Lady Blues stand out during winter break

Brooke Ubelaker was one of five Lady Blues to make the 2000-2009 women’s basketball all-decade team.

Nathan Miller

There’s no place like home.

No need to ask Dorothy about that one, just ask the Lady Blues who spent break racking up an 11-game winning streak mostly at Lee Arena. But if there is a Dorothy to be named among this group of talented athletes it would have to be Amanda Holmes, junior forward.

Topeka native and former Hayden product, Holmes hung up the ruby red slippers over a year ago when she transferred from Texas Christian University to Washburn. Now a year later Holmes is as confident and playing as well as ever before.

“This year my confidence is a lot higher,” said Holmes. “I feel a lot more comfortable out there. It’s a lot nicer to have a year under my belt.”

In her second year, Holmes is leading the No. 2 Lady Blues in rebounds and is third on the team in scoring, recording seven double-doubles. Her effort hasn’t been unnoticed either as she was named MIAA player of the week after she lead the Lady Blues past then No. 4 Emporia State 69-62.

“Amanda last year was used more out on the perimeter,” said Ron McHenry, Lady Blues head coach. “This year we’ve got her playing the four spot down in the post, sometimes we got her playing at the five. She is a very strong and physical athlete who has figured out if I play strong down here I can play as deep as I want to and then I got the defense in trouble.”

Holmes had 16 points and 12 rebounds in the victory against the Lady Hornets, a game where the Lady Blues never trailed. But perhaps her greatest contribution was defending Casey Henningsen, Lady Hornets senior center.

Henningsen had 27 points in last year’s 59-61 South Central Regional Championship defeat that ended the Lady Blues season. This year, however, was a different story as Henningsen was held to just nine points.

“Preseason was a big thing for me. I took it really serious, not that I hadn’t been in the past,” said Holmes. “This is my junior year and I have the rest of this season and then another season and then I’m done. So I really try to go out every day and work as hard as I can and just do a really good job.”

If Holmes’ performance is at all a reflection of how her team is doing, then indeed she is doing a good job. The Lady Blues beat over the break, at the time No. 4 Emporia and No. 6 Glenville State, and racked up seven conference wins, leaving some to believe that the Lady Blues is the team to beat in conference this year.

“I don’t know about that. There are a lot of good teams out there obviously we got beat by Western,” said McHenry. “Emporia State is pretty good. We play really hard on the floor and when you do that you have a pretty good chance of being a really good basketball team.”

Being a really good basketball team you’re going to have your stars and the Lady Blues were full of them during break. Brooke Ubelaker, All-American junior forward, also was recognized as MIAA player of the week after averaging 15 points and four rebounds in the Lady Blues victories over Fort Hays 78-34 and Truman State 83-58.

“I think we’re playing really well but there is a lot of improvement to be had as well,” said Holmes. “We are so diverse and have so much talent that I think we can continue to improve together.”

But Ubelaker wouldn’t be the only Lady Blue to make some noise in the victory over Truman. Corkey Stiger, junior guard, set a new school record with eight steals in a game that could have spelled disaster.

Despite trailing 16-2 early the Lady Blues fought their way back and picked up another conference win. The Lady Blues are 7-1 in the MIAA and 16-1 overall. The Lady Blues only loss of the season came to No. 3 Missouri Western on Dec. 9, 68-76.