Abby Oliver admits slumps often would doom her. When she experienced a string of bad games, she would hit the gym for a few extra hours in hopes of working out the kinks.
One day, she recalls, Wabaunsee coach Shanna Perine approached her with a different idea.
“‘You already have all of this. You know how to do this,’” Oliver remembers Perine saying. “‘This much extra work isn’t going to help. You have to believe and have confidence in yourself.’”
From that point on, Oliver played with more natural confidence and belief. She said it’s why she had a remarkable senior season.
The Mercury selected Oliver as its All-Flint Hills Player of the Year in girls basketball. She averaged 19.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.9 steals per game and led Wabaunsee to a third-place finish in Class 2A.
Oliver vividly remembers the final seconds of the heartbreaking overtime loss to Garden Plain in the semifinals of the state tournament. A few seconds remained, but the reality set in: Her high school basketball career was ending.
“It hits me like I can relive it,” she said. “It feels like you’re hitting a wall. … I kind of just broke down and started crying. I don’t usually cry. I just didn’t realize it was happening, almost.”
This is a girl who will play at Washburn University next season. She has many more basketball games ahead of her.
Yet she felt the season-ending loss like everyone else because of what she represented each time she stepped on the hardwood. Because of times like the state tournament two years ago when one side of Bramlage Coliseum was covered in red and blue.
“It’s a tight-knit community,” Oliver said. “You always see the same people sitting in the same spots in the stands. It’s every single home game. There’s a different type of energy when you’re playing with people you know you’ve grown up with since you were 5 and 6. I think that’s what’s most special about it.”
At first, she said, there was pressure in playing for a community. No one wants to let down or upset fans.
As she grew older, she learned how to put that aside. She eventually reached the point where she was in a zone during games and didn’t feel the fans around her as much.
She didn’t think about any of that until after the game.
Oliver ran cross country as a freshman and sophomore. She played tennis last year. She then played volleyball this past fall. She’s played softball all four years.
She actually had a difficult time choosing between playing basketball or softball in college. She’s played competitive softball since the age of 10, but during her decision-making process, she asked herself: Which will be harder to give up?
Answer: Basketball, “just because it’s a whole different feeling.”
When Oliver was 4 years old, she had a little hoop downstairs. She put up shots during timeouts and halftime of Kansas basketball games.
Playing college ball has been a dream of hers for a long time. At the age of 7, her dad began taking her to Washburn and Emporia State basketball camps.
“I looked up at those girls like, ‘Wow, that’s what I want to be someday. That’s my end goal,’” she said. “To finally almost be there is kind of unreal.”
Recently, Oliver and her classmates began discussing graduation speeches. One of her friends mentioned all of the state tournament appearances — in every sport — and the banners hung by this senior class.
Oliver said she doesn’t like to brag, but it is a cool feeling that she experienced those.
Through the wins and losses, ups and downs, she learned a lifelong lesson from high school sports.
“Just knowing that you’re going to make mistakes and you’re going to have bad games and you’re going to go through those slumps,” Oliver said. “But to think back to when you are your best and know that you can do those things. Just having that confidence in yourself makes you play so much better and makes the game so much more fun.”
MERCURY’S ALL-FLINT HILLS SELECTIONS
All-Flint Hills First Team
Abby Oliver, Sr.,
Averaged 19.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.9 steals per game.
Emilee Ebert, Sr.,
Averaged 17 points, eight rebounds, four assists and 2.5 steals per game.
Kia Wilson, Sr.,
Averaged 13.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Was a first-team All-Centennial League selection and landed on the all-state second team.
Brooklynn Zoeller, Jr.,
Blue Valley Randolph
Averaged 16.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists and three steals per game. Earned first-team All-Twin Valley League honors, and was an honorable mention for all-state.
Madelyn Hutley, Jr.,
Averaged 13.9 points per game with 3.2 assists and 3.3 steals. Made 51 3-pointers at a 40-percent clip.
Haleigh Harper, Sr.,
Averaged 11.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and three steals per game. Made All-Centennial League second team, and also was an honorable mention for Class 6A all-state. Fell one steal short of becoming the program’s all-time steals leader.
Sam Vermetten, Jr.,
Led Valley Heights in every statistical category with 11 points, eight rebounds, 3.3 assists and 3.5 steals per game. Vermetten was selected to the All-Twin Valley League first team twice in her career.
Allie Cassel, Jr.,
Blue Valley Randolph
Averaged 13.6 points and 10 rebounds per game to go with 1.1 blocks, 1.4 steals and 1.5 assists. Landed on the second team All-Twin Valley League while being selected as an honorable mention for the Class 1A all-state teams.
Kennen Brandt, Jr.,
Averaged 11.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, two assists and two steals per game for the Wildcats.
Autymn Schreiner, Jr.,
Averaged 9.2 points, 3.8 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game for the Chargers.
All-Flint Hills Third Team
Kynzie Underwood, Sr., Wamego
Averaged eight points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals per game as she led Wamego in a season in which the program doubled its win total from a year ago. Also took eight charges. Underwood landed on the North Central Kansas League’s first team.
Emma Yungeberg, Fr.,
Averaged 10 points and eight boards per game.
Taylor Johnson, Sr.,
Scored six points and ripped down 3.6 rebounds per game. Received an All-Centennial League honorable mention.
Mariah Broxterman, So., Frankfort
Broxterman scored 8.5 points per game to go with 3.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 steals.
Emma Toerber, So., Valley Heights
Scored nine points per game and grabbed 4.5 rebounds.