The Robbinsdale Armstrong girls basketball team wouldn’t go as far as to call it a must-win, but it was definitely a needed one.
It also apparently wasn’t enough.
The Falcons picked up a pair of victories last week. The girls won at Blaine 48-35 Jan. 22 for their first win since beating those same Bengals Dec. 4, and then came back to make it two-straight after topping Andover 70-60 Jan. 25.
Both provided a much needed boost of confidence, but they did little to the energy in practice.
The Falcons have sustained their level of effort during training, said head coach Antiwan Easley. And that, more than anything else, was what he pointed to in last week’s sudden reversal of fortune.
“When you have this long streak between wins, it is easy for girls to get down or to not compete as hard,” said Easley. “But we’ve been fortunate. The girls bring it everyday. Their energy level is high in practice, and that has been key in getting things turned around.”
Health has also played a role.
Armstrong took the court with the roster intact last week, which has been far from the norm this season.
The lack of bodies took its toll in their overall body of work – the Falcons were just 1-14 heading into last week – but it also proved that the resiliency Easley has his staff have been preaching about was much more actions than just words.
“We were the walking wounded for long time,” said Easley. “We went through the first have of the conference season without having everybody available. The girls that were playing stuck with it, and now that we are healthy, we’re pretty excited about what we can do.”
For starters, the girls will look to get on a bit of a run as the second half of the Northwest Suburban Conference takes form. Armstrong stated its second trip through the league with those two victories last week, and it gets an immediate chance to offset a pair of first-half losses this week with games at Park Center Jan. 29 and at home against Champlin Park at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31.
Last week’s wins were keyed by the play of Sam Zbaracki. The senior guard scored 20 points in the win over Blaine, and then added 21 against Andover. Junior guard Hana Sacic reached double-figures in both victories as well. Lyrik Williams (14 point) and Emily Jacobson (11) also finished in double-figures against Andover.
Jacobson was one of the players missing from the rotation early on, and Easley pointed to her presence inside as a must if the Falcons want to continue their turn-around.
“She is second in rebounding on our team, and she really helps limit how other teams try to attack us inside,” Easley said. “She’s an important piece.”
The hope is all the pieces are in place a week from now, when the girls are scheduled to play a brutal back-to-back.
It starts with a home game against rival Cooper Thursday, Feb. 7, and is followed immediately by a road trip to No. 7 Eden Prairie the very next night.
From there, the Falcons will have just four games remaining in the regular season.
“It will be a great test to see where we are with things winding down,” Easley said. “Those are two good teams, and they’ll give us a good idea of where we are at.”