For the first half, at least, it looked like Ross was going to make Mary Jo Huismann wait to reach rarified basketball air.
A stagnant Rams third quarter got Huismann and the Talawanda Brave on track toward an historic win.
Freshman Kylee Fears scored a game-high 14 points and helped keep Ross at bay with two fourth-quarter blocked shots and Talawanda overcame a staggering 30 turnovers and not sinking a 3-point shot to pull away for a rugged 42-31 win over neighboring-rival Ross in a Southwest Ohio Conference game on Saturday at Talawanda.
The win was the 700th of Huismann’s trailblazing high school coaching career, which started at Cincinnati’s Mother of Mercy High School in the 1972-1973 season.
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“I wasn’t sure,” Huismann said after posing for photos with her team. Some of the Brave players were holding a banner celebrating the accomplishment. “I’m feeling great. It made me feel pretty old. I knew it would happen eventually.”
Huismann also posed with supporters and collected a bouquet of flowers from senior Sophie Pohlabel and the coveted game ball from athletic director Wes Cole.
Huismann, 72, logged 696 of her career high school wins with the Bobcats before her job was eliminated when the school was closed to merge with McAuley. She couldn’t recall her first career win in 1972.
“We only played nine games,” she said. “We were 4-5 or 5-4.”
She responded with a wry smile when somebody pointed out that most her current players’ parents probably weren’t born when she earned her first win.
“I’m in the grandmother bracket,” she said.
She signed on before last season at Talawanda, and the Brave won two games. They put her in position to reach the coveted 700 with a 57-36 SWOC win over Northwest at Talawanda on Jan. 4, snapping a season-opening eight-game losing streak.
“It’s all we talked about all week in practice,” senior guard Kyra Koontz said.
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Fears and senior guard Kyra Koontz agreed that it was difficult to wrap their minds around the concept of 700 wins.
“It’s crazy,” Fears said.
“It was amazing to pull off this win for her,” Koontz said.
The West Harrison, Ind. resident’s record at Mercy included three trips to the big-school state finals, 17 league championships and 15 district titles. She’s been named the statewide coach of the year three times and has been inducted into the Ohio High School Basketball, Greater Cincinnati Basketball, Buddy LaRosa High School Sports and Mother of Mercy halls of fame. She also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Sports Foundation among other numerous honors.
A crowd of supporters from Huismann’s Mercy days included long-time Bobcats’ volleyball coach Rose Koch and current McAuley athletic director Denise Harvey, who filled the previous job at Mercy. Also on hand was Miami football coach Chuck Martin, whose daughter Emma is a sophomore Brave.
The Talawanda student section started chanting “700” in the final minute.
Only two other Ohio girls’ coaches have amassed 700 wins and only four boys’ coaches have reached that level.
The 6-foot Fears, who went into the game leading the SWOC in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots, scored 11 of her points in the second half as the Brave earned a second straight win for the first time since the 2017-2018 season. Talawanda outscored Ross, 7-1, in the third quarter.
“It’s been fun here,” Huismann said. “It’s been a challenge. Every year is a challenge. It has to be fun. If it’s not, why be here?”
The Rams didn’t help themselves by going 6-of-22 on free throws. Talawanda was 24-of-34.
Koontz, Fears and freshman Halee McDade teamed up to go 7-for-10 on free throws in the final 1:06, included 3-for-4 from Fears after an intentional foul.
“It’s awesome to be a part of this legacy,” said Fears, who finished with 12 rebounds and five blocked shots.”
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