Chris Gobrecht has shown endless patience in building a basketball program.
But the Air Force women’s basketball coach had no stomach for what she heard from an opponent after a recent 49-46 loss.
“There were some players at Boise State that alluded to, well, they weren’t really up for the game,” Gobrecht said. “I can promise you we will remember that.”
With two wins in their past four games and an overall level of competitiveness that has long eluded this program, the Falcons are tired of being a team that fails to draw maximum effort and attention from opponents. And Gobrecht thinks a style built on relentless defense has the team approaching that point.
“That’s a form of achievement in itself,” Gobrecht said. “I don’t think we’re getting anybody’s B game anymore.”
Even before a 61-51 victory over San Diego State at Clune Arena on Saturday, the Falcons (2-19, 2-8 Mountain West) were getting results on the scoreboard to reflect the across-the-board improvement they had seen internally.
In a four-game stretch that included one-point losses to San Jose State and Colorado State, a victory over Utah State and the loss at Boise State, the Falcons outscored their opponents by two points. That was the first time the program had outscored Mountain West foes over four straight games since 2006, and that stretch 12 years ago was given the jolt of a 39-point victory over a San Diego State that went winless in league play and lost its final 15 by double digits.
Against those same four opponents last year and in the same venues, Air Force was outscored by 74 points. The year before, Gobrecht’s first at the academy, they were outscored by 82.
Now, even despite a 64-48 loss at Fresno State on Jan. 29 in a makeup game from the government shutdown, the Falcons have been outscored by just four points over their last six games. That's a third of the conference season in which Air Force has held its own.
The Falcons have earned two wins in four Mountain West games just two other times since 2008.
For a program that has never reached a level of sustained success, the seeds have not only been planted but are starting to sprout.
“We haven’t been making a big deal out of (the wins),” said Gobrecht, whose two leading scorers are freshmen – Kaelin Immel (14.8 ppg) and Emily Conroe (10 ppg). “It’s not like we’ve gone out and had ice cream sundaes or anything. We’ve said, ‘Hey, that’s awesome. Doesn’t that feel good? Now let’s get back to work.’”
In the big-picture view of the building of this program, Gobrecht knows she holds a few key trump cards.
In practice each day she sees the work of sophomore Kassady Huffman and freshman Noelle Tomes, both of whom are ineligible for academy reasons.
They should both be added to the mix next year.
“It’s pretty hard for our coaching staff to be in a room and start thinking down the road and not get some big grins on our face,” Gobrecht said.