The countdown continues through my Top 10 favorite John's Journal stories from the 2016-17 school year. This story, which was posted on Jan. 10, is No. 9 ... Roseau: Where Girls Basketball Stands Tall
ROSEAU – Yes, of course, hockey is big in this little town near the Canadian border. Roseau boys hockey teams have gone to the state tournament a record 34 times and own seven titles, while the Rams girls have skated at state four times.
This winter, however, the hottest team in town wears sneakers instead of skates. These are the glory days for girls basketball in Roseau; the Rams have been to state in Class 2A the last two years, placing fourth in 2015 and third last season. They are currently ranked No. 1 in 2A and ran their record to 12-0 with an 86-61 home victory Monday night over Thief River Falls, which played at state in Class 3A the last two seasons.
The Rams wear warmup shirts that have the word “UNITED” on the back. They hustle, they dive for loose balls, shoot threes, drive to the hoop and use in-your-face, quick-handed defense to spark fast breaks. In other words, they play basketball the right way, the entertaining way. They have a deep bench and lots of experience in big games on big courts.
In other words, they would very much like to finally win their school’s first basketball state championship. And this could be the year.
“They have so many weapons, including girls coming off the bench,” said Thief River Falls coach Jeff Loe. “They have that outside-inside, that balance that teams love to have, and they’re so athletic and aggressive. This is probably the best team they’ve had.”
The marquee players for the Rams are the Borowicz sisters. Kiley is a senior, Kacie is a sophomore and Katie is an eighth-grader. Kiley and Kacie have played at state twice and Katie made her debut on the big stage last year (pictured, left to right, are Kacie, Katie and Kiley). Roseau coach Kelsey Didrikson calls the trio “the horses for us.” But the Borowicz sisters (their name is pronounced “BRAH-vitch”) are complete and utter team players.
“We’re deep and the supporting cast is strong and knows their roles so well,” Didrikson said. “I don’t have to put pressure on (the sisters). We don’t run a single thing for any of them. There are plays that work because we have them, and if the game is on the line everybody knows they’ll probably have the ball in their hands.
“They make their teammates better and their teammates make them better. They all own their roles and execute their roles so well.”
The Borowicz sisters do know how to skate, thank you very much. But they have been hoop-heads for life. Their mom, Tracy, is a former head coach of the Rams girls basketball team and their dad, David, is heavily involved in the game. There are a couple of Borowicz brothers, too: Jake is 10, Jordan is 8 and they also know how the basketball bounces.
Kiley Borowicz leads the Rams with a 26.4-point scoring average. Kacie is next at 18.8, followed by 6-foot-2 senior Victoria Johnson at 12.2, senior Ivy Braaten at 10 and junior Mya Hough at six points per game. Kiley Borowicz and Johnson are the top rebounders, averaging eight boards per game.
The Borowicz sisters get much of the acclaim, but they know how valuable their teammates are.
“It’s more than just us,” Kacie said, to which Kiley added, “Vic really does a lot, Katie (Hulst), Ivy, Morgan (Groenhoff), Mya, one of them will have double figures in a game. This year people are more confident. Our juniors are way more confident to shoot and drive.”
The Rams are undefeated despite dealing with some injuries. They have outscored their opponents by an average score of 81-58. Their narrowest victory came against Barnesville by a score of 74-68 in a holiday tournament. Roseau and Barnesville (11-2) may end up as the top two teams in the Section 8 postseason playoffs.
Among the big regular-season contests remaining on the Rams’ schedule is a Feb. 3 game in Roseau against Mountain Iron-Buhl, which is currently 11-0 and ranked No. 1 in Class 1A. Facing motivated competition is part of the formula for Roseau.
“In every game we have to play harder than we should have to because everyone brings their best game,” Katie Borowicz said.
Kiley said, “You just can’t think you’re the best. I know we are probably the best team but I never think that. I get nervous before every game, I don’t get cocky.”
The Rams were certainly not cocky in Monday’s game against Thief River Falls. They came out flying fast and working hard, running the court and taking control in leading 52-21 at halftime. At game’s end, Kiley Borowicz had 34 points, Braaten had 14 and Kacie Borowicz 13, while Tiahna Nicholson led the Prowlers with 20 and Alexa Rogalla scored 17.
“I thought the first half was probably our best half, or one of our est halves, of basketball all season,” Didrikson said. “They played solid. It was a really good start for us, doing the little things we’re always talking about; playing better defense, ball movement. Our goal was 20 assists tonight and we had 13 at halftime, and I know they were excited about that. It’s fun to see them own that and understand how important ball movement is. They made some beautiful passes.”
Like most of their teammates the Borowicz sisters are involved in multiple sports, playing volleyball in the fall and participating in track during the spring. Kiley and Kacie have been members of relay teams that have qualified for the state championship meet, with Kiley laughing and saying, “That made me more nervous than (state) basketball, especially since track isn’t my best sport.”
After losing in the state basketball semifinals the last two years, the Rams are aiming higher this year. The first goal is to get to state, and if that happens they won’t be satisfied with another spot in the third-place game.
“It would be really upsetting,” said Kiley Borowicz. “Since elementary school everyone has been saying, ‘You guys will go to state when you’re seniors, this is your year.’ The third-place game is good I guess but not what we know we can do.”
“People in school and around town expect a lot from us,” Katie said.
Their coach agreed, laughing when asked if there was pressure on the team.
“It’s not wanting to let anybody down,” Didrikson said. “In a small town this is not just about our coaching staff and the girls on the varsity. It’s something the community is excited about and looking forward to.
“Going to state is special. It is a privilege and an honor. We wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on an opportunity they’ve been working so long for.”
Postscript: The Rams went to win the 2017 state championship