Girls basketball team earns state title for first time in history

McKenzie Nelson, Co-Editor-in-Cheif

For the past 37 years MN has earned 38 state championship titles. Even after all that time, there has been one state title that remained elusive to MN: the girls basketball state title.

On March 2, the girls basketball team captured the state title against the Lincoln Southwest Silverhawks, in a 62-52 victory.

“With ten seconds left I was like:  ‘alright we can finally relax because we actually did it,’” varsity  girls basketball coach David Diehl said. “It’s twelve months of pressure and work snowballing and then finally released off your back.”

In previous season the Mustangs lost in the first round of the state tournament to Lincoln Southwest.

“Last year [Lincoln Southwest] ended our season, so we didn’t want them to end our season again. We came out harder than ever,” senior Lexi Kraft said.

However, it was more than just the outcome of the state tournament that changed this season for the Mustangs; the mindset and focus the team had throughout their competitions and practices truly defined their year.

“Last year our goal was to make it to state because Millard North hadn’t made it to state in about five years,” senior Jayna Green said. “This year it was more: ‘we know we are capable of winning so why not us’?”

The ‘why not us’ attitude was a mutual sentiment for the team and helped them focus their practices on the goal of being State Champions: a goal that finally seemed within the team’s grasp.

“With the seniors we have, we really wanted to make sure we could give [the state title] our best shot. We wanted to make sure when it was all said and done, that every single day we laid it all out there and could look back on our season and say we did all we could,” Diehl said.

The change in focus toward becoming State Champions didn’t mean that the championship would just be handed to them. During the season the team faced different obstacles, including a losing stretch over winter break to Millard West and Pius X.

“That three-game stretch was critical for us. That’s what made us better,” Diehl said. “Losing can be a good thing, and in this case, losing was a great thing because it showed us a lot about ourselves. It showed us that our team was not just going to be handed the gold medal.”

The Mustangs faced Pius X again in the semifinals where they played into three overtimes before sophomore Kaylee Kessler made a basket that put MN ahead. The basket Kessler made allowed them to secure the win and moving on to the state championship.

“I really wanted to [make the basket] for the team, and when it happened I was just so happy that as a team we could move forward to the next round,” Kessler said.

Moving past the semi-finals was important so that they could shift their focus to the bigger picture, the championship game.

“We always looked at the bigger picture, which is winning the whole thing and not just one game,” junior Nicole Avila-Ambrose said. “We were super tired after the Pius X game because we played for two hours but we came back to school and we focused on the bigger picture.”

In the midst of the championship game the player made sure to focus on the larger impact that the each point had on the result of the game.

“When I shoot my free throws I always think these may seem like minimal points now, but they will affect the game,” senior Lauren West said.

West contributed 31 points in the championship game and made 18 of her 19 free throws in the game. With the scoring of West and help of her teammates the Mustangs were able to hold onto there lead and win the state championship, making history.

“Everything comes together and your like I didn’t do this for no reason, this is why I played basketball. It was indescribable,” Green said.