March 25, 2011
What a ride...
By David Boyce
Near the end of the postgame press conference, Northwest Missouri State senior forward Gentry Dietz had a polite request.
Dietz hoped no photos appeared of her or her teammates shedding a few tears on the podium when they discussed their season-ending loss to Michigan Tech in the NCAA Division II semifinals at the St. Joseph Civic Center.
A true competitor never wants to reveal any weaknesses.
As Dietz voiced her request, she smiled and gave a little laugh.
No doubt, the loss was painful for the Bearcats. They were so close to playing for a national championship just 40 minutes from their campus.
But as much as the loss hurt, coupled with the realization for the seniors that they had played their final game in a Northwest uniform, Dietz was able to smile less than 30 minutes after the game.
The reason was easy to figure out. The players on the 2010-11 Northwest women's basketball team had just completed the best season ever.
And they enjoyed the journey every step along the way.
Throughout the season they talked about how well they got along. It showed on the court. Players sacrificed individual skills to make the team better.
Dietz was a perfect example of it. Last year she made first-team all-conference. If she would have been selfish, she would have tried to put up numbers again to earn that honor.
Instead, she changed position for the arrival of 6-foot-5 senior center Kyla Roehrig. Dietz's numbers dropped and she slipped to third-team all-conference.
Ask her about this season and she will tell you she had the time of her life.
Dietz proved her ability in her final collegiate game. When outside shots weren't falling for the Bearcats, Dietz took over in the second half. She scored 29 or her game-high 33 points in the final 20 minutes.
Roehrig was another player who enhanced the team chemistry. She was the newcomer on a team filled with returners.
Kyla Roehrig (center) and Shelly Martin
Roehrig, though, didn't act like a Division I prima donna. Her only goal was to help her new teammates to be the best they could be. Her easygoing personality was infectious.
When Roehrig was getting hacked by opponents, she never looked to the referees begging for a call. She never complained. She just played the game.
The three starting guards - Gabby Curtis, Abby Henry and Shelly Martin - were all capable of scoring in double figures in almost any game. Instead of firing up shots all the time, they first looked inside to Roehrig and Dietz for buckets.
The 2010-11 Bearcats epitomized what a basketball team is all about. Fans noticed.
By the end they had a strong, loyal following. Their fans tried to will them to victory Wednesday night. They cheered and urged them on until the very end.
That kind of passion from fans is garnered only through hard work and playing the game the right way.
If the Bearcats were a selfish team filled with players concerned with individual statistics, the fans wouldn't have put nearly as much emotion into their cheering.
Everybody in and around this Northwest team knew it was a special season.
The best part of it is they enjoyed the road to the Elite Eight instead of fretting about whether the team could reach the top of Division II women's basketball.
The 2010-11 team left lasting memories for themselves, their parents, their fans and members of the media. What they did doesn't happen every season.
Curtis, Dietz, Roehrig and Melissa Nyquist are moving on to the next chapters of their lives.
The returners will try to build on what was started this season. With new players coming in and players off the bench taking on bigger roles, the dynamic of the team will change.
But if adversity strikes next season, the returners only have to look back a year and see what togetherness can accomplish.
The 2010-11 Bearcats played the game the right way and handled themselves the right way and that, in my opinion, is more important than a championship banner.
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