'Time to Shine'
The light at the end of the tunnel was finally reached for the Waubun girls' basketball team, after enduring some hardships over the course of the last three seasons.
At times, the long and dark tunnel may have seemed almost impossible to navigate after the last three-season win totals including zero, one and five games.
But the virtues of patience, hard work and a stubborn inner fortitude have paid off for the still-young Bomber squad.
"It's time to shine," said junior guard Tracee Winter, who will be a five-year letterwinner by the end of her prep career. "That's our motto this year."
Waubun head coach Jason McCloskey has been in charge of the strip-down and rebuilding of the girls' basketball program.
He knows first-hand how far this group has come over the past three years.
McCloskey was 0-52 as the varsity and junior varsity girls' basketball coach his first year.
That improved to 1-25 his second year as the varsity coach, and last year's mark stood at 5-22.
"This was a unique situation where I had to play a lot of younger girls, because we didn't have many seniors out," McCloskey said. "We had three seniors the last four years."
But with the younger girls taking their lumps and hitting plenty of bumps in the road, that experience is paying off this year, where the Bombers are currently 11-7 and 9-5 in the Pine to Prairie Conference, good for a fourth-place holding.
The Bombers have had two five-game winning streaks already this season, despite having no seniors on the squad.
They already have a 1,000-point career scorer in sophomore Jenna Lundon, along with a core of sophomores and juniors who already have up to three to four years of varsity experience.
It's that experience and chemistry formed over those lean years, which is propelling this season's Bomber team.
In essence, losing all those games, eventually helped create the success they are enjoying now.
"Losing built desire for these girls," McCloskey said. "And I think we are here to stay."
Starting from scratch
When McCloskey took over the Bombers in 2006, he knew the scoreboard wasn't going to work in his team's favor.
"I was a cheerleader and I knew I had to put away every competitive bone in my body," McCloskey said of that first year. "We just worked on the basic fundamentals during practice, such as passing, dribbling and shooting.
The team was not deep, with only eight players, including two foreign exchange students who saw time on the floor.
"We would just run the most basic offense and defense and not even look up at the scoreboard during games."
The next season, Waubun posted their first win in almost two years and went 1-25, with basically eighth graders, freshmen and sophomores playing the majority of the minutes.
The attitude changed from just improving, to being more competitive.
"We just ran the basics and went into every game trying our best," said junior guard Erin Jasken, who has been a three-year starter.
Last season, confidence started seeping into the young Bomber team, as they took the next step of being competitive against teams.
"I felt confident we could play with a lot of the teams," McCloskey said. "And for the most part, we were in a lot of games."
The Bombers finished 5-22, which also added plenty of motivation for the players to work harder in the offseason.
McCloskey and his assistant coach Ed Perrault made themselves available to open the gym for the players through the offseason, and had the varsity players help build the youth program by helping with coaching.
McCloskey's efforts for working with his team and the youth program was recognized last Wednesday, when he was one of 25 individuals honored at the State Capitol in St. Paul as being an inspiring and influential person for female sports during the 24th Annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day.
The chemistry the younger girls formed over the course of the last three years has translated into success this year.
The core of four players who have endured the rebuilding process included Lundon, Winter, Jasken and junior Annie Erickson.
Junior Ashley West also has logged in three years of varsity time, as well.
But McCloskey also credits three past seniors for accepting their roles and helping build the program.
"They were the keystones of what is forming now," the Waubun head coach said of his past seniors.
Enjoying the fruits of their labor
There are plenty of good feelings around these days inside the Waubun gym, as the Bombers already have nearly doubled their win total over the last three years combined.
"When we win and talk about our record, we are all smiling," McCloskey said.
With size not exactly being a factor this season, the team relies on pure hustle to win.
"We are called Mac's Midgets," McCloskey said with a smile. "They are a gritty, scrappy and fast team. They are well-conditioned and can run other teams into the floor late in the game.
"Failure has not become an option anymore."
The Bombers do have some size in transfer junior Mareena LaRoque, sophomore Rachel Pazdernik and freshman Tera Jasken, but the squad relies on its guard play to score points.
Lundon has excelled in that territory, both offensively and defensively.
She is averaging six steals a game and 24 points per game this season.
Her eighth grade year, she averaged 10 points per game and her freshman season 18 ppg.
She has already eclipsed the 1,000-point barrier, with the 2,000 probably well within her grasp.
Her defense has set up many of her points, as well as her hustle.
"She drives the ball well and can get to the basket," Erin Jasken said of her teammate.
"I just go out and hustle and work hard," Lundon said. "I am able to get some steals so I can score in the transition game, too."
But without scoring threats around her, Lundon would not be able to thrive as much as she does.
That's where Winter and Jasken have played their part to perfection.
"They are the three motors of the team," McCloskey said. "When Jenna is in the groove, it usually means Tracee and Erin are in the groove, too."
The season still has its challenges, as the schedule includes conference leaders Norman County West and Ada-Borup.
The Bombers are well on their way to one big goal of finishing at .500, and could be on good pace for their second -- winning a playoff game or two.
"We just need to keep our heads up and keep working hard," Winter said of the keys to rest of the season. "Hopefully we can go in and win our first playoff game then."
There also shouldn't be those days back in the dark tunnel anytime soon, as the Bomber junior varsity team is sitting with a 14-1 record (as of Friday).
"We want to keep this going, not just a one or two shot deal," McCloskey said.
The torch has been lit by a feisty group of Bombers, and they don't plan on it going out anytime soon.
The slogan "It's time to shine" has been more than a fitting one for the 2009-10 Waubun Bomber girls' basketball team.