It’s understandable if Jina Douglas didn’t see this coming.
After all, nobody expects to be 18-0. You hope and dream because you want to win every game, but you don’t expect it.
But that’s right where the Hastings College women’s team stands as we hit the middle of January.
The Broncos are still perfect this season after knocking off No. 1 Concordia University 66-59 on Wednesday.
Only two of those wins were by single digits with the closest being seven-point wins over Morningside and Concordia.
The fourth-rated Broncos don’t have a single player 6-0 or taller. Their main post player is 5-11 Gabby Grasso, a senior from Millard North with Sophia Pankratz, a 5-7 senior from Hastings High, playing a forward position.
“She’s a stud,” teammate Shandra Farmer said of Grasso. “She is like she knows what’s coming, and she’s such a smart player like she knows exactly what she has to do to not get in foul trouble and she’s just smart, not just defensively, but even offensively for us she scores pretty well and she really takes the pressure off of us guards which helps a lot.”
It’s all come together about as well as Douglas could have hoped.
“I thought we’d have a decent year,” Douglas said. “You know, I was just really worried about our size. We’re so undersized in there, but if you look at our players they’re pretty tough and hard nosed.
“And you look at somebody like Sophia playing an undersized four spot and has done a great job for us and Gabby has done a great job in the middle.”
Grasso is second on the team in scoring at 12.9 points per game with Taylor Beacum right behind at 11.2, Schmit at 9.6 and Pankratz 9.4 and six rebounds per game.
But Farmer may well be the key.
The 5-3 point guard and former Hastings St. Cecilia standout leads the team in scoring (13.3 ppg) and assists with 85 at nearly five per game.
Farmer also plays tough defense against taller players and is an excellent ball handler.
And those 18 straight wins to start this season is an all-time school best.
“We talked about it in the locker room and the kids reminded me that we also broke the school record,” Douglas said. “With the history of women’s basketball here, I think anytime you can break any sort of school record it says a lot about our team.”
So did the crowd Wednesday night.
There were no attendance figures available for the Concordia game, but the gymnasium was full with fans standing along the concourse watching throughout the game.
It was a scene Farmer hadn’t seen in her time as a player for the Broncos.
“No, honestly, when I was younger maybe a few times but not since I’ve been here,” Farmer said. “We knew it was coming though and we just tried to treat it just like a GPAC regular season game.
“And we were all really excited, like we were anticipating the atmosphere and we knew we were going to have a bunch of people we knew here, and so we were just ready to feed off the energy and it really worked for us.”
The new NAIA ratings will come out early this week. You would certainly expect the Broncos to move up a bit, but Douglas doesn’t think they’ll be No. 1. That will likely go to Southeastern University, a team that downed Concordia 97-72 on Dec. 20.
“I don’t know, I’m guessing Southeastern will be No. 1 just because they beat Concordia pretty handily down there,” Douglas said. “Other than that I don’t really know. I don’t know how the GPAC will go, but there’s still a lot of season left and a lot of big games.”
After a weekend off the Broncos will be back in action Wednesday at Midland University.
They have games coming up against No. 14 Dakota Wesleyan, No. 7 Morningside, No. 12 Northwestern, and a tough road trip Feb. 12-15 at Concordia and No. 6 Dordt before ending the regular season Feb. 22 at home against Dakota Wesleyan.
The schedule will be a challenge for Douglas and her team.
“We just have to keep our momentum,” Douglas said. “We have a bye this weekend and then it’s back to GPAC games. Our seniors have been through it a few times and know how hard it is.”
Bob Hamar is sports editor for The Independent.