Subscribe for 33¢ / day

Katie Collignon's landlord decided to sell the house she and her husband, Brad, were renting.

"Just, please wait until March," Katie asked her landlord.

A friend helped the duo quickly find a new home, where the new landlord had hoped for a Feb. 15 move-in date. That would have been two days before Katie Collignon's Marquette Catholic girls basketball team played in the Class A semistate.

The new home waited until March, the week that the Marquette Catholic gym was occupied by a middle school basketball tournament.

In the midst of the athletic director half of Collignon preparing for spring sports and hosting a basketball tourney, and the basketball coach half of Collignon mentally designing a state championship ring, the family Collignon uprooted its life and moved down the road.

"I've always had good time-management skills," Collignon said. "It's one of the biggest skills I learned in college. When I was a college coach, it was one of the skills I coached all of my athletes: time management. Know to get the most important things done first."

Collignon prepped at Oscar Carlson High School in Michigan, playing four sports: basketball, volleyball and soccer and track simultaneously. She played college basketball at Ferris State, earning the team's Hardest Worker award in '05.

She was an assistant at Valparaiso University for four seasons before being hired as the athletic director and girls basketball coach for the Blazers.

"When I started (at Marquette Catholic), it was a combo deal," Collignon said. "My name had been mentioned as a replacement for the girls basketball coach, but I didn't want to go from college coaching to high school, and both positions were open at the same time. I knew it would be a challenge because a lot of time goes into both of those jobs. I work well when I'm busiest."

Collignon's multi-tasking personality made her the perfect creator for the fast-paced Marquette Catholic girls basketball scheme.

When she was hired for the position in June 2016, she sat back and watched a couple of practices run by a former assistant coach.

"I noticed from the beginning that this was a group that was extremely skilled," Collignon said. "They had skills beyond what sophomores in high school usually looked like. Coming from the collegiate level, I was afraid I'd have to go back to layup lines, but I saw the potential and knew they could take their game to another level. I would say there was just excitement that I couldn't wait to tap into their potential."

In her second year coaching the team, Collignon guided the Blazers to the school's first girls basketball state title, and earned the Times Coach of the Year honor for her efforts.

"Our mindset overall this year was different," she said. "I think going through the heartbreak of last year (losing in double overtime at the semistate) brought everyone back down to reality. We were not going to win just because of what it says on paper.

"They worked every drill and every play in practice. The team morale was better. Last year, they were trying to get used to a new coach, a new program and there was some turmoil. I coach a much different style than they were used to. There was a lot of questioning and now there was a lot more trust. When you get a group of girls that trust each other and like each other on the court, that's when championships happen."

She added an offseason weight training regime — having been the strength and conditioning coach at VU — helping her players learn a different focus in the preseason.

Collignon said she drew up plays for her team, what she called her "bag of tricks," that were rarely used. Coaches scouting her team wouldn't see her calling out plays from the bench, instead she spent practices teaching her team how to read defenses.

"She kind of changed my whole mindset about basketball," junior Emma Nolan said. "I felt that sophomore year that I learned a whole new game of basketball and she kind of made me think for myself. My freshman year we were kind of robots and told what to do. Her coaching is so energetic, there's a lot more freedom to be smart in the game and to make our own decisions. Her high energy gives us that confidence to know we can do it as long as we put our mind to it. It was a big transition."

In the championship win against Vincennes Rivet, Collignon reached into the "bag of tricks" for a couple options, knowing they had them just in case.

"I wanted them to focus on reading a defense instead of worrying about 'where do I stand on this play?'" Collignon said. "I never felt like we had to come out and run a certain play. We would always go over all of the plays before a game, and they never stopped learning them."

The Blazers will graduate two seniors in the spring, leaving them in nearly the same position that they were in this season: a target to become the state champions.

"There's still so much more we can do," Collignon said. "We have to get better defensively, we'll work on that every day. That's why I love basketball so much, there's another part of the game to always get better at."

The Times 2017-18 all-area girls basketball team


Sports Director

Hillary has covered prep, pro and college sports -- and even a Dixie Baseball World Series -- for newspapers north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line since 1995.