COLUMBIA — The Hickman girls basketball team celebrated its seniors before a game against California High School on Thursday. As the three seniors said goodbye to the team, eight freshman looked ahead to their remaining years at Hickman in a 51-49 win over the Pintos.
Freshman forward Emily Miller led the team with 14 points, and freshman forward Mikayla Logan brought a tremendous amount of energy to the close game, Hickman coach Tonya Mirts said.
Hickman's freshmen face unique challenges on the team. While older players head straight to the locker room after class, the freshmen scramble to get from their junior high schools to Hickman before practice starts, some getting rides from their parents and some taking the bus.
Freshmen players have to try to bond with older teammates who go to school in an entirely different building. That separation is difficult, but it has not damaged the team dynamic, Hickman junior varsity coach Jodi Bolerjack said.
"The freshmen have taken a page out of our seniors' book," Bolerjack said. "They're not individuals, they play for the team."
Most of the off-court bonding happens on road trips where players spend long hours getting to know each other. Freshman forward Bailey Henderson said younger teammates are never excluded. Henderson plays with her older sister, sophomore Tiana Schimming, on the junior varsity team. She also plays on the varsity team, where she has become close with many of the older players.
“What happens on the bus stays on the bus,” Henderson laughed, recalling a time she playfully jumped over seats with senior Andrea Drake on a recent road trip. “It helps us bond off the court.”
The connection between the players assures the seniors that they are leaving their team in good hands.
With just three seniors on the roster, the Kewpies will rely on their underclassmen as they enter district tournament play Monday at Smith-Cotton High School.
“The seniors are excited about leaving it to kids they know are going to do well,” Mirts said. “Without our freshmen we wouldn’t be a team.”