GRIFFITH | Jasmine Alvarez and Amy Bubala are examples of girls basketball players that Griffith coach Tom Golumbeck has rarely seen.
Neither were the best players entering the program four years ago. Both were junior varsity caliber who he wasn't sure would ever reach the varsity.
When he set a standard for each one to hit, she did it. When he asked them to work harder around players who were outshooting and outscoring them, they did it.
Despite roller coaster seasons, each one never left the Panthers program.
"A lot of kids won't stick with it. 'I'm not going to play' or 'I don't feel like putting in the time,' but they did and it paid off for them," Golumbeck said. "They were behind people like Sammi Adams and Emma Blackwood, and they could have given up and they never did. They waited their turn and played their time on the JV and helped on the varsity when they could, and those are the kinds of kids you want."
Alvarez and Bubala are now captains, and the hard work hasn't stopped.
"I knew my time would come to play and putting in all the hard work for all three years and in the offseason would pay off by my senior year," Bubala said. "I didn't really see it pay off until this year, but I'm glad that I stuck with it and waiting for that chance to come this year."
Bubala is second on the team in steals, in part because her basketball-trained mind puts her in the right place at the right time.
"We talked every year about her getting quicker and faster and most kids when you tell them that, they don't do anything about it," Golumbeck said. "She did."
Alvarez is second on the team in points, and her defensive pressure makes her hard to keep off the floor.
"One thing she does for us now is that she usually guards the best player on the other team," Golumbeck said. "She does a good job of keeping them under their average or giving us a chance to stay in the game. She's quick and kind of long and she can bother people."
The Panthers, winners of six consecutive sectional titles, are five seasons removed from their last regional title. Griffith plays Kankakee Valley on Saturday in one semifinal of the Class 3A Rochester Regional.
Having a pair of players that continue to push past every obstacle handed to them gives Golumbeck hope for other players on his team. Griffith has four seniors, these two are the only that have been in the program all four years.
"The biggest thing we've learned this year is how to stay together," Alvarez said. "No matter what happens, we've learned that we win as a team ..."
"We lose as a team," Bubala finished.