Nearing the halfway point of her senior season, Ft. Loramie’s Jessica Boerger struggles to be the player she wants to be…the player she wants to be remembered as. All it’s taken is some time.
Ft. Loramie – Jessica Boerger has not played well lately.
The numbers don’t lie, and her frustration with the reality of it has been as evident on the basketball court as the mid-court line.
The senior centerpiece of Loramie’s Division IV defending championship team from last March, the first half of her final season has been a series of questions…and question marks?
Is she healthy?
Is she focused?
Have opposing teams figured her out…gotten into her head?
Or, is there simply been too much expected?
Six weeks into the 2015-16 season it’s been the #1 issue relative to the Redskins, now 8-2 after last Saturday’s pivotal win over the Division III defending champion Versailles Tigers. It’s a team that was expected, fairly or not, to compete again…to defend their title.
They are missing key components from last year, Kelly Turner, Holly Benanzer and Janelle Hoying, but the ‘Skins were to be rebuilt, buoyed, by a dazzling JV team that had lost exactly once over the past two seasons. The cupboard, it was said, was hardly bare.
For sure, their two losses have been legitimate…to SCL rival Anna, and two weeks ago, to an equally rebuilding Lima Bath team that’s always a standard in regional women’s basketball. And Boerger struggled notably in that Bath game, perhaps the most frustrating experience of her athletic life.
She has all the tools. She’s tall (5’10”). She’s athletic. She runs like a deer.
“She’s able to do so much on the court you sometimes take it for granted,” coach Carla Siegel has said previously.
She jumps, she scores and rebounds. On top of all this, she’s probably the team’s best defender, as well.
Her pedigree is even impressive. She’s the first cousin of former champion (from 2012), and all-state guard/forward, Darian Rose, who owns the all-time scoring mark for Loramie women’s basketball and was the 2013-14 AP Player of The Year. Rose is currently playing at Ohio Dominican University.
But Boerger has learned that being a champion, and playing like one, is not automatic. You have to do it every day, and on the days when it doesn’t come naturally…you still have to figure a way. You’re always in the spotlight; the expectations never change.
Lima Bath was a low point. In a game that begged for the Redskins to play in their normal fashion, and to win, they shot 25% from the floor, and proportionately, were just as miserable from the foul line (8 of 20).
Boerger scored but 8 points in that game, just half of her normal average. She missed threes…she missed layups. Normally dependable at the line, she struggled there, too. In short, she played as if in a daze…trying to figure “it” out. For at least that moment, basketball wasn’t fun anymore!
But time is the great antidote, and last Saturday’s game with Versailles became her prescription. Inexplicably, Jess Boerger played like Jess Boerger again. She ran, she rebounded, she blocked shots…she shot the three. She scored 25 of her team’s 43 points in a hard-fought four-point victory over the Tigers. Her energy returned, along with her smile. Basketball was fun AGAIN, at least for that moment.
“We’ll say it’s the new year,” laughed Siegel, when asked afterwards to explain the difference…the regeneration of her team’s best player.
“It’s a new year for her, for sure. She got the thousandth point thing off her back a couple of games ago, to where she could hopefully relax and just play. What I tried to explain to her during that time was that while she was struggling the rest of our team was coming through. In her absence Maddie Brandewie made some big shots. Katie Hoying’s had to step up her game. Holly Frey has had to improve. Our sophomore, Abby Holthaus, has gotten better. They’ve all improved while she struggled and it’s only made our team stronger. Today she played like she was having fun. And this is supposed to be fun!”
Boerger doesn’t disagree with any, or all, of the questions, or the facts of her absence. Her honesty is refreshing. Her maturity evident as she talks about the reality of time taking its course…of the improvement of her supporting cast having helped to lift a giant gorilla off her back.
“I think it was the pressure of winning last year, and the expectation that carried over to this year,” she said following Saturday’s win. “When Kelly Turner, Holly Benanzer and Janelle Hoying left I felt like there was a lot of pressure on me to do more. But now I’m beginning to see that this team has my back, that they can help out…that it’s still a team game.”
And while Carla Siegel has been consistent in reminding her of as much, as an athlete you simply have to figure it out on your own.
“That’s true. You have to figure it out yourself and you really have to work for it. It’s nice now to have the team feeling back to the way it usually is. We struggled so much in the beginning because I was struggling.
“I’ve realized that the game has to come to you. I know now that having fun on the court means a lot. When you’re not playing well it just adds pressure. When you relax you realize it’s easier to do the things you want to do. It’s so much easier.”
But while time is the antidote, it’s also it’s own stressor, a constant reminder now to Boerger that she only has half a season of high school basketball left.
“When you’re the defending state champion you want to come back and have everything be perfect, while you have this opportunity,” she admits. “But now I realize that everything isn’t perfect. We have our weaknesses and Versailles exposed what we have to work on for the rest of the season. We also showed some strengths today, but we still have to work.”
One would naturally assume that during her struggles Jessica Boerger might have reached out to her cousin, now a sophomore at Ohio Domincan, for some advice and support.
“I have not,” she confirms, matter-of-factly. A further sign of maturity, of time taking its course. No need to look back. Fun with anything is what you make of it now.
Jessica Boerger has a new team to help her through it. Call it the rest of the best…of Jess!