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Chris Murphy, Published March 12 2013

Ada-Borup girls basketball coach sees maturity in his players

Fargo - Ada-Borup girls basketball coach David Smart knew the maturity of his players when they told him they would be fine without him. After all, it was only the sub-section semifinals.

Smart had good reason to miss the game. His youngest daughter, Nicole, was playing her last home game for the University of North Dakota basketball team. He wouldn’t have done it if his team with just one senior hadn’t acted like veterans.

“If it weren’t for the encouragement of the kids telling me I have to go, it would have been tough,” Smart said. “It was tough anyway. They really wanted me to go.”

Ada-Borup (26-3) won handily without its head coach in the semifinals, won the sub-section crown, topped No. 6-ranked Parkers Prairie in the section championship and is headed to its sixth state tournament since 2006.

The Cougars open the Minnesota Class 1A state tournament Thursday against Maranatha Christian Academy (26-4) at Williams Arena.

Smart missed three games this season and some games last season to see Nicole play thanks to the team rallying around him. Assistant coach Chris Kujava enjoyed reminding Smart of his record without him, but having to make the call after a playoff loss would have been much more difficult than his lone loss to Crookston.

“He was undefeated without me before the Crookston game and, trust me, he told me about it,” Smart said. “It could have been very easy for the assistant coaches to tell me they couldn’t, especially for the playoff game. I know the last thing they wanted to do was call me and say the season was over. I want it to teach the girls that family always comes first and I think they understand that.”

Hard to believe a team with just one senior could tell its coach to hit the road.

“We have a very strong junior class and we have some sophomores that have come off the bench for us,” Smart said. “That one senior is a good one though.”

That one senior is Megan Kolness, who was sad to see the four seniors from last season go, but has become the leader of this Cougars team.

“I was used to playing with the older girls and then they all left, so I was stuck with the younger girls,” Kolness said. “I love these girls and I’ve been with them for volleyball, softball and track, so it’s no different than playing with a lot of seniors. Smart usually keeps the team in line. If I have to I will, but he usually handles that.”

It was the juniors in the section championship that rallied around a struggling Kolness to keep her high school basketball career alive. Kolness scored just seven points and missed two big free throws in the closing minute.

But Monica Vega came up with three steals and forced an offensive foul call when Parkers Prairie center Madison Dorn drove for the tying layup with less than 10 seconds in the game. Vega finished with a team-high 14 points, while junior Heidi Eggen added 11 points.

“A senior always wants to go out going into state, and I think we did that job for her, which is really good for her,” Vega said.

Just like with Smart, the Cougars rallied around one of their own.

“I love my team so much for getting me there,” Kolness said. “I didn’t play my best game, and they were there to pick me up.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548