Boone Central girls basketball played 13 opponents with winning records in the 2019-20 season, including the No. 8 team in Class C-1 in the final Lincoln Journal Star ratings of the season, the third and fourth-place finishers in C-1, the third-place finisher in C-2 and a state semifinalist in Class B.
The Cardinals didn't win any of those, or, for that matter, beat any teams with a winning record during a 9-14 season. Boone Central won five of its first six but then won just four of 13 the rest of the way.
There were certainly enough opportunities for the year to derail and teammates to start pointing fingers. The Cardinals never did. Togetherness through tragedy marked the team's response to events on and off the court.
Senior Brooke Groth and her mother, Lisa, were killed in an automobile accident the morning of Oct. 25. Once the season began about a month later, it became about playing for Brooke.
"The girls really set aside personal differences and issues that seemed bigger before, weren’t as big," coach Andy Imus said. "Our togetherness as a team was as strong as its been with this team.
"On the court, we played probably one of the, if not the, toughest schedules in class C-1. The girls never got down and had a great attitude each practice. They continued to show great energy and attitude each day."
That approach built a certain mental toughness. After fighting through adversity at the death of a friend, the girls were handed more adversity time and again on the court against the likes of Hastings Adams Central, Crofton and Grand Island Northwest.
But, Imus said, his group embraced the grind, even when wins were difficult to come by.
"This team finished 9-14 but could have had seven to eight more wins if the ball would have bounced our way a couple more times," Imus said. "I’d like to think we were close to reaching our potential because we had a mix of girls play from ninth through 12th grade who never played together, but they did a better job of understanding roles as the season moved along."
Senior Lauren Hedlund led in that regard, topping Cardinal players in points most nights and rounding into the team's most consistent threat. Others, including some freshmen, had their moments.
Hedlund and one other senior will graduate in a few months, but there's still a large roster remaining, one that can apply all kind of life and basketball lessons to the future.
"This group continued to persevere and learned quite a bit about themselves," Imus said. "We have quite a bit returning. I'm excited to see who steps up during the offseason and into next year."
Reach The Telegram sports staff via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get in the game with our Prep Sports Newsletter
Sent weekly directly to your inbox!