Hampshire's Fox Valley Conference girls basketball championship was a surprise to many. The Whip-Purs finished the 2019 season with one loss in conference play, going 15-1 and defeating Dundee-Crown, 43-38, in a winner-take-all game for the FVC title on the final day or the regular season.
Outside of sophomore Kelby Bannerman and senior Ally Cermak, the Whips were a unique mix of volleyball, soccer and softball players determined to come together with one common goal: a conference championship.
Hampshire succeeded and captured its third FVC title since 2015, finishing with an area-best 27-6 record. It was the third time reaching 20 wins in six seasons under head coach Mike Featherly, who surpassed 100 career wins.
The Whips ran into Class 4A state semifinalist Hononegah in the regional finals, but the season-ending loss did not take away from a breakthrough season for Featherly, assistant coaches Sarah Thomas and Eric Samuelson and their players.
Featherly was voted the Northwest Herald Girls Basketball Coach of the Year, as chosen by the sports staff with input from area coaches. Marengo’s Nick Rode, who led the Indians to a 24-7 record, a Kishwaukee River Conference title and a second straight regional title, also received strong consideration.
Featherly recently spoke with sports writer Alex Kantecki about his favorite games from the season, his coaching influences, his lasting memories of the senior class and more.
What will you remember most about this season?
Featherly: It's got to be the Dundee-Crown game (winner-take-all for the FVC title at Hampshire). One of the girls said it best. She said, "Man, it was like out of a movie." ... That's something I'll never forget, how excited the fans, players and coaches were. I saw former players there, and there were parents of former players, too. It was just an all-around awesome environment.
Do you have a second-favorite game?
Featherly: Definitely the Cary-Grove game, when we beat them at C-G (a 41-40 victory). That kind of exemplified our team. We don't blow teams out, but we're really good at sticking with it. We did not play our best basketball, but we kept fighting and fighting and ended up winning on a free throw with two seconds left. Playing at C-G has always been a challenge for us. They always play well there, and they always play hard. Rod (Saffert) does a good job with them.
What are your favorite basketball movies?
Featherly: I got to go with "Hoosiers." That's got to be No. 1. I always liked it as a kid. I'd watch it before games. It would get me fired up.
What sport that you didn’t play in high school would you have been good at?
Featherly: It'd be a toss-up between volleyball and lacrosse. Lacrosse seems like a really cool sport. From what I hear, it's a lot like basketball. I'd be terrible at swimming. I'd sink, so I'm not doing that.
What is one of the best lines you ever used with an official?
Featherly: If I think they miss a call, I tell them I got LASIK (surgery), so I could see everything. It's so bad, but I sometimes get a chuckle out of it. I think the assistant coaches are tired of me saying it, but it's one of my favorites.
If you could change one thing about basketball, what would it be?
Featherly: Shot clock, or the one I think would be a neat adaption to the game that they do in college is to stop the clock in the last minute of the game if it's a close game.
Which one of your players do you find really inspiring?
Featherly. They're all such good kids. I'd probably say (senior guard) Sarah Bowen. She reminds me of (2017 Hampshire graduate) Rachel Dumoulin, where you never have to get on her about her effort, and she is always consistent with how hard she plays. She gets beat up out there, and you kind of feel bad for her. She always has bruises all over, and you ask her if she's OK, and her answer is always, "I'm fine."
Which player on your team made you laugh the most?
Featherly: The one that made me smile the most is (senior guard) Morgan Haefling. She is such a bright light and a positive energy. She'd be goofy at times, but she'd always come with the right attitude. It's hard not to smile around her.
Who was the biggest influence on you as a coach?
Featherly: There are so many. From a professional standpoint, I'd say my high school basketball and soccer coaches. My basketball coach was very hard-nosed and about discipline, where my soccer coach was a little more laid back and let the reins down. I tried to take what I liked from each. Personally, it's definitely my dad. Just the idea of working hard, no need to complain, and your actions speak louder than your words.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
Featherly: I have a Canada Dry Ginger Ale before every game. It can't be Schweppes. That, and my first name is Harvey. Not many people know that.
What will you miss most about the senior class?
Featherly: I think what I'll miss most is how inclusive they made everyone feel. They were a fun group to be around, and they made everyone, from freshmen all the way to juniors, feel a part of the program. The thing I miss most right now is practice, before practice, walking around, talking to them, and seeing how they're doing. That's the stuff I'm going to miss the most.