Paving Kewpies’ path

Hickman’s Stephanie Burger shows point guard intuition
Wednesday, March 3, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:20 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

It’s evident in a foot tapping, a head bobbing, lips moving.

It’s one thing Hickman coach Tonya Mirts has learned in the past four years: Her players love music. She lets them listen to it in the locker room, during practice, on the bus.

Come game time, the Kewpies seldom lose this rhythm.

No time for a slow dance

Under the direction of senior point guard Stephanie Burger, Hickman maintains an upbeat and dogged tempo that keeps its opponents guessing.

“Burger’s going to put the heat on the defense,” Mirts said. “If you aren’t going to come on, she’s going to take you all the way to the hole. If you are going to come on, you’re leaving Jodi and Amy Bolerjack open at the 3-point line. So what do you want to do from the defensive standpoint? That’s what she brings to us.

“She’s all about the team. Her attitude is, ‘Whatever the team needs me to do. Don’t worry about making me happy. Let’s win.’”

Hickman, ranked ninth nationally and winner of 16 straight, aims to keep winning tonight. The Kewpies (27-1) play Francis Howell (19-8) at 6:30 p.m. in a Class 5 sectional at Borgia High in Washington. The winner advances to Saturday’s state quarterfinal.

The Vikings started 4-6 and have won seven straight.

“I don’t think there is a team that has made it to a district championship or a team that has received our kind of accolades without a quality point guard,” Mirts said, “and (Burger) is a tremendous point guard.”

Burger averages 5.6 points and 4.7 assists.

A gift of court vision

“True points are deliverers of the ball,” Mirts said. “They’re very unselfish people. They’re instrumental in getting people where they need to be and Stephanie does all of that very well. She’s not calling plays. She’s reading what the defense is doing and going from there.”

Burger said she’s looking for one of three things.

If the defense is overplaying the wing, she can feed the ball inside to senior center Lauren Harris. If the defense is overplaying the post, she can go to sharpshooters Amy Bolerjack, Jodi Bolerjack and Kaela Rorvig on the wing. If the defense is overplaying both, she can penetrate.

“It just comes natural,” Burger said. “I try not to think a whole lot. I find that if you think a little too much about the game you get frustrated easily.

“Basically, I see how the defense is playing and react. My role is to get the offense going. To get the ball to people who are scorers and penetrate when I have the opportunity. I’m trying to lead the team.”

Burger has directed teams since fifth grade. She said she plays the point because she can dribble so well and isn’t the best shooter.

Nevertheless, Mirts praises Burger’s shot selection. Burger is shooting 51 percent.

“Stephanie’s field goal percentage speaks for itself,” Mirts said. “She takes very wise shots. She doesn’t take a shot unless she knows she has a great chance of making it, and I think that’s tremendous. She’s going to create shots, get a layup or shoot free throws.”

In Saturday’s Class 5 District 10 championship game against Jefferson City, Burger finished with 11 points. She shot 2-of-4 and made 6-of-9 free throws.

Burger also created scoring opportunities for Jodi Bolerjack (18 points) and Amy Bolerjack (10 points).

“It’s a lot of stress on a kid to handle the ball and be concerned about the amount of shots they’re going to get,” Mirts said. “(Amy and Jodi) don’t have to worry about that. Stephanie takes care of the hard part.”

If necessary, Hickman can alternate the point guard position.

Jodi Bolerjack played point her freshman and sophomore seasons before a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury sidelined her for most of last season. Amy Bolerjack also runs the point.

Mirts said Burger’s mentality separates her from the others.

“(Burger’s) tough,” Mirts said. “She brings some grit. She’s a very physical entity and I don’t think that’s Jodi and Amy’s game. They’re not physical guards.

“Stephanie brings a physicality at the position to our team. She’s one of the most physical guards I’ve ever coached. She brings a mental toughness to us, an edge, I like that.”

In December, Burger signed a letter of intent to play for William Woods University, but her focus remains on the state tournament.

“Everybody has a dream, and we’re trying to achieve that,” Burger said. “Every time I step on the court I love it. I love being on this team. I know that we have a very good chance of winning a state championship.”

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