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Beaten, battered and bruised from a rash of injuries, Warhill’s girls basketball team seemed destined for an arduous finish to its 2015-16 basketball season.
With the Lions holding a losing record and fielding a short-handed team without many key players, Warhill Coach Bingo Brungot brought his team together around a white board and wrote a simple message: 40 days.
The message represented how much time remained before Warhill’s first postseason game. For Brungot, the message to his players was simple – get healthy, pull together and remain focused on the bigger picture.
Instead of sweating the outcomes of regular season games, which are technically irrelevant to a team’s postseason potential given every Conference 25 team is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs regardless of record, Brungot wanted his players to worry about being prepared for a postseason run.
Since that time, the Lions have put together an impressive 11-4 record that includes a Conference 25 championship and a third-place finish in Group 3A East.
The Lions are now preparing to take on Spotswood at James Madison University in the quarterfinal round of the Group 3A state tournament Saturday, Warhill’s first state tournament appearance since 2010.
“I don’t think it’s completely sunk in for the girls yet,” Brungot said of preparing to play in the state tournament. “It’s the first time for most of them to make a state tournament. When they get to JMU and walk in, then it’ll be real for them.”
Brungot, who coached Warhill in the 2010 state tournament and won a state championship as a player in high school, said the experience of coaching a state tournament game as opposed to playing in one was completely different.
Knowing what it feels like to play in a state tournament will be valuable to Brungot, who is attempting the difficult task of downplaying the importance of the game to his players.
Brungot knows preparation could be negatively affected if players are too focused on the size of their upcoming game.
“I haven’t talked about this game being lose-or-go-home,” he said. “At this point, we’re preparing like it’s another team and another game. I’m trying to keep them grounded the best I can.”
Keeping the Lions grounded will be crucial for Brungot, whose team is going up against one of the top girls basketball teams in the state.
Spotswood sports a record a 25-2 and is coming off a stinging one-point loss to Hidden Valley – a team that has lost once this season – in the Group 3A West championship game.
Comparatively, Warhill’s record sits at a modest 15-10 and would appear to put the Lions at a significant disadvantage against the Trailblazers. However, Brungot said he feels confident in Warhill’s game plan and its ability to adjust to whatever strategies employed by Spotswood.
“We’ll go into [the game] respecting them, but not fearing them,” he said. “I think there’s a really good chance we could come away with a victory.”