Write On: My Passion: Basketball
December 3, 2022
Essay by: Janna Preteau
Roseau Community School
Mrs. Didrikson, Advanced English 11
My experience with basketball started when I was in first grade. I was finally old enough to sign up for Tracy Borowicz's basketball camp. Of course I would dribble the ball here and there whether it was in gym class or with my cousins, but this was the first real basketball camp I got to attend. I was thrilled, nonetheless. I remember my little self getting nervous because it was a mixed boys and girls camp, but the excitement trumped it all. Throughout each day at the camp, we would spend time at different stations that focused on different basketball skills: shooting, dribbling, passing, etc. The best part was having high school basketball players help us. It might have felt like a grind for them, but it was really neat for us. I never passed up the chance to sign up for basketball camps, and looking back, I made some pretty fun memories.
Then, the excitement really ramped up when I was in third grade. I was finally able to sign up for a real team. We had about fifteen players sign up from our grade, and our coach was Dawn Bachleitner. It was truly something I had never experienced before: getting a jersey, practicing two to three times a week, and playing in tournaments. Of course, there were only a couple tournaments in the area, but it still was the best time for us girls. One of my fondest memories in youth basketball was when we would attend the Crookston Youth Basketball Association, or CYBA, basketball tournament. This tournament always had a really nice turnout. We got to know the same girls we played against year after year, and always looked forward to reconnecting with them. One of the highlights of this tournament was that it was two days, meaning we all got to stay in a hotel. We would all gather at the pool with our siblings and just have one big pool party. Our parents would order pizza and we would all hang out in the lobby together.
When the buzzer rang, the score was 63-52. The Rams had won the game, and the Thief River Falls Prowlers' season had come to an end. Impressively, this was the Rams' 20th win of the season, a season-long goal that they had hoped to achieve. The Rams lead scorers were Hanna Mooney, Shavonda Bender, and Kayla Bachleitner, who had scored 24, 18, and 10 points respectively.
With this win, the Lady Rams will advance to the section quarterfinals in Perham against the third-seeded Yellowjackets. The game will be held in Perham this Saturday. The exact time of tipoff is yet to be announced. The Yellowjackets previously took on the Prowlers last Saturday, winning by six points. This tidbit gives the Rams lots of excitement as to what playoffs potentially have in store.
I specifically remember one year at the CYBA tournament the varsity girls basketball team was playing in the section final and we had my iPad mini propped up and hooked up to a bluetooth speaker so we could watch it while we were getting ready for our evening game. Amazingly, a lot of us attended the state tournament that year, and it is one of the best memories I had with my team. We spent many hours after school making posters for the games and planning our outfits so we could all match. It is something I will never forget.
Senior post, Emma Bassingthwaite, commented on the night, "It has really been a fun night. It is so cool to see the stands packed with fans, but very surreal to think this is the last night that I will play in my home gym. However, I am looking forward to Saturday because I know our team is capable of competing at the level of Perham and making a statement to the section."
Over the years, we continued to improve and then, beginning in 7th grade, we were able to begin playing basketball through the school. This gave us the opportunity to have more practices, games, and tournaments. The next season, my eighth grade year, I continued to play on the C team and some JV. To be honest, this was kind of a shaky season because I found myself getting frustrated often that I wasn't picking up on some plays or defenses that the older players were. And on top of this, I was quite intimidated by my coach, Isaac. He was a very vocal and get-in-your-face type person. Let's just say I was not quite prepared for that. But looking back, that was probably one of the best things that happened to me, because I learned to work my butt off and build some mental toughness. After the JV season ended, I was able to continue practicing with the Varsity team as they continued to practice for playoffs. The team impressively made it to state for the fifth year in a row! And I got to go with! It was literally the best experience ever.
Things continued to go good throughout my freshman year; I got a varsity jersey, started JV, and made lots of progress. Then, three months before my sophomore season, I found out that my ACL and meniscus were fully torn. That meant surgery and nine to twelve months of rehab. This news was obviously very heartbreaking, because I knew I would miss the entire season. I was so worried about how much this would set me back or hold me up from my progress. However, it didn't take long for me to learn to flip my attitude to make the best of each moment, so I attended every single practice and became an impromptu manager. I still had a lot of fun throughout it all.
It had been the longest 15 months, filled with countless physical therapy appointments, straight leg raises and lunges, and sitting on the stage watching basketball. But nonetheless, the day was here. After two weeks of practicing and trying to get back into the groove of things, the first game day of the season had arrived. It felt extra special because I had been looking forward to this moment since the moment I opened my eyes after my knee surgery.
My junior season was my comeback season. I was so excited to finally be able to play again. Of course there were some ups and downs, but it was expected after coming back from an injury. I was lucky to be able to play on the JV and Varsity, but that isn't what made the season so great. It was my team. I learned to love basketball again. I didn't dread a single practice, even if there was a lot of conditioning or my least favorite drills, because my team simply made the best out of every situation. It was by far the best group of girls in all my years of playing basketball. We would spend hours in the locker room after practice because we did not want to go home. There were so many fun aspects to the season whether it was Sophie's buzzer beater at the grand opening of the new gym or our first round home playoff game against TRF. All these special moments made it so hard for the season to end.
I was a ball of emotions when I woke up that morning. One second I was filled with excitement and energy, then the next second I felt so anxious that I could puke. I didn't roll out of bed at 8:10 this morning like I usually do, I woke up extra early to curl my hair and put on a nice outfit. I wore black jeans, a black turtleneck sweater, a blush pink button-up jacket, and black wedge boots. I walked out the door feeling confident and ready for the day.
After what felt like forever, the bell finally rang at 3:15 to conclude the school day. Thank goodness. But, this also meant that game time was approaching. I went home after school to try to wrap up a couple of assignments, but that didn't work because I couldn't think straight. So, I turned on my JBL Speaker and blasted my music while I packed my basketball bag. It seemed silly, but it was a thing I really took for granted. My bag had sat on the shelf for 15 months - now was time to dust it off. I found myself smirking as I was hanging my jersey on the hanger and laying it over my bag. I was ready for the game.
At 4:15 I was packed up and ready to head to the gym. I didn't have to be at the school until 5:00, so I decided it was a good idea to go pick up a sandwich on the way to the gym. I got in my car, turned on some KE$HA, and before I knew it, I was in the school parking lot. I remember I was there early - they hadn't even set up the concession stand yet. I headed to our make-shift locker room, which was a sixth grade classroom, and started to get ready. Once our coach arrived, we had a pregame talk with our team and then took court to warm up.
The brand new high school gym was packed with Ram fans Thursday night for the section 8AA playoff play-in game. The sixth-seeded Roseau Rams were set to take on the eleventh-seeded Thief River Falls Prowlers. The two teams matched up twice during the regular season, with the Rams taking the victory both times.
Mr. Barnes and the Roseau High School Band were rockin' the house with some classic crowd-pleaser songs throughout the 20-minute warm-up. The gym was filled with such a fun atmosphere which made everyone excited for the game to start.
Senior post player, Shavonda Bender, was asked how she was feeling about the game and she responded with, "It is a bittersweet feeling, and it is a bittersweet night. This is all of the seniors last game in our home gym in front of our home crowd. I don't have any doubts in our team though; I know we are fired up for the game and ready to make a playoff run."
It wasn't until I actually started warming up when it kind of hit me that I was actually going to play. I didn't have to fill water bottles, shag balls, or sit on the bench anymore. It was my turn to play. After our warm-up, our coach picked the starting five players. Then the time came to tip off.
The Rams sent Hanna Mooney, Shavonda Bender, Emma Bassingthwaite, Kayla Bachleitner, and Anya Severson onto the court, and the game was soon underway. The Prowlers won the tip and transitioned to their end of the court and scored within the first 30 seconds of the game. The Rams answered back with a two-point basket from Kayla Bachleitner.
The duration of the first half continued to go this exact way - back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. No team ever led the other by more than six points. Both teams showed up to play to say the least, and it was true playoff basketball. The score at halftime was tied 30-30.
The buzzer rang, and just like that, the first half was over.
The Rams came into the second half more calm and composed, but still fired up. They played a lot more relaxed, and naturally things began to go their way. The Rams continued to compete with the Prowlers until about six minutes into the half when they went on a 12-0 run, making it 55-45 At that point, they gained control and continued the momentum throughout the duration of the game.
The season had an even sweeter ending at the end-of-the year banquet when I was announced the winner of the Ram Award. I was beyond shocked, and it put some fire in my pants.