‘Not Incarnate Word’: Record-setting girls basketball team heads into post-season play

The girls basketball team looks to make history when they open post-season play Tuesday, Feb. 14, against the Moline Maroons (6-21).

With a 69-13 victory over Danville on Feb. 9, the ’22-23 team tied the program’s all-time win record — a record that had stood since the ’94-95 season when Berny Chiaro’s Iron went 28-2 and finished 4th in the 2A State Tournament.

The Iron are 28-3, heading into 4A Regional action, with those 28 wins marking the school’s best regular season finish.

But regular season records aren’t what Head Coach Dave Feeney is focused on — if they were, he wouldn’t seek out opponents like St. Louis’s Incarnate Word Academy, a team that has won more than 85 straight games and five consecutive Missouri State Championship Titles.

“I used to think that experiencing success together was a great team builder,” Feeney said. Now he sees the value in a team “experiencing failure.”

Good teams can learn more from their losses, more from the shots they miss than they make, Feeney believes.

How do you get a roster to buy into a philosophy?

Show your players when they are at their worst, Feeney said, you still have their back and support them, that you still “love them,” be consistent, “preach the same message.”

A loss, Feeney said, shows just how deep the program’s philosophies run — the value of being “tough and together,” the idea that “Iron sharpens Iron” — they are constants, they run deeper than whatever is on the scoreboard.

“Those things don’t change,” Feeney said, “just because we were winning.”

At one point this season, Incarnate Word was the number one team in the country — and they played like it, routing the Iron 62-20 on Jan. 21

The sole reason Incarnate Word is no longer number one, Feeney said, is “they can’t find enough opponents to get enough strength of schedule to stay there.”

“So many coaches are like ‘why do you play them?’ ‘What’s the point of that?'” Feeney said. “That night, I might have been asking myself that same question because they took it to us.

“But in every game since then, we’re able to say things like, ‘hey, this isn’t Incarnate Word.'”

“Once you face the best,” Feeney said, “everything after that seems a little bit easier.”

The Iron tip-off against Moline at home 6 p.m. on Feb. 14, with a win, they play Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m.