In 21 games last season, the Pirates had five total wins, and scored 50 or more points twice throughout the season.
This year’s campaign, through nine games, it’s been quite the turnaround for a Pirates team that has eight seniors.
Winners of four of their last five, Olathe is on track to blow past last year’s win mark. The team sports a 6-3 record, aided by a three-game win streak (wins over Plateau Valley, Caprock Academy and Hotchkiss) before losing to Cedaredge in their second matchup, and a 55-15 shellacking over Gunnison Friday night.
“This is probably the best winning percentage at this point in the season that we’ve had in four to five years,” coach Paul Althaus said before tip-off on Friday.
Senior Mariah Garcia erupted for 28 points, a season-best, in the win over Gunnison.
Behind Garcia were Annie Bollinger, Tyra Gray and Evani Ruiz, who each had five points.
“Our defense is really what caused everything,” Althaus said after the game. “We were in full court press the first-half and it led to a lot of turnovers on their (Gunnison) part — led to a lot of layups and easy baskets tonight.” Gunnison scored five points in the first-half before doubling that in the second-half.
Garcia, offensively, has had little trouble over the past four games, scoring in double-digits in three of them. On the season, she’s averaging 12.3 points per game.
“She felt very comfortable with what she was doing and felt good as far as handling the ball,” Althaus said of Garcia’s performance on Friday.
Garcia isn’t the only Pirate giving the team some offensive flexibility. Five other players are averaging 4.7 or more points per contest (Bollinger, Makayla Millsap, Ashlee Green, Abby Rubalcaba and Ruiz).
“Our scoring this year has been pretty balanced,” Althaus said. “It makes it tough for other teams to scout us that way as far as looking at stats.”
Althaus has mentioned a few distinct reasons for the Pirates’ success this season: an offense that contains multiple scorers, and a pressing defense that causes turnovers. The latter was on display against Gunnison, as Olathe’s press forced turnovers in the backcourt, leading to easy buckets — especially for Garcia, who found room to attack the lane and consistently score.
The effort helped the Pirates hold the Cowboys to 15 points, their second lowest mark on the season. And the strategy was also evident against Hotchkiss last Saturday, where the Pirates went on a 32-4 run, outsourcing the Bulldogs 37-12 in the second and third quarters.
“Our aggressiveness on the defensive end and putting pressure on the opponent has helped us a lot,” Althaus said. “We executed better on the offensive end, too, and something we need to continue to improve on — be a little more patient with our offense and make sure we’re getting opportunities.”
The Pirates have scored 50 or more points four times this season, with three of those performances coming in the past four games. Currently, they’re third in league play, at 4-3, though they’ve outscored opponents 301 to 282 in those matchups.
There’s still some season left, and though the team has found ways to win through the midway point, Althaus said the focus is on finishing strong.
“The biggest thing is we talk constantly about getting better and not being satisfied with where we’re at,” Althaus said. “In a shortened season like we’ve got, it’s tough when we don’t have a lot of practice time. We need to take advantage of those times when we have them.
“... playing 32 minutes, making sure we’re ready to go when the game starts and finishing the game, not letting us have those let downs.”