The curse of the girls’ basketball regional final

The season may be over, but their legacy lives on

Varsity girls' basketball players Macy Beinborn, Riley Vice, Regan Denny, and Julia Hillman are hopeful for a PV victory while cheering on their teammate, Carli Spelhaug, who scores two points for the Spartans.

Heading into their seventh regional final game in seven years, the Pleasant Valley girls’ basketball team was breaking records and filled with confidence. But the odds fell in favor of Ankeny Centennial on Feb. 19, leaving the team defeated and teary eyed—yet somehow thankful.

High school teams dream of the opportunity to go to state: all strive for it, some work for it, but few make it. The Pleasant Valley girls’ team has had their fair share of success, but the state tournament has been just out of reach for them.

The team has been defeated during the regional final game each season for the past seven years. 

This unfortunate streak has been nicknamed the “curse of the regional final game.” Those superstitions were likely heightened this year when the team approached its seventh year of the curse, and the athletes were already feeling pressure to get to state after going undefeated in the regular season and setting the school’s defensive record.

Senior Anna Griffin usually finds herself fairly calm before games, but this game felt different. “I knew I should have tried harder to relax, but with such words hovering around the game such as ‘curse’ and the fact that it could have been and was my last basketball game…it was impossible not to have some fear,” she said.

The team was down by 12 points at half time, but the locker room still carried a feeling of hope. They cut the deficit to eight points in the third quarter, but time went too fast for the Spartans. “After the loss, I was heartbroken. There are no other words to describe it,” Griffin said.

After the loss, I was heartbroken. There are no other words to describe it.”

— Anna Griffin

Getting to state, for this team, was not just a goal, it was a lifetime of hopes and dreams. “It wasn’t just the loss of the regional final; it was the loss of a 5-year-old girl’s dream and the loss of a sport that I have loved my whole life and now had to give up,” Griffin said.

The past six years, the buzzer has gone off only to leave the lady Spartans’ hearts broken; the team was determined to make this year different. They focused on a whole new aspect of the sport and felt deep down that this was their ticket to state. Even though the game did not end in their favor, the group of seniors decided to focus on why they love basketball and the joy it brings each and every one of them.

Senior leader and co-captain, Carli Spelhaug, shared the same devastated feeling as Griffin, but was able to see the silver lining. “As the clock wound down, I figured it would be my last game in the Spartan jersey so I knew I just had to enjoy every moment of it,” she said. Her teammates believe this attitude and continual Spartan spirit made her a great role model and leader for the underclassmen.

This group of seniors left a legacy on the court. Whether it was random “Dodgeball” quotes or laughing with their teammates at practice, the Spartan girls’ basketball team of 2019 made a permanent imprint on the lives of their fans and, most importantly, the underclassmen idolizing them from the bench.

Freshman Addie Kerkhoff enjoyed learning from the seniors and was grateful for the amazing experiences they showed her. “I learned the value of hard work, leadership and unselfish play from the upperclassmen, and just how integral having a positive mentality is,” she said.

It turns out the final result of that game didn’t matter nearly as much to the team as it seemed upon the harsh tone of the final buzzer. Their legacy will carry on in the hearts of those who look up to them—and hope to be a part of a team as special as the 2019 Spartan girls’ basketball team.