Warriors go out with class

HUME — Tuscola coach Tim Kohlbecker devotes weekly practice time, perhaps 30 to 45 minutes total, for team talks.

Any subject is fair game, except basketball. The topics aren't fluffy ones like, "What is your favorite color?" but thought-provoking, introspective ones such as, "What do you think about an after-life?"

Kohlbecker recognizes that, at some point, seasons end, but for every team member there will be life after basketball.

"Sports come and go," he said. "We're creating people here. We hope we'll have a bunch of girls who will remember us for life and take the lessons they've learned to push through barriers they'll face."

If Monday's sectional semifinal against the state's second-rated Class 1A team, Cowden-Herrick/Beecher City, is any indication, the messages and values are getting through.

One play helped illustrate the character of Tuscola's players. It was an otherwise meaningless play in a game the Warriors never led on a night their hot-shooting foe went up 14-0 en route to a 65-36 win.

With the Tuscola deficit at 30 points in the final 2 minutes, the Warriors' Sammi Kohlbecker and the Hornets' Bailey Doty were scrambling for the ball. No foul was called. Neither senior hit the floor, but Doty was thrown off stride in front of her bench by Kohlbecker for contact she said, "was truly an accident."

In the heat of a frustration-filled night — Tuscola was never closer than 12 points after 4 minutes — Sammi Kohlbecker didn't respond in anger.

"Sorry," she said to Bailey.

"I didn't want her hurt for the next round," she explained. "I want them to win now."

Tim Kohlbecker expects such sportsmanship gestures whether from his daughter or anyone else on the team.

"Sammi is an intense competitor," he said, "but she is fair, and very caring; one of the nicest kids I know."

It was the highlight of what was an uneventful night for Tuscola (21-6). Sammi Kohlbecker hit three second-half three-pointers and scored a team-high 15 points. Erin Weaver had 14 points and a team-high eight rebounds.

There was disappointment that it was the Hornets, and not Tuscola, that earned a Sweet 16 berth, but the Warriors took pride in their season.

"I couldn't ask for a better year to go out on," Sammi Kohlbecker said.

Lisa Ponder, who had four rebounds, echoed that opinion.

"Senior year was the best of all four years," she said.

Six seniors helped tie a school mark with three regional titles during their prep careers, matching feats set by the Class of 1992 and 2009.

Others players who played in their final prep game were Leslie Borries, Jess Hardwick, Audrey Mooney and Kati Ponder.

"I've not been looking forward to this day," Tim Kohlbecker said. "Every year (ending) is tough, but now my daughter is gone and the kids she grew up with are gone."

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