Think what it must be like to lose. Not occasionally, but a lot. All the time. And not just for a season, but for a string of seasons.
The Sibley-Ocheyedan varsity girls basketball program has known the feeling. The Generals were 0-22 in the 2018-19 campaign and they hadn’t won more than three games in a season since 2013-14.
Imagine, then, how winning can feel now.
When the Generals secured their first win of the 2019-20 season on Jan. 3 in a 63-57 victory over Rock Valley, first-year head coach Steven Kellen said the younger kids were happy, but the older kids were literally crying.
Not long ago, Sibley-Ocheyedan didn’t just lose girls basketball games. They lost them badly, by 30 to 50 points. Last season the program lacked not only playmakers, but numbers. There were only 14 kids out for girls basketball in grades 9-12.
Kellen wasn’t hired to coach the new Generals until late last summer. But despite knowing the history of the program, he made it understood that he coached for success.
Even so, this year’s team lost its first seven games.
“I told them when I accepted the job that I didn’t come here to lose,” he said. “We’ve had sports writers come up to us and say we’re the best 0-7 team in the state. And that came back to me, because I’d not gotten them to turn the corner yet.”
Kellen may have been too hard on himself. But he was used to winning, having assisted the Ellsworth boys basketball team when the Schilling brothers were taking Minnesota by storm. The S-O girls didn’t win early this year, but they were competitive in most of their games and might have seen the win column earlier had they understood “how” to finish.
But they followed up their Rock Valley triumph with a 72-42 victory over George-Little Rock. On Monday, they breezed past Harris-Lake Park 65-21.
Sibley-Ocheyedan’s new winning attitude is getting a big boost from two freshmen, 6-foot Madison Brouwer and 5-5 Bria Wasmund. Brouwer is the younger sister of S-O track and basketball star Grant Brouwer, who is now competing at Dordt. Kellen describes her as a quiet player who lets her performances speak for themselves, and as an excellent scorer, rebounder and passer. Wasmund is hard-working and tough. She has been playing with a broken pinkie finger since before Christmas.
Looking back, perhaps it’s not surprising that the older Generals cried when they got that first win. In the past, they literally got beaten down in games. It was demoralizing.
Now, however, the Generals know how to win. And you know what? They like it.
The fans like it, too. “You can tell that there’s a buzz around here,” said Kellen.
Conversing with Scott
We at The Globe hope you’re enjoying the “Conversation with Scott” columns we’ve been putting online on a semi-regular basis under our sports header.
Until Scott Mansch came to work with us a few months ago (for a second time, frankly; he was a sports writer here in the early 1980s before moving to Montana), we’d never had anything like them. And they’re not just unique. They’re fun to read, too.
It’s a joy to catch up with sports personalities we first became familiar with 30 to 40 years ago -- to see where they are now, and to re-live along with them their remarkable exploits.
In recent months, Scott has, in his inimitable conversational style, spoken with Marty Jorgensen, Adam Hale, Steve Elzenga, Mark Zinnel, Scotty Dahl, Ron Wendorff, Roger Schipper, Joey Konkol and Leon Bullerman. On Tuesday, a new submission highlighted former Windom High School standout Chet Meyer.
Scott, himself, describes the Conversations thusly: “They are all about characters. While the offerings detail yesteryear and glory days to be sure, the true aim is to go beyond the statistics and records and reveal as much as we can about the individuals responsible.”
So keep your eyes on the online Globe. Then get yourself a cup of coffee and read along with Scott.