When the basketballs started bouncing in the gym in November at Pioneer High School the Pioneer girls’ basketball team was welcoming in some new faces to a program clearly on the rise.
But while these freshman were freshman the veteran players on team not only knew they were coming but rolled out the red (purple) carpet. The grade level didn’t matter if these girls were going to help the program get to where it was headed.
“Our program is structured around being a family,” said Corine Burgard, one of those seniors with the welcoming open arms. “We trust and respect everyone on the team. The freshman were treated just like anyone else.
“As a family we embrace each other’s weaknesses and strengths. We pick each other up when we fall and no matter the outcome or the score we never turn on each other. We’ve learned over the past few years that the stronger we are as a unit the more success we have.”
Asaria Turman, another supportive and talented senior, agreed with her teammate.
“Making the environment welcoming was a huge necessity,” she said. “Mya (Hicks) and Lauren (DeWolf) were two pieces that we felt were missing when it came to the style of play and speed that we wanted to be at. We spent countless hours together on and off the court over the course of the past summer and we got to know each other on a really deep level and created bonds that will last a lifetime.”
T-E-A-M was the I-D-E-A at Pioneer and the results were off the charts.
The Pioneers finished the year with a 20-6 overall record – 20 win seasons don’t come around very often. They also won an SEC Red Division title, a District title and a Regional semifinal game.
They would not have accomplished any of that without the freshman. They would have not accomplished any of that without the seniors. And they would have not accomplished any of that without the players in between.
Senior leadership was one of the keys to their success. Players like Burgard, Turman, Whitney Gallagher, Nina Makhlouf, Coby LaPointe and Ilena Garett helped lead the way.
“I was the vocal leader,” Turman says. “I was the louder voice in our practices and I was able to lead by example. I knew I had the respect of all of my teammates for who I was both on and off the court, so I knew it was the perfect opportunity to use that to help make our team better.”
Burgard said the team’s seniors used their experience to help overcome adversity.
“As a veteran team we were used to the tight games and bad calls that can be hard to push through,” she said. “We were able to keep our composure and be confident under pressure and the freshman followed.”
Burgard was a key contributor to the team, especially on the defensive end. She didn’t always get the headlines but she certainly helped put the story together.
“I was pretty solid defensively, but on the offensive end I was not the most confident,” she said. “The game this year that was memorable for me was our game against Toledo Central Catholic. I am not sure what it was I just did not want to lose that game. My free throws and layups were going in that game and it flipped a switch for me and helped me with my confidence the rest of the season.”
Turman also says the Toledo Central Catholic game in December was a seminal moment for the Pioneers.
“We were down 17 at the half to a very tough and disciplined team and we came out in the second half and went straight to work,” she said. “It was the most fun I think I’ve ever experienced in a game and we absolutely worked our behinds off. We spent the rest of the weekend team bonding and touring BGSU. Easily the best weekend of my senior year.”
Turman says she will most remember the bonds and relationships she made this season.
“Coach Hicks, Coach Mann, Coach Johnson, and Coach Webster are all amazing people that I know I can depend on for anything,” she said. “My teammates, both JV and varsity are all girls that will forever have a special place in my heart.”
Burgard played a big role in big wins late in the season – at both ends of the floor. She is going to remember all of it for a long time.
“The thing I will remember most from this season is seeing Coach Hicks’ vision of the program from four years ago come to life,” she said. “Over the years at this program I’ve seen so much growth. Whether it has been the support at the games, additional coaching or the energy of the team, the progress that’s been made is day and night. The goal since day one was to win districts and the tools that have made this possible are only going to help propel the program to attain future goals.”