Nov. 23, 2011
‘Cats open Oahu Classic on Thanksgiving
By David Boyce
Northwest Missouri State women’s basketball coach Gene Steinmeyer got tough with his team Wednesday, a day before facing St. Augustine’s in the two-day Oahu Classic.
His players spent only one hour in the Hawaii sun.
The Bearcats left the breezy, chilly climes of Maryville Sunday for six days of fun and basketball, err, basketball and fun in tropical paradise.
“When I first started doing this I said to the team you got to give me 1½ hours each day,” Steinmeyer said. “That is all you got to give me. If you do not give me that there is going to be trouble. Most teams will do that.”
Before going into a few details of how the Bearcats spent their first two days Oahu, it must be noted that the players earned this trip by doing a few fundraisers.
One of the fundraisers was a youth basketball tournament that benefits the Maryville community.
In addition, each player had to come up with $500 of their own before Steinmeyer locked down the travel plans.
And being a frugal coach, Steinmeyer found out each plane ticket was $200 cheaper if they left on Sunday and return home on Saturday.
“There is a public perception with all the budget cuts that it doesn’t seem right for us to travel,” Steinmeyer said. “We hope people understand we are paying our own way in this. I don’t want them to think we are taking budget money and spending it foolishly.”
The way the travel days worked out, it was perfect for Northwest to prepare for St. Augustine’s. They get three days to acclimate themselves in Oahu. The tipoff is 1 p.m. Central on Thanksgiving Day. The Bearcats will return to action 5 p.m. Friday against Hillsdale and then travel back to chilly Missouri on Saturday.
“When we get home on Saturday instead of Monday, it should give us a little more time to get ready for the monsters coming into Bearcat Arena- Emporia, Washburn and Pitt,” Steinmeyer said.
Conference play for Northwest begins Nov. 30 at home against perennial MIAA power Emporia State followed by the other traditional conference power Washburn on Dec. 3.
Even though the Bearcats are grabbing some rays this week in Oahu, it is an important time for them to get ready for conference.
These games are even more critical because of the loss of senior point guard Abby Henry, who broke her thumb on her shooting hand at practice after the season-opening game at UMKC.
“What makes it tough this year is we lose three great kids from last year,” Steinmeyer said. “Abby Henry was the one player we absolutely couldn’t lose. The offense runs through her.
“We play two really good teams out here and to play them without Abby should get us ready for Emporia and Washburn.”
Without Henry, the Bearcats struggled in their next two games after UMKC.
“I thought we played pretty good offense at UMKC,” Steinmeyer said. “I cannot tell you what a mess our offense was down in Oklahoma and against William Jewell.
“Our offense in the William Jewell game was my fault. I tried to tweak the offense to compensate for Abby, but it made it worse. We have to learn how to play without Abby.”
The Bearcats, though, went to Hawaii with some confidence. They picked up their first win on Saturday, beating Missouri Valley 70-61.
Despite a 1-3 record, the Bearcats are feeling better. Days in the sun also help.
On Monday, the team got up at 8:30 a.m. and walked about a mile to an outdoor court where they practiced for 90 minutes. After practice, the rest of the day was theirs.
Northwest followed the same itinerary on Tuesday. The Bearcats practiced indoors on Wednesday.
“The ultimate goal for a coach in these trips is you hope the team bonds and you play tough competition,” Steinmeyer said.
Steinmeyer does not know how long Henry will be out. She could be back anytime, but fears her return will more likely occur at the first of the year.
“In the long run, if we can survive and not get in too deep of a hole, we should be a lot better team because of this. I just hope it doesn’t take Abby long to get back.”
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