For a guy named Losing, he sure does a lot of winning.
Crofton girls basketball coach Aaron Losing (pronounced LOW-zing) guided his Class C-2 Warriors to their fourth straight state championship this season and seventh since 2005. Crofton also is riding a 53-game win streak, longest in the state.
The Warriors have moved among the state elite with those seven titles. Only South Sioux City (11), Sandy Creek (10) and Lincoln Southeast (10) have won more.
For his efforts, Losing is honored as The World Herald’s Nebraska girls high school coach of the year. He is the 25th person to receive the award, which was first given in 1991.
“Sometimes people ask what our secret is,” Losing said. “We have really good families here and the kids work hard.”
The 36-year-old Losing, who has coached the Warriors for 11 seasons, grew up in the South Dakota town of Alpena — nestled between Mitchell and Huron. He played football, basketball, baseball and ran track in high school.
“I was a typical small-town kid,” he said. “We pretty much played everything.”
Though he would go on to make his name in basketball, baseball was Losing’s sport in college. He played four years while attending Mount Marty in Yankton, South Dakota, across the Missouri River from Crofton, and got his foot in the door at Crofton by student teaching.
Losing also worked as a volunteer boys basketball assistant before accepting a girls basketball head coaching job in Ethan, South Dakota. Two years later, the teaching/coaching position opened up at Crofton.
“If you would have told me when I was 21 that I’d be coaching girls, I’d probably say that I wouldn’t enjoy it,” he said. “And I would have been so wrong about that.”
Losing said there is a difference between coaching boys and girls.
“Girls don’t have egos,” he said. “And they do a good job of listening. I always feel as though I’m getting my point across.”
Losing stepped into a positive situation at Crofton, a school that had been to the state tournament four times in the previous 15 years. High-scoring guard Amber Hegge led the Warriors to three straight Class C-1 titles from 2005 to 2007, and she was twice named The World-Herald’s girls high school athlete of the year.
After finishing third at state two of the next four years, Crofton started its second championship run. Losing led the Warriors to three state championships from 2012 to 2014, laying the groundwork for this year’s squad.
“With the players we had coming back, I felt good about this season,” he said. “We had experience, depth and confidence.”
Losing also makes sure that each summer, his next varsity squad is pushed by squads from larger schools.
“We play 25 to 30 games at different camps,” he said. “We don’t want to shy away from the tough teams because I think that’s all part of making us better.”
Crofton, coming off a one-loss season, didn’t taste defeat once. Most of its victories were lopsided as senior Allison Arens (16 points per game), her sophomore sister Monica (14.1 ppg) and senior Quinn Wragge (11.4 ppg) led the way.
Heading into the state tournament, the 26-0 Warriors were overwhelming favorites. Crofton responded by defeating Ponca by 31 in the first round and West Point Guardian Angels Central Catholic by 21 in the semifinals before facing Hastings St. Cecilia in the final.
An unusual thing happened in that championship game. The Hawkettes raced to an 11-0 lead after one quarter.
“I was looking at my assistant coach and thinking, ‘What the heck is going on out there?’ ” Losing said. “I was fairly concerned because St. Cecilia had a very good team.”
The Warriors came to life early in the second quarter, grabbing a 12-11 lead two minutes into the period. Crofton never looked back and eventually won 48-39 to claim the title once again.
“I don’t know if anyone has ever won a state championship after scoring zero in the first quarter,” Losing said. “It was a credit to our girls that they didn’t panic.”
One of those non-panickers was Allison Arens, a South Dakota recruit. She speaks highly of Losing, who has coached her the past four years.
“He is an awesome, awesome coach,” she said. “I don’t think I can say enough good things about him.”
Arens, an athlete of the year finalist, said Losing’s disciplined style is something that has pushed her to perform at the highest level.
“He’s strict, but he wants the best for us,” she said. “He’s had a huge impact on my life, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.”
Losing admits he can be intense, but says that is something that drives his team.
“The girls are pushed to excel,” he said. “I do get a little growly at times, but I think the girls respond to that.”
Losing said the parents of those players also deserve credit for the team’s success.
“The parents hold the kids to a high standard in academics and athletics,” he said. “Combine that with the teachers we have here, and it’s a great school culture.”
Losing, who teaches social studies and physical education, had a change in his own culture last summer. In August, he married Mary Kersenbrock — a former standout athlete at O’Neill St. Mary’s.
The marriage has led to a household compromise, with Losing teaching at Crofton and Mary working as a dentist in O’Neill. The couple lives in Creighton, located midway between the other two towns.
“So far, it’s working out pretty well,” Losing said. “It’s about a 40-minute drive for both of us, but that gives me time to think.”
Losing said he still gets excited about coaching and is looking forward to his 12th season with the Warriors. He downplays the team’s lengthy win streak, saying there are more important things to accomplish.
“There’s nothing wrong with tasting defeat,” he said. “I just want to make sure that we play up to our potential and do our best every time we take the court.”
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