For the first time in Blue Valley Southwest’s short five-year history, Rick Rhodes saw his girls basketball team greeting fans and singing the school’s alma mater after games.
Turns out, all it took was a magical state tournament run to fire up the Timberwolves’ faithful.
BV Southwest advanced to the substate final for the fourth time in five years, but this season the Timberwolves broke through and made it to the Kansas Class 5A state tournament for the first time. Once there, they carried the momentum into the title game, marking the deepest state run in Rhodes’ 23 years as a head coach.
“Our goal was to make it to state this year for the first time in school history, and we got past that,” said Rhodes, The Star’s All-Metro girls basketball coach of the year. “Then we played like whatever happens now, the pressure is off and we needed to have fun. It worked.”
The Timberwolves began the season with adversity, when the team was victimized by mono, a round of the flu and a handful of ankle injuries. BV Southwest, Rhodes said, was not at full strength until Jan. 23.
“In January, I was thinking that this was the longest season I had ever been through,” Rhodes said. “All of a sudden, it’s like, ‘Man, that was fast.’”
At the state tournament, the Timberwolves faced Eastern Kansas League foe St. Thomas Aquinas in the semifinals. Aquinas had beaten BV Southwest twice already in the regular season and had won every meeting in their five-year series.
Final score: BV Southwest 42, Aquinas 31.
“Down the stretch, we just kind of clicked and it was about being unselfish,” said Rhodes, whose team finished 18-7. “We relied on each other, and that was the big key for us.”