ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ANDREW OTTOSON
If it’s true that defense wins championships, the other teams competing at the Class 1A state tournament this week should take note of the Goessel Bluebirds.
“Our defense is really finding ways to stop teams night after night,” coach Justin Coup said. “As long as our focus is there on defense, our offense will be there.”
A 60-52 win over Norwich on Friday set the stage for Saturday’s 46-37 sub-state win over Waverly. The Bluebirds limited Waverly to two points in the first quarter and only 13 in the half.
“The boys came out early and set the tone on the defensive end,” Coup said. “We went out and dominated the boards while our guards applied pressure up front.”
In the second half, Goessel’s defensive intensity slipped.
“We came out and played very tentatively,” Coup said. “I think we saw the 20-point lead on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter and started to dream.
“We forgot we were playing a team that can really put up some points. When they started to pressure us we started to bend a little. But we never folded and that is a character of a true champion.”
This will be Goessel’s sixth trip to the state tournament, but the first in 18 years. Beginning in 1987, the Bluebirds made state runs in three consecutive years.
Goessel followed up a third-place finish in 1987 with the 1988 Class 1A state championship and was 1989 runner-up.
“As young boys, these kids dreamed of going to Hays,” Coup said. “Now it is a reality. They really deserve to experience a season like this. They work so hard and strive to get better.
“It is great to have players who listen and are committed to what we are doing,” he added.
The core of the team is the seniors quartet of Garrett Hiebert, Jordan Voth, Travis Buller and Brett Goerzen, centered by junior Nathan Ensz.
Goessel also gets substantial contributions from seniors Nathan Amstutz and Sheldon Goerzen and sophomore Austin Unruh.
Hiebert led the team in scoring (16.9 points per game) and rebounding (9.8 rebounds).
Goessel finished 22-3 overall record and put together a 10-1 run to take first place in the Heart of America league.
For Coup’s team, the tournament in Hays opens on Thursday with a match against Sharon Springs.
“They are a team that is very athletic and guard dominate,” Coup said. “They are very quick and can really shoot the ball from outside.
“I think we will have a good chance as long as we handle the ball and defend like we have been. (It) should be a fun one.”