Sorrentino: Being sick doesn’t slow down senior in title game
Paola When Liz Baska walked out of the locker room after Tonganoxie won the Paola Girls Basketball Invitational on Friday, the senior forward walked sluggishly about the hallway carrying a gym bag on her right shoulder.
"Hey Liz, you got a minute?" I asked her, like I normally do after games when I interview Tonganoxie High athletes.
Baska was more than happy to talk, just as she was whenever I asked for an interview during volleyball season.
Then, she divulged the reason for why she looked a bit tired.
"I just felt like I couldn't breathe, but other than that I was good," Baska said. "My throat and my nose are bothering me. Normally, I run and I'm O.K., but right at the beginning I was like:(gasp)."
I had no idea Baska was sick until she told me after the game. Judging from her play on the court, if she hadn't said anything about it, I would have never been able to tell.
Baska had a team-high six field goals and 14 points Friday night.
She arguably has the most difficult job of any Chieftain girls basketball player. Baska's capable of playing all five positions on the floor. On Friday, she'd set up in the paint one possession, then bring the ball up the court on the next possession.
Baska also guards the opposing team's best player much of the time. She's strong enough to hold her own inside and quick enough to guard speedy perimeter players.
The senior displayed great poise, despite feeling cold-like symptoms. The only time she sat on the bench was briefly in the second quarter.
"As long as they weren't laboring or asking to come out, we were going to go with how they were feeling on the court," THS coach Randy Kraft said. "Liz has been playing at that level for four years. She's learned how to fight through a little sickness."
I remember taking particular notice of Baska making a defensive play at the end of the third quarter.
One of Eudora's guards glided toward the basket on the left side of the lane. Only two seconds remained in the third quarter. It appeared the EHS guard had a clear path toward the basket, but Baska anticipated the shot from the middle of the paint and rejected the attempted layup with both hands.
Baska's stellar defensive play preserved an eight-point Tonganoxie lead to close the third quarter.
"I guess everyone was pumped," Baska said about the block. "No one was going to pick her up and she was shorter than me. I just kind of reached over there and grabbed it."
The Chieftains protected a three-point lead with 25 seconds left when Baska got fouled.
Eudora was over the foul limit, which meant Baska went to the free throw line with the game on the line. Even if Baska converted one of two free throws, that would have made it a two-possession game with 25 seconds left.
Baska confidently walked to the charity stripe, caught the ball from the referee, took a few dribbles and calmly sank both free throws.
Game and tournament over.
It was refreshing to see a high school athlete play so well under the circumstance of feeling a bit under the weather. Baska said she slept for the entire hour-long bus ride from Tonganoxie to Paola before the game. After she woke up, she proved being sick wasn't going to stand in the way of a Tonganoxie tournament championship.