Prep Basketball

Xavier girls' basketball team takes different routes to same goal

HS journalism: Saints aim to win another state title

Xavier's Libby Arnold (right), putting up a shot under pressure from West's Lauren Conrey (31) earlier this month, wants
Xavier’s Libby Arnold (right), putting up a shot under pressure from West’s Lauren Conrey (31) earlier this month, wants to get Coach Tom Lilly a state championship. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Xavier girls’ basketball coach Tom Lilly and his captains, seniors Libby Arnold and Caitlynn Daniels, have different motivations this season.

But all lead to the same result — winning a state title.

Since Arnold and Daniels first played together on their YMCA first-grade team, they have yearned for successful seasons in their future. Now, closing in on their last high school season, they have slightly different perspectives.

While Arnold’s motivation is to get Lilly another state title, Daniels is more personal.

“This season is not about my stats or personal achievements,” she said. “I will play for my aunt, who passed away from kidney cancer this November.

“I know she can’t watch me anymore but I still want to make her proud.”

Daniels also said a successful season is one where the team improves and becomes closer.

Their coach always strives to make them the kind of players who can achieve any goals.

“This sport is a marathon, not a sprint,” Lilly said. “It takes time, hard work and dedication. Noone plays and becomes great without practicing their craft.

“Everyone has to trust the process.”

Lilly has coached girls’ basketball since Xavier opened in 1998. His coaching perspectives have changed over that time.

“My goal when I started was to win. I love to compete and hate to lose,” he said. “We have won championships.

“I have changed my perspective towards all of that. Players have a lot of pressure to meet our cultures desire to hoist up a trophy. They identify athletes by performance.

“I want our players to be good people and treat others well.”

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Lilly believes girls’ basketball is a more pure version of the game, pure players with a pure heart. A couple years ago, Lilly’s mom died. His first practice back, the team came in for a hug.

That is his favorite memory over all of his coaching years.

The goals Arnold and Daniels set are about more than just this season, too.

“I hope that after we graduate, the underclassmen who Caitlynn and I have helped teach them what it takes to be a Xavier girls’ basketball player — achieve big things and go after any goal they set,” Arnold said. “They are a talented group and have the potential to do great things.”

The Class 4A sixth-ranked Saints (8-3) are at Class 5A No. 1 Iowa City High tonight at 7:30 p.m.

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