Taking Flight: Lady Firebirds Soar Above Competition

Jake Stegall, Reporter

 

In the middle of a game during the three day long Winter Classic, senior A’liyah Rogers stood up from the bench, lowered her shorts, and casually removed the ACE bandage that had been wrapped around her groin.

Fortunately, her injury didn’t detract from the Firebirds victory in the Winter Classic.

“I don’t really stop playing,” Rogers said.

But Rogers knows better than anyone that basketball isn’t always fun and games. Early in her sophomore year, Rogers did some significant damage to her quads and groin while playing softball. Although she still actively competes athletically, Rogers remains pessimistic about whether her injury will ever disappear completely.

Despite being riddled with sickness, the Firebirds have had a good season. Their record is 12-5.

After the record-setting victory against Lansing(77-42), and their first place finish in the Winter Classic, the team caught the school’s attention.

“It was a good game,” Wiebe said of the stunning victory in Lansing. “It was nice to break the record that we set the year before.”

Led by the high-scoring senior Kennedy Kirkpatrick, who averages 17 points a game, and backed by the consistent rebounder, Scout Wiebe (12.3 ppg), the Firebirds have a solid foundation looking towards the postseason.

But to win a game, the whole team must play their game.

“It’s not an individual sport,” senior A’liyah Rogers said. “You need to have everybody in there doing what they’re supposed to do.”

The Firebirds have many advantages over their competitors but Head coach Bryan Duncan points out a few and is optimistic about this year’s group.

“We’ve got some good shooters and smart players,” Duncan said. “We have nine seniors … all of them are good at that.”

Everyone on the team has their own unique role.

“I’ll be the good defender, Abbey [Casady] will help be the beast post defender, Kennedy [Kirkpatrick] is the main scorer, Chelsea [Casady] is a good driver, and Scout [Wiebe], shes a good rebounder,” Rogers said. “We have these and if we can put them all together we can really play well as a team.”

Duncan also added, “We are very experienced this year.”

The Firebirds’ experienced seniors have aided them throughout the season. Standout Kennedy Kirkpatrick has established herself as a driving force on the team. Kirkpatrick has recently signed with Division 1 Bowling Green University in Ohio.

While winning games is fun, practice is grueling. The team usually starts out with some ball drills and warm ups, but it’s all uphill from there. Practice sometimes involves a rigorous exercise in which missed shots merit punishment.

“If we miss a shot, we do pushups,” Wiebe said, grimacing. “It really sucks.”

Despite the difficult drills, Duncan doesn’t include any real conditioning. According to Duncan, building conditioning into the drills is an efficient way to prevent his players from spending practice worrying about sprints at the end of the day.

“I think it really works,” Duncan said enthusiastically.

The ball drills, push ups and conditioning throughout practice have served the team well during the regular season.

The girls also build a sense of community through team dinners and annual traditions.

This year, however, the tradition of ice skating at Crown Center disappeared because of everyone’s busy schedules.

Rogers remembers the prank played during her sophomore year, when the bus left Crown Center while a teammate was still in the building.

While this year, there were no more ice skating pranks, the pasta and tacos of team dinners have helped the team to forge bonds that reach beyond the basketball court.

The Firebirds hope to see even more green and silver in postseason. Duncan sees the team as a serious contender in the postseason.

“We honestly believe we have an opportunity to be the best team in the state,” Duncan said.

In order to be the best, the Firebirds would have to stay healthy which, at times, can be challenging. The team has been riddled with sickness, but besides an injury to Kirkpatrick’s knee, and the groin injury to Rogers, the Firebirds have stayed fairly injury free.

Let’s see if the Firebirds can keep up the streak.