February 6th – The Liberty Eagles boys basketball team is on the brink of making history. A senior class that has endured the ups and downs of a startup basketball program is one game away from realizing every high school players dream of winning a Conference Championship.
By virtue of their victory Friday night over Wentzville Holt, the Eagles have already clinched, at minimum, a share of the Conference title. Yet, an outright claim to being the best team in their Conference will mean so much to this young program and school.
The Eagles are 7-0 on the season in GAC Central play with three games remaining. With a win Friday at Washington, the Eagles will clinch the GAC Central title. Liberty Head Coach, Chip Sodemann commented on this opportunity, “Just to be in this position speaks to the kids we have in our program. Our seniors have been through a lot in 4 years and it speaks to those guys for sticking it out. In today’s age, its commonplace to transfer or quit when things don’t go your way, or coaches are tough on you or hold you to high expectations. Our 4 seniors have bought in to what we are selling and have grown so much in 4 years.”
It’s been a long road for the Liberty boys basketball team, a journey that very few players and coaches get the opportunity to experience. “It has definitely been a journey that has seen many ups and downs,” commented Sodemann. Liberty is entering that time of the season when games take on much more meaning as teams prepare for a run in the post season. “It is fun to play in meaningful games and we look forward to the challenge. Part of the journey is getting our guys to understand the process of what it takes to play and compete in meaningful games,” said Sodemann.
Coach Chip Sodemann has been down this path, first as a player and again as a Coach. Before arriving at Liberty High School he led the Washington Bluejays on an exciting post season run and played in meaningful post season games at Parkway West High School. “I’ll be the first to say it’s a lot easier to play in close games as a player than a coach. As a coach I have to trust that our guys are focused and prepared to handle any situation with poise and confidence. If they do and the other team makes more plays, we can be satisfied with our effort.”
Sodemann’s experience will be a key component to Liberty being able to handle the teams current success. “The advice I give them all the time is to make sure they are focused on what they are supposed to be doing at that moment. I also tell them to live in the moment. These are the times they will remember forever and to just enjoy the opportunity to play basketball.”
Coach Chip Sodemann is also getting to enjoy a unique experience as he’s been able to share the sideline with his Dad, Bill Sodemann this season. “I have been bugging him for a few years and I finally got him to say yes this season,” said Chip Sodemann. “Regardless of whether he is my Dad or not, having someone with close to 400 high school coaching victories, and a state championship is someone you want on your staff. He sees things from his perspective and voices them at the right time. His messages to our guys are always spot on and I hope they understand the quality of coaching they are getting.”
Coach Bill Sodemann was inducted into the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2011. He won 389 games at Parkway West High School over a 22 year head coaching career. He was the 1991 MBCA and St. Louis Post-Dispatch Coach of the Year, 6 time Suburban West Coach of the Year, and 2 time Suburban South Coach of the Year. Coach Sodemann won 6 conference championships and 5 district championships. In 1991 he led the Longhorns to the Missouri 4A State Championship.
One of the exciting aspects of high school basketball is the reality that despite how good or bad a regular season a team has experienced, everything starts over as teams enter District Championship play. As Liberty embarks on this final stretch to their regular season and then enters post season play, Coach Chip Sodemann understands what is important this time of year, “The focus in practice, scouting, game planning and all are part of the process we are getting our guys to understand. I don’t know if we were mature enough to be in the position in years past. It takes difficult times, losses and growth to be here. I reflect on this often and tell our guys, those close games we have played in years past has helped us grow and be better.”
Their remaining conference games are Friday, February 10th at Washington, February 16th when they host Ft. Zumwalt East and February 21st vs. FZS at Liberty High School.