Chris Wristen Capital-Journal
WU team places third in over-19 tourney
By Chris Wristen
Apparently somebody forgot to tell the Washburn women’s basketball team that summertime is supposed to be the offseason.
Or maybe the Lady Blues are well aware that most college students are spending July and August lounging by the pool, but they simply care too much to take a break.
After going 23-7 and making it to the first round of the NCAA South Regional Tournament in 2001-2002, the Lady Blues have maintained a relentless workout pace this summer. They have spent three days each week in the weight room, plus additional wind sprints and countless hours playing pick-up ball in the gym. The results of that rigorous training regime were evident during the Sunflower State Games as Washburn throttled through pool play of the women’s over-19 bracket in Topeka West’s steamy gymnasium before falling to Emporia State 55-54 in overtime of the semifinals. The Lady Blues later captured third place with a 61-42 consolation victory against the Wildcats. The KC All-Stars edged Emporia State 59-56 in the championship game.
Winning games by a comfortable margin wasn’t the surprising part of Washburn’s play during the weekend. It was how it won that was stunning. The Lady Blues usually weren’t even contested as they pinned 30-point spreads on every opponent Friday and Saturday. Washburn showed it was better conditioned, worked harder and was more talented than most other teams in the field.
“We know this year that we want to be really strong, so we’ve all been playing and working out all summer long,” said sophomore Maggie Diehl, a Shawnee Heights product who dominated the paint throughout the Games. “We took one week off from working out, but ever since we’ve been back at it.”
That commitment to improvement was evident as 12 Lady Blues participated in Topeka’s first Sunflower State Games. That included Washburn newcomers April Roadhouse, Jill Heiman, former Seaman standout Rebekah Mueller and University of Kansas transfer Dani McHenry. Each looked raw at times but also found ways to contribute and find a comfort zone within the team.
McHenry, whose father is Washburn coach Ron McHenry, may have had the biggest adjustment after taking a year off from basketball to play volleyball at KU. She said she used the Sunflower State Games as a way to get reacquainted with the basketball court, and it was noticeable as she improved with each game and established herself as an inside presence by scoring 10 points in Washburn’s opening game.
“With not playing for a year it’s harder for me to get back into it,” said McHenry, who will also play volleyball in the fall for Washburn. “It’s a chance for me to see what I can do. It’s coming back faster than I thought it would for not having played in a year.”
She’s been pleased with her improvement thus far, and she said she’s been impressed with how hard her new teammates are working during the offseason. So impressed, in fact, that her dad would surely be pleased.
“I think so,” she said. “We’re kind of thrown out there, but we’re doing good things on the court. We run and lift and all of that. It’s coming together and you can see it out here.”
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