Sisters provide strong front for Lady Flyers
Feb. 13, 2014 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated Feb. 12, 2014 at 8:13 p.m.
Before the Lady Flyers won their final district game against Austin Regents a week ago, Kristi Hempel read a handwritten letter to her sister, Kalyn Hempel, during Senior Night.
Tears fell from both of the sisters' eyes as Kristi read the letter, which described what it has been like playing with Kalyn for the past two seasons.
Though it was the last district game of the season, the St. Joseph girls basketball team is far from the end of its season.
St. Joseph (28-7) continued its four-game winning streak with a second consecutive victory over Austin Regents on Thursday. The Lady Flyers won 44-27.
Had it not been for Kalyn's encouragement, Kristi may not have ever joined St. Joseph basketball and been a part of the team's 28-7 season.
Kalyn has been playing on varsity since her sophomore year. After that season, her sister was about to enter high school.
"We used to always play on the driveway with my dad," Kalyn said. "She's always been good at sports - I guess she never liked how much running it was. She has talent, and I saw that when we used to play."
Initially, Kristi had no intention of trying out for the basketball team.
"I never played basketball before ninth grade; I just thought I wouldn't be able to do well or be like everybody else and have the talent they do," Kristi said. "(Kalyn) really encouraged me - she's a big part of trying to get me to play and become a better basketball player."
The Hempels' father, David, also encouraged Kristi to try out for the team.
"She has a natural talent to shoot baskets, so when her freshman year rolled around, she kind of wanted to play but kind of didn't," David Hempel said. "I encouraged her to do it because of her height and because she could contribute something to the team."
Besides the occasional messy bedroom, Hempel said that Kristi and Kalyn are "two exceptional children."
"They obey the rules we set before them, they come from a strong Christian household, and they live that way on and off the court," he said.
Both players have contributed to the Lady Flyers' success in different ways.
Kalyn, who is left-handed, usually surprises her opponents with her speed across the court, ability to dribble with both hands and effervescent smile the entire time.
"That's the joy of playing the game. She loves basketball," Hempel said. "She loves the physical aspect of basketball and the competitive nature."
Hempel said that some weekends, Kalyn will help him at his oil-field job.
"She works harder than the young men who have been there two or three years. She knows what to do, what to expect and knows the next step," he said. "She doesn't step back and mess on her cellphone and text."
"Kalyn is a quiet leader on and off the court in her Christian upbringing and never-say-die (attitude)," Lady Flyers coach Carrie Myers said. "She loves this game; she's always smiling when she's playing. It makes me excited to watch her play because she does love it so much."
Knowing that tall sophomores would be moved up to varsity this year, Myers told Kalyn she would be moved to a wing position.
"She never said no. She said, 'Yes, ma'am,' and that's what I love about that kid," Myers said.
Kalyn isn't quick to talk about her own accomplishments but could likely talk about those of her sister and teammates all day.
"When she's coming down the court, I know just when to pass to her," Kalyn said. "I love this team, and I love playing with her, especially because she's my sister."
Though she is the taller of the two by about 3 inches, Kristi said she looks up to Kalyn.
"She pushes me to do my best every day, and that helps me become better at basketball," Kristi said. "She's a big role model in my life, and to be on the same team is such a blessing."
Kristi's inexperience has never worried the coach.
"She's come up this year on fire," she said. "She's got a beautiful jump shot - it's self-taught; The kid has a heart as big as her sister's."
Kristi is one of five sophomores, along with Hanna Novosad, Madison Foeh, Christine Janak and Abigail Kovar, who have helped lead St. Joseph to TAPPS District 3-4A dominance.
"These girls are a big part of my family. They're like my sisters, and Kalyn is my sister," Kristi said. "That's what is so exciting."
That sisterly connection between the team has made a difference for the Lady Flyers all year and aids in their confidence going into the district championship game Saturday at 2 p.m.
"They work well together, and they're good kids who want to work hard," Myers said. "It's not just about basketball; it's about teaching them something about life and what it takes to work hard and have a goal. Do everything you can to achieve that goal," she said. "That's what I see in this team."
St. Joseph 44, Austin Regents 27
In a rematch from the last district game of the season, St. Joseph took on Austin Regents for the second time in a week Thursday.
Having nearly an entire week of practice and the experience from last week worked for the Lady Flyers, who won by close to a 20-point gap at 44-27.
Myers said both teams were playing aggressively, which was evident in three early first-quarter fouls on sophomore Foeh.
"It's do-or-die time, and everybody's feeling that pressure," Myers said. "I think we just came out and played tough defense. Today, they did what I asked them to do."
Sophomore Christine Janak scored 14 points, followed by Foeh who scored 11 points. Kensey Marshall scored six points with one 3-pointer.
At halftime, St. Joseph was up 19-15 before scoring 11 points in the third quarter compared to Regents' five.
St. Joseph will play for the TAPPS District 3-4A title Saturday at 2 p.m. against either Austin Savio or San Antonio Incarnate Word Academy.
St. Joseph (18-16) claimed fifth place in TAPPS 3-4A on Thursday night after a strong 69-36 victory over San Antonio Holy Cross.
Luke Wenske led the Flyers with 15 points and three 3-pointers followed by Adam Konarik with 10 points and Tyler Engelbart with nine. Doug Wall scored two 3-pointers for six points.