Winning streak may define girls season
There wasn't one moment that stood out in the De Soto girls basketball season.
There were five, and despite the ugly back-to-back losses that ended the season, Wildcat coach Dwight Spencer said it's those five moments that he hopes define the season.
De Soto won five-straight games down the stretch, ensuring itself a winning record and a home sub-state game.
"The way we had played before that wasn't real strong, then to bounce back and finally start putting some wins together was really big," Spencer said. The team came in to 2006 in fine shape, but a Jan. 17 loss to Mill Valley ruined De Soto's perfect record against its cross-district rivals and a poor tournament showing in Louisburg a week later left the team in the dumps.
Losers in six straight, the Cats responded, knocking off Anderson County, Prairie View, Spring Hill, Central Heights and Louisburg.
The winning streak couldn't be parlayed into a postseason run -- the Cats' season ended with a 62-51 first-round sub-state loss to Bonner Springs -- but it helped salvage the season.
"Going into that five-game winning streak, I didn't expect to be at .500 and hosting a sub-state game," Spencer said. "But the girls were able to turn it around and that's a tough thing to do."
If the five-game span defined the season, the play through that stretch defined what the Cats were like at their best.
Jackie Goleman, an important but not critical factor as a sophomore, emerged throughout the season. She finished as the team's leading scoring with 14.9 per game, but never was her progress more apparent than it was against Spring Hill.
Goleman scored 29 points in the 52-49 win.
The 5-foot-11 junior was the key through the five-games streak. She averaged 24.3 points per game through the first three games and scored in double figures in all five.
Still, Spencer said he's hoping 2005-2006 was little more than a preview for the potential star post player.
"I hope she realizes what she's capable of," he said. "To really take it to another level now, she's got to be willing to get out of her comfort zone and do some things and improve some areas that aren't really strong. She's so athletic that she's able to get away with doing a few things very well and if she expands her game she can be really good."
Junior Kira Gonzalez, the team captain and leader on the floor, was second in both scoring and rebounds, scoring 10.2 points a game and grabbing 5.4 rebounds, short of Goleman's 8.5 boards per game.
Goleman and Gonzalez will return with a trove of experience next winter, but Spencer was quick to point out that this season's team was as much about the four seniors as it was the dynamic juniors.
Carrie Buser and Jessica Blankenship led the foursome in minutes, starting every game this season, but Sam Johnson and Stephanie Hoover contributed off the bench. The seniors combined for 11.6 points, 28 percent of the team's average of 42 points per game.
"It'll be the improvement," Spencer said of what he'll remember about the class. "They showed unbelievable dedication over the last four years. I'm going to remember little things about each of them, but as a group it's got to be the dedication to hard work and improvement over the last few years.
The team finished 11-10, several notches down from their 14-8 record a year ago, but still a promising sign, Spencer said.
"We had a lot of success. We probably overachieved at times," he said. "There were times when we underachieved and we were disappointed through several stretches, but I'm pleased overall. The effort was there. I just thought we could have been a little more consistent, which would have made us a little better."