1,500 career points – the making of a champion
Wed, 02/22/2017 - 10:29am admin
Once you get older you realize your time is about up and you have to make the most of it,” Philipsen said.
When New Underwood senior Brianna Philipsen shot her 1,500th point of her high school career Feb. 13, in the Tigers’ game against Edgemont, she was celebrating not just that accomplishment, but the contributions of family, coaches and teammates who have helped mold her into the player who now leads the conference-champion Tigers.
Basketball runs deep in Philipsen’s family. Her first coach in elementary was her maternal grandfather, Tim Stover. Even now, after watching Philipsen play for the majority of her school years, Stover still finds time to encourage Philipsen in her basketball endeavors.
“He […] has been watching me grow ever since. He travels all distances to come and watch me play and is a huge part of my support system,” Philipsen said.
That support system, at its core, includes Philipsen’s parents, Brian and Jennifer Philipsen, her grandmother, Sheila Stover, and her brother, Jace.
Brian has played an integral part in Philipsen’s development as a basketball player. As the assistant coach to the Lady Tigers, he puts in hours of time analyzing game film in order to see ways the Tigers can improve their game. He and Philipsen maintain a dialogue about areas of strengths and weaknesses as they together seek to make the Tigers a stronger, more formidable force. This, in turn, feeds into their father-daughter relationship.
“Dad and I talk a lot of basketball during the season. He voices his opinions, I voice mine and in a way it does bring us closer. Dad coached Jace all throughout elementary and junior high basketball. He has been a huge part of both of our basketball careers,” Philipsen said.
Basketball has been a cement that draws the ranching Philipsen family together. “We spend our days at practices, our nights watching film, and our weekends at games,” said Philipsen. “I think my family would have way too much free time without basketball.”
Still, Philipsen has never felt that basketball was something forced on her or expected of her. “I have loved playing basketball since elementary. It was just something that allows me to relax and enjoy myself,” Philipsen said.
As she reflects on how she has grown as a player, Philipsen acknowledges that, throughout her elementary years of playing, she did not seek to hone any particular skills, but instead of continually improve on the fundamentals of the game. By the time she began playing varsity ball her eighth grade year, though, her height, which has her at 6’1” on the roster, found her concentrating on post work.
The post, a position that sets up mainly in the key below the basket, is an area of strength for taller players who can establish a presence above the opposing team’s players. Philipsen attributes much of her early success to former head coach Tim Hall, who saw the potential for using Philipsen as a main post at a time when the Tigers had several older girls who were competent in the guard position.
“Coach Hall was great at getting me started. I could always tell that he believed in me more than I did. He knew what potential I had,” said Philipsen.
A coaching staff change in Philipsen’s junior year brought a position change for her as well. Current Tigers head coach Stacy Finkbeiner saw Philipsen’s potential with ball handling and explored the use of her as a guard, a position which requires the athlete to be a steady ball handler with quickness and the ability to see the whole court and understand how to best strategize plays.
In her move from main post into the guard position, Philipsen has demonstrated her ability to fulfill this need for a floor general.
“Coach Finkbeiner has challenged me. I never saw myself being a guard until he was my coach. He has put me in several different positions that I wasn’t comfortable in but now I excel in,” Philipsen said.
As a team sport, basketball is only successful if a whole team performs well together, no matter how many individually great players the team has. In that spirit, Philipsen is quick to place accolades on her teammates.
“I have had five seasons worth of great teammates. They have all done something to make me better,” Philipsen said.
During her high school career, Philipsen acknowledges that her eighth grade year the team grew individually, but lacked the chemistry needed for real magic to happen on the court
“My freshman year, however, we put on a show. No one expected us to make the district championship and definitely not win it. I think after this season I realized that this team had potential. If we put in time in the off season I knew we could have a fantastic season,” said Philipsen.
The team did put in the work, and their efforts began to pay dividends in the 2015-16 season as the Tigers saw vast improvement, despite having a markedly young team, with seventh graders starting varsity for some games. As the team has grown both in their team and individual skill, Philipsen has seen herself grow.
“We have younger girls that are physical in the post and are beginning to succeed down there. This transition has made me a much better all around player. Now I can perform well from the perimeter and the block. Over the years I have become more focused when it comes to basketball. As an underclassmen, you think you have a lot of time left and don't always take it seriously. Once you get older you realize your time is about up and you have to make the most of it,” Philipsen said.
Philipsen is not a one-sport athlete. She has also found success running track, and is a contender in the rodeo arena as well. The lessons she has learned from the arena spill over onto the basketball court.
“Rodeo teaches humility. To me it is the most humbling sport because everyone has bad days. I think this is the biggest lesson that rodeo has taught me in basketball and life. I try to be humble and give the glory to God in all that I do. Not many people show humility anymore but that is one of my main focus points in life and sports,” said Philipsen.
The 19-1 Tigers remained undefeated in their conference throughout this season, their only loss coming in a 3-point heartbreaker game against the Faith Longhorns. They are the top seed as the district tournament begins. The Tigers are slated to play Tuesday, then will move on to the district championship match if they meet with success. From there, it is a district championship match and a region game that stands between the Tigers and a place in the state tournament. Still, Philipsen is not taking anything for granted.
“My main focus for districts is taking it one game at a time. I know this team has great potential this year but I am trying to stay focused on the first round before anything else. It would be really easy to start thinking about state, but we have to win three games before then. The funny thing about tournament time is what has happened in the regular season no longer matters at all,” Philipsen said.
While the Tigers work to hold steady and improve their game in little ways even in post-season play, Philipsen will continue to lead the charge with her versatility and humility on the court.