In 2008, Ali Zieverink was an eighth grader when she watched her sister, Emma, and her Lakota West teammates play in the state championship game.
Ali, who is now a senior, looked up that team, which featured six seniors who went on to play college basketball. She attended camps and was inspired to make an impact on the high school team herself.
“Being a part of it from the stands made me want to be a part of it on the floor even more,” Zieverink said. “I think with the team we have this year, if we keep working really hard, we can get back there.”
After 10 consecutive winning seasons and two appearances in the state tournament’s final four, Lakota West finished 10-11 overall, 6-8 in the Greater Miami Conference and was ousted in the first round of the postseason last winter.
“We have enough girls that remember the pride of the Lakota West basketball program and that want it to be back in that elite category,” Lakota West head coach Andy Fishman said.
“We don’t get the final four two years in a row because we had girls who were not committed to coming in and diving on the floor everyday. That was something that was definitely missing.”
Fishman is quick to point out that this year’s team is willing fight for each possession, dive for loose balls and play tight defense.
“Every team should be fighters, every year,” Fishman said. “This is the best mentality that we have had in a couple of years. There is more competition in the gym and I think that every player knows that she is an important person, but no more important than anyone else.”
The top returning scorer from last season is senior Summer Reeves, who along with her twin sister Shabazz, signed National Letters of Intent to play basketball at Morgan State University. Last season, Summer averaged 9.6 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, while Shabazz averaged 4.2 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.
Meanwhile, Lakota West will have to start the season without a pair of starters from last season’s team in seniors Bari Schwartz and Adrianna McNeal. Schwartz, who led Lakota West in assists last season, will miss the entire season after suffering an ACL tear during the soccer season. McNeal, on the other hand, is week-to-week with a micro fracture of her tibia.
The Firebirds also lose 2010-2011 starters Ronni Grandison (University of Massachusetts) and Mea Williams (Wilmington College) due to graduation. Claire Koslowski, who was considered by Fishman as the team’s best leader in practice, also graduated and is now playing rugby at the University of Notre Dame.
According to Fishman, this team is well balanced and has a lot of depth. He and his coaching staff are still determining which girls play together well enough to compete for GMC and district championships.
Lakota West will tip off its season when it will hosts Mount Notre Dame at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28.