GRAINFIELD — It took a little persuasion — and perhaps a little begging — by Lanae Goetz.
But the persistence paid off, and the senior on the Grainfield-Wheatland-Grinnell girls’ basketball team got what she wanted.
And when Zoe Schultz decided to play her senior season, the Thunderhawks then grew that much stronger.
Schultz, who signed to play volleyball at Dodge City Community College next year, had decided to forego her final chance to play basketball in high school with a busy winter of volleyball and the hopes of having less wear and tear on her body.
“I didn’t go out at first,” Schultz said. “It wasn’t my thing. I wasn’t out the first few weeks. Then I decided to go out.”
Now she’s helping the young Thunderhawks have a solid one-two punch inside and out — thanks to the pleading of Goetz.
“It was a couple weeks late, but I got it done,” Goetz said.
“I begged her during volleyball even, told her we needed her. Then she finally realized we needed her and that she missed it.”
Goetz has been the team’s leading scorer this season, including a 23-point outing in a 73-12 rout of Western Plains/Healy on Friday night in Grainfield.
But it’s been the addition of Schultz who has helped aid in that output — making opponents have a hard time singling out one player.
“Especially her as a point guard and me as a post,” said Schultz, who added 15 points in Friday’s win. “We work together.”
The two seniors played roles on last year’s Thunderhawk team that finished runner-up at the Class 1A Division II state tourney in Dodge City. But that team was paced by a large group of seniors.
“We were a little slow getting started,” said coach Cheryl Martin. “We have a lot of young kids that didn’t get a lot of varsity time with six seniors out there last year. We had some trouble there and some injuries starting off the year. But we’re finally getting everyone healthy and getting the young people feeling better.”
Now, the team is below the .500 mark but starting to hit its stride thanks to Goetz and Schultz.
That was evident Jan. 19 when the Thunderhawks beat a powerful team in Northern Valley, 71-53. Goetz and Schultz combined for 37 points — with Goetz going off for 25. The team also was aided by 21 points from junior Angel Mong in the win.
Mong added 11 more in Friday’s win against Western Plains, giving the Thunderhawks their first back-to-back wins this year after going 22-4 last year.
“Last week against Northern Valley, we had a great game,” Martin said. “I think the light switch is turned on. They realize what their potential is and what they can gain.”
“In the beginning, we had a lapse,” Goetz said. “But now I think we hit a turning point and are headed in the right direction.”
Now the Thunderhawks sit at 4-7 entering the WKLL tourney this week.
“Lanae and I were talking, and we said we can’t lose anymore,” Schultz said. “We just have to tell ourselves we’re not losing anymore. So we started having more fun with it, because it was starting to be more like a job.”
The second half of the season will be crucial for the team as they look to make a return trip to state.
It also helps that everyone is healthy again.
Schultz, after getting a late start to the season, suffered a bout of food poisoning before Christmas and ended up in the hospital and didn’t get to play until after the break.
“That hurt, because she’s our voice,” Martin said. “When she talks, no one else talks. That makes a difference — let alone her presence under the boards and everything else.”
Goetz and Schultz are the only seniors on the team, and Mong and Nicole Holaday are the only juniors.
That makes the role the seniors are playing this season even more important.
“It’s important because I feel the underclassmen look up to me,” Goetz said. “I have to lead them in the right direction, and then we’ll play a good game.”
The Thunderhawks will look to continue the recent momentum heading into sub-state in late February at Sharon Springs. There, they’ll face tough competition from Golden Plains — one of the top teams in 1ADII — and the rest of the field including Cheylin, Sharon Springs and Weskan.
“We lost a lot, but we also have a lot of younger girls stepping up — which helps a lot,” Schultz said. “They weren’t at first, just because they weren’t used to it. But they are now.”
But if the team looks back on what was the catalyst to a strong finish, it might just be the win against Northern Valley — a team that beat the Thunderhawks in the semifinals at the state volleyball tourney this year en route to the title.
“They were a team that we really wanted to beat, especially with volleyball and how that went down,” Goetz said. “We definitely wanted to get them.”
Martin said that victory against the Huskies was a turning point.
“And I don’t think the girls knew that,” Martin said. “In their minds, they thought maybe they could. But it was good for them. It really was.”