Middleton, Olathe bring 20-game win streak into 3A Great Eight
Tawni Middleton remembers the first time she took the helm at point guard as a freshman. She entered midway through the first quarter against Delta, nerves shaking her hands.
“First time I got the ball, I thought, ‘Oh, no,’ ” she said. “I didn’t want to mess up.”
Tawni got to play with her sister, Kelsi, then a senior, for the first time.
But she was still nervous, until she realized, hey, this is still just basketball.
“I do remember her being a little nervous that first year,” Olathe coach Paul Althaus said. “But she was always excited, wanting to play basketball.”
Things have changed as Olathe (22-2) heads into the Class 3A state tournament Great Eight round against Trinidad (24-0) at 8:45 a.m. Thursday at Moby Arena in Fort Collins.
Olathe, which has a 20-game winning streak, last won a state championship in 1992.
With a win, Olathe would play in the final four Friday at 4 p.m. against Florence or Faith Christian.
The championship is Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
But Olathe must get past Trinidad, which does not have a player averaging double digits — seven Miners average more than 5 points per game.
After making a state tournament appearance two seasons ago, don’t expect Olathe to be intimidated.
That goes for the 5-foot-6 Middleton, averaging 18.8 points.
“I’m definitely a lot more confident in myself now,” she said. “Now if we’re in a tough situation and we need to score, I want the ball.”
Middleton has hit 42 3-pointers this season.
She hit her first in sixth grade against Montrose in an AAU game.
Despite her excitement, Middleton played it cool.
“I acted like it didn’t matter,” Middleton said. “And it took all my effort just to get it to the rim.”
But it’s Olathe’s defense that has landed it in the state tournament. The Pirates are allowing an average of 33 points per game.
Olathe plays primarily a man-to-man halfcourt defense, and tends to trap defenders when they least expect it. There is no pattern the offense can follow, no signals a trap is coming.
“Usually when a girl turns her back,” Middleton said. “If we have the chance to go hunt her down, we do, and someone has to rotate backside.”
Hunting someone down is a chilling statement but seemingly effective for Olathe.
This time, Olathe, which finished fourth at state two seasons ago, doesn’t expect to get the Moby Arena jitters.
“The first time for any team can be scary,” Althaus said.