February 10, 2016
It was a special night for South Central Calhoun. Crunched in between the boys and girls game was the senior night festivities where all the seniors were recognized. For the girls basketball team members, their smiles were just a little bigger.
The reason for the big smiles wasn’t just because they had come off a 48-35 win over rival East Sac, it’s because of what their win meant. The win put their coach Dave Birks in an elite club, which only has 12 active members in Iowa. Tuesday night’s win was the 500th victory for Birks.
“It’s just awesome,” Birks said. “To get the win with our three great seniors on the team, to have my daughter on the team and to get the win over an arch rival just makes it even more special. There were just a lot of good things that came with getting the win on this night.”
To say that the Titans didn’t fight for the win would be among the greatest understatements that have ever been made in the long career of Birks. Throughout the game there were 13 jump balls, as both the Raiders and Titans tried to gain control of the game any way they could.
Some of the tie-ups, and somewhat slow pace of the game, can be blamed on the recent schedule according to Birks.
“The slow start was really to blame because of the lack of practice on both teams,” Birks said. “I think we’ve had one practice in 12 days because of the weather. Everybody was kind of sloppy. Practice is so valuable, and we didn’t have that.”
A recent string of winter weather has created a scheduling nightmare as the tournament season rapidly approaches. Even without the practice, the Titan girls were able to deliver their coach the historic win by something that he has taught since he first started coaching.
“Defense carried us tonight,” Birks said. “We didn’t score well, but we were able to keep the lead because our defense carried us all the way through.”
A total of 11 points were scored in the opening quarter with seven of them belonging to the hometown Titans, who were able to jump ahead after senior Courtney Kilpatrick sunk a three late in the first quarter.
Momentum from the late three didn’t last long into the second quarter as the South Central Calhoun girls made uncharacteristic passing mistakes, but were bailed out by East Sac’s struggles shooting the ball early on.
Midway through the second quarter the Titans pulled away when junior Allison Birks was able to make defensive steals and finish the play with offensive points.
Getting a jump start in the second quarter was one thing, but being a veteran coach of the Twin Lakes Conference, coach Birks knew that if South Central Calhoun wanted to secure the win they’d need to take away the inside of the key.
“We switched back and forth from our man and zone defense,” Birks said. “I thought Allison did a nice job of guarding (Lexi) Willson tonight. We took away their inside threat, which gave us a better matchup on the outside of the court.”
Shutting down the inside of the key worked the expected magic for the Titans as they were able to retire to half with an 18-12 lead.
East Sac tried a more aggressive defense in the third quarter, and was able to steal the ball more often, but the layups were too strong, and rimmed out into the hands of South Central Calhoun players who extended the lead. At the end of the third quarter the Titans held its largest lead of the game with a 30-20 lead.
The game tightened up late when offensive leader for the Titans, Jadyn Khommanyvong fouled out with three minutes remaining in the game. South Central Calhoun’s lead shrunk after a pair of quick East Sac shots, but then it grew again as the Titans started playing keep away from Raider defenders, and forcing the Raiders to take quick shots at the end of the game.
At the buzzer, the 13 point win was only part of what South Central Calhoun fans were cheering about. Their coach, Birks, was able to hug his daughter and celebrate his 500th win.
Birks’ success at South Central Calhoun and the towns that make up the school district have become almost standardized throughout his career.
Many will point to his 2004 1-A state championship with Rockwell City-Lytton as one of his biggest wins. While that is a celebratory moment for Birks, all 500 wins have meant something special to him.
“Obviously the 2004 State Championship stands out in my mind,” Birks said. “Going back-to-back to the state tournament the last two years, with my daughters on the team was just awesome. We’ve had some great teams over the years. I’ve been blessed with great players, great assistant coaches, and support from the community. We’ve put in a lot of hard work, and it’s paid off.”
Tuesday’s win improved the Titans to 12-4 on the season, with the regional tournament next on their schedule. East Sac finished the regular season 10-11 and will begin 3-A regional play on Saturday at Cherokee.
East Sac — Houska 9, Willson 8, Wright 8, Herrig 4, Fischer 4, Schmidt 2
Three point goals — Houska
Fouled out — none
South Central Calhoun — Birks 14, Khommanyvong 8, Kilpatrick 7, Hammen, 7, Jones 6, Kingery 6, Seil 3
Three point goals — Khommanyvong, Kilpatrick, Hammen
Fouled out — Khommanyvong
Score by quarters
East Sac 4 8 8 15 —35
SCC 7 11 12 18 —48