Miners’ mission? To keep on playing
In grasping to explain whether the top-ranked team in the Sacramento area was ready for tonight’s playoff game, Nevada Union girls basketball coach Craig Strohm tapped into military vernacular.
NU’s air attack (read: perimeter game) was ready.
As were the ground forces (frontcourt players).
Though he didn’t talk about the sea forces, safe to say they have taken a few torpedoes, but have every intention of staying afloat until the mission is completed.
NU (24-4 overall) will test its battle plan at home versus 16th-seeded Woodland (12-15) in the first round of the Division I Sac-Joaquin playoffs. Game time tonight is 7.
The Lady Miners will take the court without the services of sophomore guard Emma Kite, who will miss the playoff run due to a dislocated knee injury suffered during Monday’s practice. Also missing tonight’s game will be frontcourt player Camille Humphreys, who bruised her tailbone over the weekend.
“It has been a rough season,” Kite said two days after the knee injury. “All season, it seems we have been up and down with illnesses and injuries, but we always have someone to step in.”
The roll call of walking wounded has been as much a part of the Lady Miners’ season as have two dozen wins.
“Losing Emma hurts,” Strohm said. “She is a great team player. She really closed the gap on some of our finest wings, and she is only a sophomore. She’ll have another two years of play, but she is on the shelf for now.”
For those who prefer their glasses half full, the Miners will have back guard Courtney Kephart who has been battling the flu since January, as well as Molly Heck, who continues her steady return from a January knee injury.
Kephart and Kite both came down with the flu at the same time, not really a surprise when one considers how close this year’s Lady Miners truly are.
“(Emma) is my little sister,” Kephart said. “We adopted this year, and I love her more than anything. (Her injury) was scary at first, but when we talked to her later, she was smiling and totally upbeat. Every athlete experiences something bad at some point; the time not to do it is senior year, so Emma will be back, guaranteed.”
Fortunately for the Lady Miners, there is an abundance of depth. The void left by Kite’s departure from the second squad can be filled by Kephart, or Nicole Sheets if need be.
“The person who the pressure is on is not Courtney to take Emma’s spot, because she is a seasoned senior, but on Andy Sexton,” Strohm said. “She’ll be providing some minutes for Kayleigh (Correll), because we will have Courtney playing off the point more in the playoffs.”
Woodland, which joins the Metro League next year, comes to town with little to lose and everything to gain. The Wolves counter NU’s outside-inside game with a patient halfcourt offense, featuring a sophomore point guard and decent sized inside game.
Strohm has been stressing team preparation, not that the players need too much reminding.
Last year, NU was bounced from the playoffs with a first-round loss to Ceres, and it would not be history making for a 16th seed to knock off a top-seed. It happened last year.
Tonight, the Wolves come to town dressed in alligator clothing.
“We are wrestling alligators here,” Strohm said. “You don’t quit when you are tired, and you don’t quit when you are sore. You quit when the alligator quits.”
The Nevada Union boys basketball team may be on the road for its first round playoff game, but it doesn’t mean fans have to miss out on all of the fun.
A 40-person bus will be available for fans who want to make the trip to Tokay High School of Lodi Friday. Tickets are $20.
“They will get a ride up and back and tickets to the game for their money,” NU head coach Jeff Dellis said. “It’s a first step toward Arco for us and (the fans) have the chance to be there right from the beginning.”
Contact Lyn Keck at (530) 273-4431, ext. 264 at the high school for more information.
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The Nevada Union Junior Miners Football and Cheer teams traveled on Saturday to Casa Roble High School in Orangevale to play the Casa Roble Junior Rams in Sacramento Youth Football League action.