Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 19, 2018

Fairfield: ‘Girls’ basketball capital of the world’

By Justin Webster | Feb 26, 2018
Photo by: Photo submitted from 1990 yearbook The 1990 Fairfield girls’ basketball team included, from left, front row, Sara McCreary, Carrie Durst and Jenny Adams; second row: Stacey Swaim, Hope Hasty, Kelly Breen and Jenny Metcalf; back row: Coach Ron Hunerdosse, Tammie Cline, Amy Breen, Anne Moore and Coach Brad Repp.

Thirty-five years ago, Fairfield was declared the “Girls’ basketball capital of the world” and the six-on-six state champion Trojans and their hall of fame coach Dan Breen were receiving messages from the White House. Twenty-eight years ago, Head Coach Ron Hunerdosse took the Fairfield faithful back to the state tournament in the programs second season playing five-on-five, and the Trojans haven’t returned until now. This year’s team is led by Brian Witzenburg, but the 67 year old Hunerdosse is at the end of the bench as a volunteer coach who specializes in taping ankles.

 

Q) Talk about the program since the last state tournament appearance in 1990.

Hunerdosse: I can begin at the beginning. Dan Breen started the six-on-six program back in the early 1970s and he took that program until they changed to a five-on-five format. Don’t get me wrong, Dan could coach five-on-five, I think he was just at a time in his life where he thought there were other things that were more important. I had been with the boys program all that time so I had some experience with five-on-five training. I applied and received the coaching position as head girls’ basketball coach in 1988.

 

Q) Was there any nervousness on your part switching from boys to girls and trying to switch the girls from six to five players?

Hunerdosse: Dan really paved the way for that. Knowing that we were going to do that the following year, he made sure the junior varsity players spent some time playing five-on-five. In fact, I think they played some jv five-on-five games. The hardest thing I had was following a legend. I’m following a guy who was probably known as the best basketball coach in the state of Iowa, certainly one of the best, and he’s one of my best friends. So that was very difficult for me. On top of that, I’m coaching two of his daughters. Kelly started with me and then of course Amy joined us as a freshman in the 1989-90 season. I coached them for six years and we made it to state our second year and were probably favored to go in our third year of existence but we got beat in a tight game playing Ottumwa for a third time. We were probably a little bit of a better team that year but it didn’t work out for us. Kind of like Fairfield beating North Scott Tuesday night. I think we were the better team, but according to the seeds, that’s an upset. That’s kind of what happened to us. So I did it for six years and then I was at a difficult time in my life. I had three young kids and it was a lot of time. Being a head basketball coach takes a lot of time. A lot of demands on your time and I just needed to step away. I was also coaching cross country in the fall and track in the spring, so it made it a very long school year. Off and on the program has been good and I’m not saying it’s because of any one coach. Sometimes it’s been not as good because there wasn’t a lot of talent coming through. It takes a long time to develop a program and be good year in and year out.

 

Q) Talk about developing players in Fairfield.

Hunerdosse: You have to have some athletic skill to begin with. Teams that have consistent and successful programs introduce kids into the sport at an early age. They have a youth program that feeds kids that already have a grasp of the fundamentals, and we have had one of those in place for the last seven to eight years.

 

Q) Talk about the style of play of the 1990 team compared to this one.

Hunerdosse: I’ve talked with Dan about this on many occasions and we both agree. The three point shot, although it was available when we first started playing five-on-five, it was not a priority. It has become a priority nowadays and if you don’t have a couple of girls who can shoot the three point shot and then jam it inside, you have a problem. I would say perimeter shooting has changed the game over the last decade or so.

 

Q) What sticks out about the 1990 team as you talk about them?

Hunerdosse: We struggled. Mt Pleasant really had a leg up on us switching to five-on-five. They got to more team camps than us and so that first year, we could not beat them and we were playing each conference team three times because it was harder to schedule non-conference opponents because everyone had not switched from six-on-six yet. To make filling out our schedule a little easier, we played each other three times. It was really frustrating for a couple of years and it wasn’t until the last regular season game against Mt. Pleasant when we broke through on a last-second shot. I remember it like it was yeterday, Stacey Swaim in the lane. People will argue it was a charge and I’m not going to say I could argue against it. Refs don’t like to make calls at the end of the game and Stacey Swaim made that shot and now all of a sudden we believe. Kind of like our kids have felt the last couple of weeks. There was no fear in them going up to North Scott Tuesday night and there was a lot of things going on in their minds as you know. They handled so many things and still came out ready to go and believed they could win and they have to believe they can win on Monday. That’s half of the battle. If they come out and play with belief instead of fear, they have a great shot to win.

 

Q) What else sticks out about the 1990 team?

Hunerdosse: That year I was bound and determined that we were going to beat Mt. Pleasant and we were going to make the state tournament. I felt we had the opportunity, of course we didn’t have the draw yet, but I knew at some point we’d have to go through Mt. Pleasant and I was at as many games as most of their fans were that season. Every opportunity I got, I was there and of course they didn’t have the technology they have now to track teams. In fact, video taping was illegal so you had to write notes and our kids were probably almost over-prepared for Mt. Pleasant and we stopped them at every move they tried to make. I remember it was a defensive battle with the score in the thirties and I knew [we’d win], maybe not quite as quick as the team this year, Nicole couldn’t get the smile off her face the last few minutes. But that 1990 season, they knew they were going to win as well and I was taking kids out the last minute of the game and I remember it very well. It was such a relief for me and I remember seeing the kids celebrating their success. I remember very well our all-time leading scorer before Nicole, Amy Breen as a freshman, and I stuck her on Mt. Pleasant’s best player and she stopped that girl cold in her tracks and that caused them to become very befuddled with what they were trying to do. As great of a scorer as she was, she was a great defender as well. You also have Kelly Breen as a senior who was a post player for us. Jenny Metcalf was another post player like Kelly and the two of them both played six-on-six for us and for lack of height, they knew how to use their bodies to pin people. There was Ann Moore, our point guard who was about 5’8 and extremely quick. We had Jennifer Adams who is actually Jennifer Martin, mother of Drew Martin who is a sophomore on the boys’ team. She was a three-point shooter for us and that was her specialty. I mentioned Stacey Swaim that made that shot that built our confidence we needed. We had a 6’1 girl named Hope Hasty who I believe was a senior as well. So we had seniors Metcalf, Breen and Hasty. We had juniors Ann Moore and Jennifer Adams and Carrie Durst who is actually my next-door neighbor right now. We had Amy Breen as the lone freshman, who actually played 1-2 quarters of jv ball for 4-5 games before we brought her up to varsity because it had become very obvious that she was the catalyst for our team in many ways. We also had Tammie Cline and Sara McCleary.

 

Q) You were there 28 years ago and now you’re going to state again. Talk about the ride for you?

Hunerdosse: I’ve lived here all my life and I graduated from Fairfield so when I start talking about Fairfield, I get a little sentimental. It’s a great place to raise your children. A great school system because there are people who graduate from here and come back to raise their own children. Sitting on the bench this year, it was the furthest thing from my mind at the start of the summer. I’m 68 years old in May and I had no real desire to get back into coaching and I won’t give you the long version but I was given some encouragement from some people to join in. I know [head coach] Brian [Witzenburg] from our relationship teaching at the same school, and I felt comfortable asking him about doing it. It was never that I thought he couldn’t do it, it’s obvious the kids love to play for him. It was more of I’ve been in a head coaching position before and maybe I can help in any way, shape or form. I think I have in small ways. I tape a lot of ankles. He’s given me responsibility, I think because he wants to give me something to do and make me feel important, but make no mistake about it. This is Brian Witzenburg’s team. They love to play for him and I think they’d do anything for him and I’m just sitting there enjoying the moment. It’s been a great ride for me to be able to sit there and watch my niece break a record that was owned by a player I coached 28 years ago when we last went to state. When Amy Breen set the record, it was like sure she has the most points ever, but we had only been doing five-on-five a few years at that point.

I thought more people would do trick defenses on Nicole this year, but until we played better teams, that never happened. The tried to deny her the ball some, but there was no box and one or triangle and two or anthing like that. That’s all Amy saw and still managed to score the points she did. I’m truly thrilled that the person that broke the record is someone that put in the same amount of time and has the same passion for the game that Amy Breen had. That filled my heart to be honest with you, and honestly I had nothing to do with either one of them being good. They were good because they were good and they worked very hard at the game. I was thrilled to sit on the bench and watch it transpire and I can’t tell you how much it filled my heart to watch her give that ball to her grandfather Leonard, who is obviously my father-in-law.

Make no mistake about it, watching Nicole break that record is going to be on my highlight reel.

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