As one of the final eight teams in the state basketball tournament last year, U-High is happy to be back on the hardwood this summer working on hoops.
“It feels good to get back in the gym after last year, we were kind of eager,” said U-High head coach Andrew McDowell. “When you make a run, the off-season is a little shorter, and you get back in the gym a little quicker. So we have a lot of guys back who are ready to play and excited to play together.”
After a 24 win season, U-High went into a Class 3A supersectional against Chicago Bogan and fell just short of a state appearance. It was the aftermath of that loss that has stuck with the Pioneers this summer.
“Yeah, that’s definitely a big motive, feeling that pain in the locker room after losing to Bogan,” said U-High senior Drew Wollenschlager. “Just knowing what that feels like, we don’t want to want to feel that again. And we’re trying to get past that and working to get to Peoria.”
“Having the season come to an end like that after having a great season, it was just hard. And it was just good to just talk to the guys one last time before they head off to college to start their lives,” said U-High senior Alex Wood. “So it means a lot to us, the way that they left us, going into this next season we’re going to try to carry it over.”
Coach McDowell is using that pain as a teaching lesson. He says the time spent in the locker room after the supersectional loss is one of his all-time favorite coaching memories.
“Just spending time with those guys while we were all hurting. They left it all on the floor and they gave everything and there was pain,” said McDowell. “When you are so close to a life long goal and you aren’t able to achieve it there’s a lot of pain.”
The Pioneers now know the level they have to play at to get to the state finals, and are motivated to win at least one more postseason game next season.