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Nemechek reaches milestone

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By Dan Johnson

Traci Nemechek has always been a coach that puts the team before herself.

On Jan. 15, Nemechek’s players made sure she got a taste of the limelight.

The Dakota Ridge girls basketball coach was honored before the tip-off of the Eagles’ game with Grandview with a plaque commemorating her 100th career win, which came Jan. 9 at Arapahoe.

“We just wanted to do something to congratulate her,” said senior Brooke Pendergraft, who made a short statement on the microphone before she, Tira Callaway, Jennelle Branting and Janelle Baal gave Nemechek the plaque. “One hundred wins is a pretty big accomplishment, so we just wanted to honor that achievement.”

Nemechek, who’s in her fifth year at Dakota Ridge, said she had a feeling that the girls were up to something, but was still surprised when the plaque was revealed.

While the gesture was much appreciated, Nemechek said the win total is more about her players than herself.

“I don’t pay much attention to records,” Nemechek said. “It’s more a reflection of the program and of the kids that are playing now, and that have played for us in the past.

“The way I look at it, is that I’m really lucky. I have kids that want to follow in the footsteps of the teams that came before them. They see them winning league titles and they want to go out there and do the same thing.”

Under Nemechek’s guidance, Dakota Ridge (11-2, ranked No. 3 in Class 5A), has won its last 40 Jefferson County League games. They consistently play deep into the state tournament, reaching at least the round of 16 the past four years.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we don’t believe in a lot of drama,” Nemechek said. “Girls have lots of drama, but I think we run that out of them pretty quick. But, they like each other, and that’s not always the case with girls. They are like sisters and they enjoy spending time with each other. We want them to do that and build those bonds.

“We feel a connection to them. It’s really a family atmosphere and that’s what we want to have here. The kids enjoy that immensely, and that makes it more fun.”

Another Dakota Ridge senior, Lindsi Holm, has grown up playing under Nemechek’s guidance.

“She’s done a lot for me,” said Holm, whose older sister, Lauren, is now a sophomore in college and younger sister, Natalie, is a freshman on the Level III team.. “She’s definitely developed me as a player. She’s helped me mentally and physically with my basketball game. I’ve played for her since before high school and in summer leagues, so we’ve been through a lot together.

“We always say she’s our mom. Even without basketball stuff, she’s always there for us.”

Pendergraft, who along with Holm has played on the varsity squad since her freshman year, echoed her fellow teammates’ thoughts.

“She has taught me many things, and they will keep me going all through my college career,” Pendergraft said. “She is more than just a coach to all of us, she’s like a second mom. She’s always been there helping us, not just with basketball, but with our everyday life.”