Blue Valley Southwest girls basketball coach Rich Rhoades knew in 2015.
The Timberwolves were fresh off their first state championship game appearance and weren’t going to bring back any seniors. That put 2019 right on schedule as Southwest beat Schlagle 43-41 in the Class 5A semifinals Friday night in Emporia’s White Auditorium.
“These guys were the next in line,” Rhoades said. “The seniors had to take over as sophomores. They took hit after hit. We won seven games. They have been getting better every year, and here we are in the state championship. We knew we had a good chance to get here, but these guys have never even seen the state championship, so it’s a pretty cool moment.”
BV Southwest senior Ahsley Loeffelbein scored the T-Wolves’ final bucket with about 90 seconds to go, and that was how it ended.
Schlagle got a couple of good looks at a game-tying or game-winning shot, including the final touch of the game as freshman Armanaie Blacksure fired a three-pointer at the buzzer that fell short.
Loeffelbein said she didn’t know her basket would be the difference but knew it was going to be a big bucket in the game’s decision.
“My teammate Arielle (Sargent) passed it to me, and I knew I was open, so I knew I had to shoot it,” she said. “I had to have confidence in myself, and I knew my teammates had confidence in me, too.”
Rhoades said BV Southwest has been through a lot this season. Although the T-Wolves have four seniors on the roster, they have had to learn how to play alongside some of the new, young faces in the varsity rotation.
They hit their roadblocks.
BV Southwest finished the regular season as the No. 4 seed in Class 5A East. The T-Wolves suffered brutal losses, including by 14 to Olathe South and by 11 to Blue Valley North.
Their biggest came against the team they play at 4 p.m. Saturday in the 5A championship game. On Feb. 5, BV Southwest lost by 26 to St. Thomas Aquinas on the road.
Loeffelbein knows that overcoming the Saints’ brand as the three-time defending state champion is another tough challenge.
“They blew us out at their home, but we’re not done yet,” she said. “We’re not backing down. We have a chance to win this game.”