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Hogie Leads Tigers to State B

Ipswich head girls basketball coach Brian Hogie did something the Tigers program hadn’t done in 30 years: Guide his team to the Class B State Tournament.

The Tigers finished 19-5 and defeated Waverly/South Shore to take seventh place in the tournament. Considering that one year ago Ipswich was a single win away from going to state, and that this year Hogie and his team followed that up with a punched ticket to Huron, the bar is now set pretty high. And Hogie, the American News All-Area girls basketball coach of the year, knows it.

“Yeah, we had talked about that after the season,” Hogie said, laughing. “You know, the girls just have done a great job over the past two years, and this was where we wanted to be. We have one returning junior for our senior class next season, but a big sophomore class. We have a lot of girls, but not a whole lot of experience. But we do like what we have coming back. A lot of other schools, Herreid/Selby, Faulkton, Sully Buttes, they’re kind of in the same boat as us with the age groups they have returning. But I’ll say this — our girls are willing to put the work in and compete hard, and hopefully that puts us where we want to be again.”

It seems a little fitting that Hogie would be the coach to get the Tigers to the State B Tournament. He began coaching football and girls basketball at Ipswich out of college, and has been at the school for 13 years. Early on, putting together a competitive basketball team was a bit of a struggle simply because, at the time, there were more boys out for athletics than girls, and Hogie’s previous four years had been spent on the grid iron.

“Coming out of college, having played football at Northern State, I had a little better grasp for football. But now I’m just as confident with coaching up our girls,” Hogie said. “When I first started, we did have more boys in athletics at the time, but that’s turned around slightly over the past few years, and it’s helped me develop a few more girls starting at an earlier age.”

Of course, every coach has memories on what it was like during his or her first season, and Hogie is no exception. It’s just too bad that it’s not exactly the most pleasant memory.

“My first year, one of the girls who was supposed to be one of our leading scorers tore her ACL the night before practice started,” Hogie said. “Yeah, not the beginning to my first season I was hoping for. Losing her did make it a bit of a struggle that first year, but over the next few we started to see some classes that had talent and depth. When we saw that, we started to figure out what we wanted to do as a program and how to get those things going. Five years after I started we had an undefeated regular season, and overall we’ve been fairly consistent since.”

Consistent, but not a tournament team — until this past season. However, Hogie points out a SoDak 16 loss to Warner a year ago as a sign his team recognized to mean they were close to being on of the final eight teams left standing.

“After that loss to Warner, yeah, that opened up a lot of our girls’ eyes because we played very well in that game and had a chance to get out with a win,” Hogie said. “Our girls wanted that win, and that really set the tone coming into this season.”

The tone may have been set, but the lineup, not exactly. Three players, Kamryn Heinz, Sydney Lokken and Hailey Bierman all tore their ACL’s before the end of last season. Heinz returned and went on to make the Class B All-State First Team. Talent alone, however, does not necessarily mean you will get to State. Hogie puts just as much stock in the character of this year’s team as the reason for its success.

“Our girls have always done a great job of sticking together,” Hogie said. “They’re special and unique, and they all understand their roles on the team and what we need to collectively to be successful. Some of the ‘drama’ problems you hear about with teams, we didn’t have any and haven’t had any for a few years. They’re all different, they compete in other sports, but when they come together on the court, they just do a great job of playing together as a team.”

What was even more unique about this year’s squad was its senior leadership. Seven seniors donned the black and orange of Ipswich, and all seven understood what was the most important element to be successful — play as one unit.

“We had seven seniors, some of whom didn’t see an awful lot of playing time,” Hogie said. “But, to their credit, they were there, they worked hard in practice and tried to make everybody better. We talked about that at the end of the year, how special it was for our team to play as a team all year. We’ve probably had more talented teams, but never one with girls who were so close and sacrificed for each other. When one or two girls were struggling, this team knew what it took to win a ball game. A part of that is coaching, sure, but it’s really a credit to the make-up of that group.”

As for how the coach has grown over the past 13 years, patience is one aspect that comes to Hogie’s mind.

“I am way more patient now for sure,” Hogie said. “We’ve had some of the girls who’ve played for me come back the past few years and say, ‘You know, you don’t get nearly as upset on the sidelines as you did when we were here.’ It’s just a learning process, and I’ve learned how to coach and work with our girls.”

Patience alone, however, does not add up to success. It’s a team effort, and not just from the players and coaches on the court.

“My wife and I love it here, love the school district,” Hogie said. “We have a great administration here. If you like your administration and work well together it makes everything easier, and that’s what we have at Ipswich. That first night of the state tournament, administration, fans, just an amazing amount of people showed up in Huron to support the girls. (Superintendent) Trent Osborne has been here since I’ve been here, and he’s been nothing but supportive. He’s taught me a lot, especially from a coaching aspect. I couldn’t ask for a better situation.”