Thursday, January 20th, 2011
By Robb Hemmelgarn
Minster's Bornhorst one of the early greats
Last Curtain Call
When Kyle Bornhorst laced up her basketball shoes for the first time in the mid-1970s at Minster High School, the sport with which she was about to set sail was a relatively new concept.
Within a few years however, she established herself as one of the original hardwood greats in the deep pages of the Midwest Athletic Conference catalog of basketball royalty.
"I don't think girls back then even touched a basketball until the first day of practice in the seventh grade," Bornhorst (now Gusching) explained. "Prior to my freshman year, Nann Meyer (Stechschulte) had just graduated and passed her number to me with a note explaining that it was my turn to pick up where she left off. Nann was an outstanding basketball player so those were definitely some big shoes to fill, but with the help of outstanding coaching and great teammates, we were able to do very well."
Gusching scored 13 points per outing on the junior varsity team as a freshman and then midway through her sophomore season, she burst into the Wildcats' starting rotation for varsity head coach Katie Horstman.
"Minster was exceptionally fortunate at that time to be good at almost all of the girls' sports they participated in," she acknowledged, before swiftly citing the rationale. "No doubt this was because of coach Horstman. She brought out the best in us and made us really want to play. I think that gave us a tremendous edge among the rest of the league and the teams in the area. Some of our best competition came from schools from farther away and I think that was just because as far as athletics, we were more developed than most of the teams around here."
Prior to the tipoff of the 1977 season, a cloud of disappointment developed over the program when Horstman, who also coached volleyball and track and field, decided to step aside from heading the basketball program. She presented a tongue-in-cheek offer in exchange for her return, but it wasn't a simple demand.
"She told us that if anyone on the team could dunk it, she would coach that winter," Gusching chuckled. "The funny part was that Lisa Oldiges and I practiced our dunking skills a lot that summer - unfortunately we didn't even come close to putting it down!"
With Cheryl Reichert moving in as Horstman's successor, Gusching and the Wildcats finished 1977 with a 14-2 overall record, but were eventually tripped up by the Ridgemont Golden Gophers in the district tournament. Although the honor wasn't dubbed as MAC Player of the Year at the time, Gusching secured the most votes for all-league status after averaging more than 15 ppg.
"I remember at the majority of the games it was pretty much just us, our parents, the bus driver, and maybe a couple of people from the community sitting in the stands," she laughed. "My junior year though, we played Russia who was tied with us for third place in the most recent state poll. We walked into the high school gym and it was absolutely packed. The fact that the bleachers on the stage were pulled out and they were filled, was unbelievable at that time."
Although the Wildcats stumbled 54-45 against the Raiders, Gusching feels the experience established a sense of respect for her sport.
"After that, more people started coming to the games. The boys in the high school even stopped to watch and everyone noticed that we could play pretty good too!"
After dropping the first game of Gusching's senior season in 1978 against Arcanum, the Wildcats sailed unscathed through 18 straight outings before they were beaten in the district final by the Ada Bulldogs, dropping the curtain on her phenomenal basketball career. Hitting for 16 ppg., Gusching defended her title as the league's top vote-getter, but is quick to brush the credit toward her cohorts.
"Back then, if you could defend the other team's top scorer, you were in pretty good shape," she explained, noting a typical lack of talented depth on most rosters. "We had Sandy Bergman and Lisa Oldiges down low though and they were both six-feet tall, so if I was in trouble someone else always stepped up and helped lead the team."
Although options for a college basketball career were limited, Gusching briefly considered extending her playing days at the University of Dayton.
"In those days, college recruiting rarely existed and coaches at that level didn't know a lot about potential players," she pointed out. "When I got to college, I went to a couple of meetings about potentially playing and just decided against it. Looking back now, I really wish that I would have gone out. I hate going to games today and not playing - I want to be out there so bad, I guess I still have that competitive edge."
Following graduation, Gusching returned to her hometown where she currently serves as a deputy clerk for the Village of Minster. She and her husband, Robert, are the proud parents of three children who have all graduated from Minster High School - Scott, Sarah, and Eric.
"None of my kids chose to play basketball and that sort of broke my heart, so I guess maybe I will have to hold out for my grandkids doing that." Gusching joked. "Seriously though, if I could tell the girls who play in high school today anything, it is to really enjoy what you have right now because it goes so fast. They don't need to fret over losses, but just learn from them. I would give anything to be out there playing again - those times were a lot of fun and created a lot of great memories that I will always cherish."
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