CASCADE, Iowa — Almost exactly one year ago, Mike Sconsa was arriving home after spending two-plus weeks in the hospital.
He was confined to watching his Cascade girls basketball from home.
After suffering a stroke on Nov. 8, 2020, Sconsa spent the entirety of that season reviewing game film and constructing practice plans, but was absent from his chair along the Cougar bench — the place he’d spent the previous 16 seasons.
On Tuesday night, he officially reclaimed his spot.
Sconsa, the 18th-year coach of the Cougars, returned to the bench after missing all of last season and his team welcomed him back with a 44-23 season-opening victory over Northeast Goose Lake at Cascade High School.
“It’s been a long year,” Sconsa said. “It puts things in perspective. This is just a game, let’s not kid ourselves, here. Everything I’ve been through and what other people have gone through, it’s just a game. But, yeah, it’s fun to be back, but it’s been a hellacious year, that’s for sure.”
Sconsa noted that his nerves coming into this game were no different than the ones he brings into every contest.
“It just felt like it took forever to get here,” he said. “I’m nervous no matter what, we could be playing in a retirement home and I’d still be nervous. It was the first game of the year, and first game in a long time for me, but I was really happy with the effort.”
The Cougars had to shake off some early-season rust, as they could not buy a bucket in the first quarter and trailed, 8-4, after 8 minutes of play.
“All our shots had a little extra juice in them,” Sconsa said. “I think there were nerves all around early in the game.”
But, Ally Hoffman and Molly Roling knocked down consecutive 3-pointers to open the second and catapult Cascade into the lead. After Josie Manternach’s free throw, the Cougars surged to a 12-0 run and outscored the Rebels, 15-4, in the second quarter to grab a 19-12 halftime lead.
They never looked back.
Manternach’s back-to-back layups at 2:43 of the third put the Cougars up, 29-16, and Laura Otting’s jumper gave Cascade its biggest lead of the game to that point at 31-16. The Cougars carried their late first-half momentum over to third and outscored Northeast, 12-4, in the frame.
Hoffman, who had a game-high 17 points, drained another 3-pointer and followed it up with a jumper at 2:17 of the final quarter to put her team up, 44-19.
The senior guard said it meant a lot to have her coach back on the sidelines.
“Last year it was so different,” Hoffman said. “We had to learn how to transition to (assistant coach Ernie Bolibaugh’s) ways and we had a good season, but it’s just great to have him back.
“We love him as a coach, so it’s very special.”