After a two-day trip to Liberal, the basketball season has come to a close for the Junction City Lady Blue Jays as they fell to the number one seeded Liberal Lady Redskins, 23-58.
Junction City closes out their 2019-20 season with three wins — the first in two years, ending two streaks this season — and 18 losses.
Coach Tim Testa said he reassured the team of all their accomplishments this season.
“I told them that I love them, I told them I'm proud of them,” he said. “I told them that I think that we made a lot of gains on the basketball court, but I think we made even more gains just as a program. Just kind of developing our own work ethic, our own identity — those kind of things. I told them that they cannot get caught up in scoreboards, they can't get caught up in 3-18, they need to get caught up and looking where they came from and where they are now. So, we're very proud of them.”
With wins under their belts, Testa hopes is that the younger players — juniors, sophomores and freshmen — take this season and build upon it next year when they reassemble on the court.
“It gives them something to think about in the summertime that's positive,” he said. “It doesn't give them just, oh we lost every game last year and we have nothing really to look forward to. But, I know now that they have done the things that it takes to win. And we just got to become more skilled and we got to become better coaches so when we can move on in the future we're going to get more and more wins.
“I think that we are, obviously, not satisfied with three wins, but we're pleased with three wins,” he added. “That's three more than we had in the past and then we know now we have somewhere to start from to move forward in the future.”
Tuesday’s game against the Lady Redskins started slow with Lucy Rivera scoring six of the team seven first quarter points. At the same time, the team was able to hold Liberal to 16 points to stay within striking distance.
Unfortunately for the Lady Blue Jays Liberal ran up the scoreboard in the second quarter on a 15-2 run to take the 10-31 lead into the break.
From there, the game got mental, Testa said.
“I think we were watching the scoreboard,” he said. “And I think that we, a whole team coaches and athletes, we kind of understood what was coming — we kind of knew that we were 16 minutes away from from not getting to play basketball anymore. We're 16 minutes away from not getting to be around each other and I think that was a little bit too much on their mind.”
Junction City continued to fight in the second-half but were outscored by the Lady Redskins as Machia Mullens (23) and Katie Horyna (20) led Liberal to the victory.
“We knew number 11 and number 1 we're going to be their key players,” Testa said. “I thought we did stuff that was good against them early. Once the scoreboard looked ugly, we started looking at the scoreboard and thinking about the end of the season and girls started feeling sorry for themselves. It just kind of snowballed out of control but I think it was a decent effort on our girls part.”
Testa was not the only one impressed about the teams efforts despite trailing throughout.
“I think we did continue to play hard until the end, all the Liberal coaches said, 'Man, they didn't quit, they continued to guard and they continued to play,’” he said. “So, I was proud of that part of them and I always make sure that I relay those messages to the girls, because we are we are not the quote Junction City of old. We are a new program and a program that's proud of ourselves and I think people outside looking in are going to be proud of us in the near future.”
With the first year under his belt, Testa said he will continue to improve himself while bringing the same energy and intensity to games and practice.
“I hope, I'm very similar in my energy and in my passion for the kids,” he said. “I want to become more knowledgeable. Obviously, I want to study the game even more. I want our girls to become more knowledgeable — I want them to study the game. And I want our program to continue to move forward and not be stagnant.”