Consider last night’s win over Melrose a stepping stone for an Osakis girls’ basketball team that gains a little more confidence with every victory.
The Silverstreaks, now 6-0 after a 52-22 win over the Dutchmen, lost to Melrose twice last season. The most difficult of those coming in a 52-51 overtime game that knocked Osakis out of the playoffs.
The Dutchmen, now 1-4, are a different team after losing some players to graduation, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a significant win for a Silverstreaks team that believes this is the year they could make some noise in conference and section play.
“We were super excited,” senior Becka Sadlemyer said of playing Melrose after she scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds last night. “It was like payback for us for them knocking us out, I guess. I’m pretty sure they graduated two of their best athletes. That helped us a lot, and we’ve just gotten better. That’s big too. We’re just gelling so much better.”
That process of gaining confidence with each other on the court didn’t come without its lumps. Many of these girls have been playing with each other on varsity for almost three years now. They’ve had their growing pains, like going 7-19 in 2009-2010.
Every year, though, they’ve progressed. Osakis followed that 7-19 season with a 12-16 mark two years ago before moving above the .500 mark with a 16-10 record last winter.
Through it all, Osakis head coach Pat Kalpin preached patience with this group. He told them that if they continued to work hard, they would eventually be rewarded with wins. So far this season, he has made good on that promise.
“I just kept telling them, ‘It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s not going to happen in two weeks,’ ” Kalpin said. “It’s going to take a few years. We’re playing good teams and we’re in 2A basketball, which is a totally different entity. It really is. I think they’ve come a long ways. Some kids might have given up through those tough times that we went through. I tell you what, they’ve gelled, and I think they’re buying in.”
Junior guard Annalise Savageau exemplifies that determination as much as anyone on this team. She has grown into the potential that she showed even as she took her lumps as an 8th grader at the varsity level.
Savageau has turned herself into one of the best Class A players in the area since then. She passed the 1,000 point mark in her career as just a sophomore and continues to put up big numbers as a junior. Savageau finished with a game-high 19 points against Melrose. She hit two of her three threes during a 12-0 run that turned a two-point game into a 27-13 lead for Osakis at the half.
“She’s been through some tough times,” Kalpin said. “I kept telling her, ‘You’re going to learn. You’re going to learn. You’re going to learn.’ She’s getting there. I’ve been fortunate to have a few girls like her in the last 15 years of coaching, and it makes your job a lot easier. I’ll tell you that.”
Savageau says that growth just comes with getting more comfortable on the court. She knows she needs to be a scorer for this team and doesn’t shy away from that. The player who was understandably overwhelmed trying to play guard against girls three and four years older than her a couple seasons ago is now the one overwhelming opponents with her ability to drive and shoot. In turn, this whole team is starting to believe in its ability to compete in any game.
“We’ve gotten used to what everybody’s going to do,” Savageau said. “We’re just a lot more comfortable with each other. I think it helps a lot because if you just put five new people with each other, it’s hard to play well. We’ve had close to three years now with each other. That helps a lot.”
That’s why Kalpin felt good about this team’s potential coming into the season. The Silverstreaks feel better prepared to compete against a strong conference team like Upsala for a league title. Those are the kind of goals this team has set for itself this season. And a 30-point win over Melrose to get to 6-0 has done nothing to dampen those expectations.
“That’s the goal. You want to win the conference,” Kalpin said. “We want to compete with [Upsala]. The last couple years, we’ve had good games with them. We just could never get over that hump. This team needs a win like that. Last year, Melrose had beaten us a couple times, then beat us in the playoffs. For them to beat a team that we haven’t beaten in a couple years, I think is just a big step for them.”