One of Olathe South girls basketball coach Steve Ingram’s favorites phrases has been turned on its head.
For years, Ingram has implored his Falcons to “expect Superman” every game — a way of reminding his team not to take any opponent lightly, because any team is capable of a heroic performance.
Now, South needs Superman – well, Superwoman anyway.
Bailey Rinehart, a junior point guard and team captain, tore her ACL on Jan 8 in a 44-34 win against Leavenworth. She had season-ending surgery two weeks later.
That shifted the burden to sophomore Kylee Kopatich, the team’s primary point guard, to elevate her play and that of her remaining teammates.
“A million things went through my mind when Bailey got hurt,” Kopatich said. “Sadness definitely hit me. I was devastated for her. Oh my goodness.”
The injury also thrust Kopatich into a leadership role for which she wasn’t prepared.
Kopatich — who leads the Sunflower League in scoring (17.2) and ranks second in assists (3.9) and steals (4.0) — had been content to fall in line behind Rinehart, but she’s been forced to take up the reins for the undefeated Falcons.
“The thing I’ve stepped up most is being a better leader with everyone,” Kopatich said. “I’d had Bailey to do that, because she was the captain and backup point guard. She’s so positive, and I really relied on her a lot. Now, it’s up to me to make sure people get where they need to be and trying to get everyone relaxed.”
Led by Kopatich, South, which was 7-0 when Rinehart got hurt, has won seven more games, improving to 14-0 entering a key showdown at 5:30 p.m. tonight at Lawrence Free State, 12-3.
“It’s been a big adjustment having only one point guard on the court at a time instead of two points guards,” Kopatich said. “But I’m not the only one who stepped up.”
While that might be true, the rest of the Falcons have followed her lead.
South had two games to adjust to life without Rinehart before heading to McPherson, Kan., for the Mid-America Classic in late January.
After breezing past sub-.500 Sunflower League foes Lawrence and SM North in those first two games, the mid-season tourney provided a test for where the Falcons were as a team without Rinehart, who had been the team’s second-leading scorer when she went down.
South overmatched Dodge City in the opening round before beating the host Bullpups in a Kopatich-powered 43-35 semifinal win. She scored 26 points with 10 rebounds.
In the final against Manhattan, a 51-48 win, Kopatich was even better, delivering 31 points and six rebounds, which helped the Falcons’ collective confidence begin to soar again.
“I don’t think we’ll ever get as comfortable as we were before, but every game we’re getting more comfortable without her,” Kopatich said. “Especially after the tournament, we realized we could still win games without Bailey, but she’s going to be missed. But winning that tournament without her proved we can still do this and still make state.”
If the Falcons, who have been to state (and won at least 21 games) eight seasons in a row, do return to the Kansas Class 6A tournament, they’ll have Kopatich to thank.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to <a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a>. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.