GREENViLLE – Greenville senior Haleigh Behnken, the daughter of Travis and Cassidy Behnken has been named to 2020 OHSAA First Team D-II All-Ohio girls basketball team.
“When I heard about it I was shocked,” said Behnken. “It was huge.”
“What a huge award for Haleigh,” said veteran Lady Wave coach Rachel Kerns. “This is truly an amazing accomplishment. One of the biggest awards an athlete in Ohio can earn.”
“All-Ohio – it’s about as prestigious award as you can get as a high school player in the state of Ohio,” Greenville Athletic Director Aaron Shaffer stated. “It would be the equivalent of being a First Team All-American at the collegiate level or an All-Pro at the pro level. For Hailey to be able to do this it speaks to her competitiveness, her willingness to persevere.”
“Hailey is so passionate about sports in general, but really about basketball and softball,” said Greenville High School principal, Stan Hughes. “The passions shows in her game and that is an important part of how she plays the game and personally I think that’s a really valuable asset to have, that passion for sports, that passion for competitiveness in all that you do.”
The 5’7” Behnken led the Lady Wave to a 14-11 winning season while leading the Miami Valley League (MVL) in scoring with a 19.5 season average.
Behnken recently completed a four year Greenville High School basketball career that included two years as a starter for the Lady Wave program.
“Looking back from my freshman year, starting my JV game I thought it was the biggest thing. I thought oh my-gosh I’m starting,” Behnken said. “Now I look back at my junior season, getting opportunities that I wanted, taking every chance I got and then my senior year, I was going to make it my biggest year and reach my goals and I reached the biggest goal I wanted to reach, All-Ohio and I got it first team.”
Athletes playing at larger schools often don’t experience a starting role until their junior season and often have to wait until their senior season to earn a starting spot.
“Into today’s sports culture kids think that if I’m not a varsity player as a freshman … that certainly is not the case,” Shaffer said. “A lot of great athletes have to work at it as freshmen and sophomores before they can start getting a light shined on them a little bit as juniors and seniors.”
The feisty senior played with an attitude on the court, an attitude that contributed to earning the state award while often catching the eye of opposing fans.
“My attitude has gotten much better through my freshman to senior year definitely,” Behnken shared. “My senior year I knew I had people watching me and I knew I had to control this and I was like – I’m going to. If you want to talk “talk” then I’m just going to show you with my game. I’m not going to talk.”
“If it was my sophomore year, maybe, but it showed me a lot,” added Behnken. “I knew I had people there watching me. I knew I had all my fans there watching me and my college coaches. I knew I had a lot of eyes on me so I had to take it under control for sure.”
“Haleigh is one of those kids who definitely shows that spirit and it helps her competitiveness,” Hughes said. “I don’t view that as a negative. I view that as a positive and sometime people perceive that as being fiery. The truth is, being passionate about something and always wanting to be improving, to being better is a great asset and a great characteristic to have.”
During Behnken’s four year Lady Wave high school career, the teams had a combined 47-47 record after going winless in 2014 with a 0-23 record, going 1-22 in 2015 and 2-21 in 2016.
“I’ve watched Haleigh play basketball over the last four years and enjoyed watching that whole senior class develop into where they are today,” said Hughes. “If you remember, not too long ago we didn’t win quite as many games as we are winning today. Coach Kerns is coaching these kids and developing them into better and better basketball players year after year.”
“My freshman year I started JV and I thought it was great, it was the best feeling and then my sophomore year I said I was going to come off the bench and that is what I did,” Behnken noted. “I set goals each year like I am going to do this, I am going to help my team. My junior year I’m going to get my starting position and that is what I did and I helped my team as best I could.”
The Lady Wave are just one of two Division-II teams competing against the remaining eight MVL Division-I big schools adding to the significance of Behnken’s first team award.
“That is a common theme for our basketball program both boys and girls,” Shaffer said. “Within the league we play this 18-game league schedule with a majority of our games against Division-I opponents. That one Division-II that we play which is Tipp City traditionally has a solid basketball program so there aren’t many nights in the MVL on the basketball floor where you get a free pass if any so definitely doing it against some of the best competition you can get state wide at least in the Southwest District, the southwest of Ohio”
“Our league really helped with us throughout the season in many different aspects,” said Coach Kerns. “We were almost always the smaller school. We played solid teams, played against some great athletes and players who are continuing their athletic careers.”
“It attests to how talented Haleigh is and how skilled she is,” Hughes stated. “She plays against the larger schools and really in almost all of our sports it’s the same way. In our league we are playing up a division in almost all of our sports.”
Behnken shared her recipe for success with young aspiring athletes … the road she took to earning First Team All-Ohio.
“Every day take every opportunity that you can get,” said Behnken. “Work outside of school, work inside the gym in school, take every practice very seriously, push the underclassmen as hard as you can, take every opportunity during the summer. I was like – hey there is a shootout, I am going to go to this. Every opportunity that I got, I took it.”
Behnken took time to thank the many that helped her reach her high school goals on the basketball court.
“My biggest supporter is my mom (Cassidy Behnken) and my dad (Travis Behnken),” said Behnken. “Mom and dad believed in me and they said “big year coming up” and that is what I did – they were very proud.”
“My coaches were huge,” Behnken noted. “Coach Kerns and starting back with Coach Swig (GHS JV coach Laura Germann). She had to be the one to believe in me and then Coach Kerns took me under her wing and showed me a lot – it was unbelievable. Another person that helped me through it all was Jim Dabbelt.”
“I can’t thank my teammates enough for all that they have done for me,” added Behnken. ”They have pushed me, they have gotten me to where I am today. I am very thankful for all of them.”
“It has been a lot of fun to be a part of Haleigh’s journey and to see how much she has grown as a player,” concluded Coach Kerns. “I am most excited that Haleigh’s basketball career is not over and that she gets to continue to play the game she loves.”
Behnken will continue her basketball career playing for the Edison State Lady Chargers basketball team.
PHOTO CAPTION: Haleigh Behnken goes to the free throw line for the Lady Wave in OHSAA tournament win. (Gaylen Blosser photo)