Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family Girls Basketball 2018-19
Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family girls basketball coach Kandee Hanzel set a simple goal for her squad last season - 70/40. Score 70 points, give up less than 40.
It was a measuring stick of sorts for a team with a motto of “One quarter at a time.”
By reducing the game into smaller increments, and concentrating on doing the little things necessary to win eight-minute periods, the Bulldogs found a recipe for success.
Although they only hit that mark once, they also went 21-5 and ended the season at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
A year later, HLHF returns all but one regular starter brings back a senior from injury and has the attention of fans and media as one of the top teams in the state. Suddenly, the little things have become difficult to concentrate on when rankings and titles enter the conversation.
“The girls kind of know. If you don’t say it ... it’s kind of silly not to say it. They just came off runner-up volleyball. They know they have to put the work together to get it done, but they haven’t had a lot of time off,” Hanzel said.
“We’re just jumping right back into it. We talk about it a little bit. We talk about how our name is going to be on top of some lists because we have everybody back. Now we just have to prove we deserve that spot.”
That spot, as deemed by the Lincoln Journal Star preseason ratings released on Wednesday, is No. 3 in Class D-1.
Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family returns six players who appeared in more than 20 games, brings back 49 of the team’s 53-point average and still has two players that averaged in double figures and one who averaged double-digit rebounds.
Taya Beller, at 12.5 points per game and 11.2 rebounds, was chosen second-team all-state.
Certainly, on paper, the ability is still there. The question now is, what about the distractions? Will the Bulldogs buy into Hanzel’s preaching and return to a simple approach?
“We went into jamboree last weekend and we kind of played like we thought we were just going to pick up where we left off,” Hanzel said Tuesday before practice. “I said, ‘It doesn’t work that way.’ ”
Granted, Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family is D-1 and Boone Central/Newman Grove is C-1, but the Bulldogs started poorly, missed their first 12 shots and found themselves down 17 at halftime.
Attitude may have been one part of it, but so, too, could have been energy and fatigue.
As Hanzel mentioned, nearly every member of the basketball team who showed up to the first day of winter practice played a role on the volleyball team that had just finished its season. A magical 29-5 season came up one win short of a championship in a loss to Fremont Bergan, as previously reported by The Columbus Telegram.
There was no time to mentally or physically recover. The girls were back in the gym barely 48 hours after walking out of the Devaney Center disappointed.
Yet, that loss may have added more fuel to the fire. If this group went to state basketball last year, then went to the title match in state volleyball this fall, what’s next?
Although it’s unavoidable, Hanzel would prefer to keep those questions outside the gym. Inside, she and the girls are working to get back to last season’s methods.
“They always say, ‘you kind of play down to the team you’re playing.’ That happened a few times last year,” Hanzel said. “Our philosophy last year was, ‘we play one quarter at a time.’ We found out in some quarters, we just couldn’t make shots, or we’re making dumb mistakes. They’re kids, they’re going to make mistakes.
“But by recognizing those mistakes right away, and looking at the game one quarter at a time, we usually found a way to correct them.”
Beller gets most the publicity among the group. The 6-foot-2 senior was one of the best two-way players in Nebraska at the net and in the back row. She signed to continue her volleyball career at Wayne State just days after the championship match.
On the hardwood, she’s just as much of a force. Though a 6-foot-2 female is a big advantage at any level, it’s that much more so at D-1 with limited school populations to draw from.
“It is very huge. With Taya, Taya gets a lot of publicity, and she’s going to draw a lot of attention, but the best thing Taya does is her presence,” Hanzel said. “Her presence in the paint and on the floor. It’s going to take two people to guard her, but now we have a 6-foot freshman coming in also.”
Hanzel is referring to rookie Addison Schneider, who made a name for herself in the fall with 136 kills and 51 solo blocks. Schneider is one of several freshmen and sophomores challenging a lineup of established veterans for playing time.
“There’s competition every day in practice. I have starters, but those starters might not be the ones who finish the game,” Hanzel said. “Right now, at the beginning of the season, I could probably go eight deep. Then, hopefully, we get a large enough advantage in some games to get more people in and get them comfortable with that speed.”
Some of those other veterans include point guard Brittney Veik, who, though quite a bit smaller than Beller, averaged over 13 ppg last season, Allanah Beller, who hit 44 3-pointers last season and Allie Schneider, who averaged nine points and six rebounds.
“Britney is our glue. She’s one that hardly came off the floor last year. But also, Allie Schneider and Allanah Beller,” Hanzel said. “Allanah is going to be our dark horse. She’s not really an aggressive player, but she’s that shooting guard that if she’s on, get her the rock because it’s going to fly. Allie is a left-handed weapon. She can hit the 3 and she rebounds very well.”
The journey begins with a tough first weekend that includes two other seasoned, experienced teams in a home game Friday against Clarkson/Leigh and then another home contest the next afternoon with Battle Creek.
“Those are two very well-coached squads, and they’re going to come at us with everything they have,” Hanzel said. “We have to keep that level head that we are who we are, go in there, do our best and try to come out on top.”
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org