In just a short time, Valley Heights girls’ basketball coach Jenny Yungeberg and boys’ coach Adam Plummer have taken their programs to whole new levels.
Both led their teams to the best finishes in school history this past season, earning the two coaches the distinction as The Mercury’s Flint Hills Coaches of the Year.
Yungeberg — in just her first season leading the Mustangs — guided Valley Heights to a 24-2 record this season and a runner-up finish at the Class 1A-Division-I tournament in Emporia.
Looking back at the season, Yungeberg said she was initially hesitant to take the job, but was reassured by her father.
It all worked out.
Led by sophomore Brandi Roepke and junior Sidney Blackburn, the Mustangs lost just one game throughout the regular season, and won the sub-state title on their home court and then advanced to the state final.
Valley Heights lost 71-51 in the championship game against Hoxie, but it’s a game she’d love to play again.
“We were very nervous,” Yungeberg said. “Just the mental part of getting through sub-state, playing well in the state tournament — it’s a hurdle we needed to get over. It will make us a better team next year.”
Yungeberg was pleased with the outcome of the season, but she does have some regrets about the state championship game. As much success as the past season saw, Yungeberg had to experience some heartbreak. She sent off three seniors.
“Every year you lose seniors,” she said. “You miss them and hope that you have affected them in their life. That was a great group of seniors. Not just as basketball players, but as people.”
Yungeberg knows that every team is not the same and this year’s team was a special group.
“The girls came together as a team,” she said. “They don’t care who scores and that’s what makes a team. They just wanted to win. They knew what their role was and did it wholeheartedly.”
Plummer’s team almost didn’t make the state tournament before going on to finish third. His Mustangs team finished 23-3 after surviving a tough sub-state matchup with Centralia that came down to Bennett Bargdill making a go-ahead free throw.
“It’s a reflection of our kids,” Plummer said. “I wouldn’t be in this position without them. This was more than just a group of guys who put on the same the jersey.”
Even though he formed quite a bond with his players, Plummer always demanded the very best from his team.
“We expected to win,” Plummer said. “We wanted to get a little bit better everyday. I never thought about (any award), the league title or a state championship.”
Those philosophies were gleaned from Plummer’s own high school coaches at Rock Creek — football coach, Mike Beam and basketball coach, Mike Zabel.
“Coach Zabel taught me so much about the game of basketball,” Plummer said. “Football taught me about unity. (They played) a great part in the success of these kids.”
Even though Valley Heights seems poised for another great season, the Twin Valley League will be a tough test for the Mustangs.
“League’s going to be tough next year,” Plummer said. “But there’s no reason they can’t repeat next season.”