For Sibley-Ocheyedan in 1986, perfection was meant to be
EDITOR’S NOTE: In March of 1986, the Sibley-Ocheyedan high school girls basketball team won the 1986 Iowa six-on-six state tournament. The Globe is reprinting selected articles from great sports moments of the past. Today’s story (condensed), reprinted from the Daily Globe, covers the Generals’ welcome home after their perfect 27-0 season.
SIBLEY (Special) -- It would appear pretentious to assume that God might reserve a special place in His plans for a high school basketball team.
But then, the Sibley-Ocheyedan Generals are a special team, indeed. They were led this season by a local president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes who gave her testimony at an FCA breakfast Saturday morning then propelled her team to the Iowa six-on-six girls basketball championship that same evening.
“We weren’t a team of 15, we were a team of one,” senior forward Stacey Doeden said Sunday afternoon after a welcome home ceremony at the Sibley High School. “And He led us. Sure, we had a lot of hours of hard work. But we couldn’t do it without Him. He’s the one who gave us our talents.”
Fans in the huge welcome home crowd would certainly agree that destiny shone on the Sibley-Ocheyedan Generals this weekend. The state’s top-ranked girls basketball outfit won four games at Des Moines Veterans Auditorium, culminating in Saturday’s 61-48 victory over Indianola, to finish 27-0 with a first-ever state championship.
Doeden, named to the all-tournament team along with sophomore guard Lynette Gruis, scored 23 points in the finale and tried to put her feelings into words after returning home to Sibley.
“It’s just so unreal,” she said. “It’s so hard for it to sink in right now.
“When we won, it was tears of happiness and tears of sadness for me. Because it was my last game and it was here at the state tournament.”
Seniors Doeden, Kandi Heronimus and Vonda Van Dyk completed their perfect season several years after going unbeaten in junior high. Recalled Doeden: “My dream was to go undefeated my senior year. I started my career undefeated and wanted to finish it undefeated.”
Sunday afternoon was set aside to celebrate a winning program that Head Coach Henry Eekhoff and assistant Vint Bellows began 12 years ago. Sibley competed in its first girls state tournament a year ago, losing to Fairfield in the first round. This time, in the first year of consolidation with Ocheyedan, the Generals defeated Fairfield in the rematch and went on to successfully defend their No. 1 state ranking.
“Our goal last year was to make it to state and the goal this year was to make it to the final four -- and here we win first place,” recalled Heronimus at the welcome home ceremony.
“We may be puny, we may be small,” spoke Van Dyk of the northwest Iowa town, “but not only do we have the number one team in the state -- we have the number one fans in the state.”
Said Doeden into the microphone: “It’s hard to believe March 16 will be the day people repeat over and over again.” She summed up about her coaches, her teammates and her fans, “We love them all. And we love you.”
Bellows introduced Eekhoff to the Sibley-Ocheyedan fans, saying, “He’s a coach in the true meaning of the word. He not only knows the X’s and the O’s but he really cares about these kids, and that’s the main thing.”
Bellows gave credit to Eekhoff, who in turn gave credit to Bellows, and they both credited the fans for their undying support. There was much talk about dedication, about two communities supporting a common goal, about sharing a dream. Sibley mayor Oliver Leu took the podium and remembered Doeden’s post-game comments to a reporter after the championship game. One of the greatest testimonials that could have been given, he said, was when she was asked to what she attributes her success.
“God,” she replied.
Eekhoff, who has coached the Generals to a 47-4 record over the past two seasons, praised the team’s defense after the program had ended. “We had a pretty easy game with East Central (83-38) in S-O’s state tournament opener). For the rest of the tournament we just played very well. Our defense held ‘em down. We were pretty patient on offense and everything else worked right for us.
“We don’t have a superstar on our ball club. We just play very good defense.”