by Eric Oslund
History was made on Friday, Feb. 24, when the Zimmerman girls basketball team defeated Becker 81-73. That gave them sole possession of the Granite Ridge Conference championship and the No. 1 seed in the 5AA section tournament.
It was the first time in school history that the girls team had won the conference championship, but it was something that almost didn’t happen that night.
They knew coming into the game that they at least had a share of it, but that wasn’t good enough for them, they wanted it for themselves. However, the team was honoring their seniors since it was their final home game of the regular season – and senior nights are always mentally draining.
There is a wide range of emotions, and it clearly affected the girls on the court once the game got going.
“Even though we started strong, I’ve never seen our kids so gassed,” said head coach Lance Dalbey. “It was that emotionally draining. They just had that drained feeling 10 minutes into the game and usually they’re horses that can run forever. They were just exhausted because they were so emotionally high before the game and sad and crying, and that plays a part.”
That high their were experiencing eventually wore off and the girls seemed to hit a wall halfway through the first half. They had built up a big lead, but Becker work its way back into the game, as the Thunder led 39-35 at halftime.
It remained a battle during the second half too, as Becker was even able to take the lead a couple times, but the Thunder wanted this win. They had worked hard all season long, but the head coach could tell his girls were getting tense as they game remained close throughout the second half.
After all, a conference championship and the No. 1 seed in the section tournament were riding on this win.
“That’s really controlling your own destiny,” Dalbey began. “For the conference, for the section, on senior night – you go, ‘Man.’ It’s not a coincidence that the kids played a little shaky at times. I think there was just so much emotion and they wanted to win. The tighter the game got the tighter the kids got, and you could see them tighten up. They were so nervous because they wanted to win and they knew there was something at stake. It was definitely a battle.”
The game really came down to the final minute. The Thunder had a small lead, so Becker began fouling, but it always seemed to be Alyssa Daugherty on the line shooting those final free throws. She is just a sophomore, but she has been playing varsity basketball for three years.
She is the player Dalbey wanted to be taking those shots, and once her teammates saw her make the first couple they knew they had won the game.
“After a minute they started fouling and then we just got to the free throw line. I was at ease,” senior Danielle Williams said of the moment she realized they would win. “It wasn’t as stressful and it was a really cool feeling being a senior and being able to be such a great team my senior year. It was really cool.”
When the clock hit 0:00 the girls could finally celebrate. There were smiles, hugs, tears and laughter as the girls were united with their friends and family on the court. They knew what they had accomplished and all their emotions just began to spill out of them at once.
The trick now is getting them to move past this emotional win and prepare for the section tournament. They had met some of their goals that night, but are now looking to win a state title. Luckily for them, though, they have a first-round by and do not play their first game until Saturday, Mar. 4, 6 p.m. at Buffalo High School.
“I think that we have, I don’t want to say we’re forgetting about it, but Dalbey always tells us, ‘Next play,’ which ties into the next game,” Williams explained. “We prepare for the next game. We’re always looking forward. Now we’re looking to beat our section and go to state. We’re just real focused on the next game, we want to win it.”