The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

JH Pioneer girls flex on court


December 16, 2020

It took a fair amount of scheduling gymnastics to permit Big Sandy to complete a full junior high girls basketball season in 2020.

The Pioneers proved able to defeat nearly every opponent they faced, COVID-19 included.

The pandemic forced last-minute cancelations left and right but the purple and gold chased down games wherever they could be found.

“(Athletic Director) Melanie Schwarzbach did an amazing job getting us games for a (full) season,” Pioneers coach Travis Baumann said. “Parents were great about it … nobody wanted a six-game junior high season.”

Baumann said Big Sandy compiled an 8-7 overall record across a schedule best described as flexible and fluid. Riding an 8-3 mark, the Pioneers faced a rigorous four games in four days to finish the season. Unlike a “normal” year, no district tournament took place to determine a champion. Baumann lamented that such an event could have proved wild, as teams showed anyone could beat virtually anyone else on a given night.

“There were so many teams that were right in the middle … had we had a tournament, it would have been a lot of fun to see who could come out on top,” he said.

As it stood, Baumann noted Chinook finished with the best overall record. The Pioneers split their games with Chinook, edging the Sugarbeeters by just two points in the win. Big Sandy similarly split a series with Winifred in close circumstances, losing by a single point away and getting an overtime win at home.

“The girls improved drastically as the year went on,” Baumann said. “Not just with basketball skills … emotionally, to be able to accept wins and losses, not to be too high on the highs, not too low on the lows.”

They rose from a humbling season opener against a talented Turner team at home.

“The girls got put in a hard spot with barely a week of practice,” Baumann said, adding that he could not be available to coach due to being on COVID-19 quarantine himself.

Baumann said his sixth graders (Samantha Bjornestad, Harley LaBuda, Elaina Weaver and Bailey Schrader) particularly impressed after having their fifth/sixth grade season cut short at two games in the spring when the pandemic hit. He said they adjusted well to high school rules that allow for zone defenses and full-court press.

“They kind of got thrown into the fire to learn what basketball really is,” Baumann said.

Graduating from the junior high program are eighth graders Jenny Sant, Carmen Tan, Jaihven Baumann, Kaya Demontiney and Alex Worrall. The quintet immediately get promoted to the senior high level, for which practices are underway and games supposed to start in about three weeks.

“They get to extend their season … a good opportunity to see some JV games and get a feel for how much faster the high school game is than junior high,” Baumann said.

Seventh graders Heather Frank, Lindsey Cline, Brianna Terry, Tori Dixon and Keira Galbavy are poised to return in 2021 and lead the Pioneers in a hopefully pandemic-free season.


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