Before the High School season started Steve Neff announced this would be his final season as the Northwood girl's basketball coach. Now his team is fighting to keep his career alive for another couple of weeks.
Last weekend the Panthers knocked off Whitko to capture Neff's 24th sectional title in 37 years, buying themselves another week of practice and at least one more game.
Before practice on Tuesday afternoon the team posed for a picture with their trophy. While every sectional championship has been special for Neff this one had a little something extra.
"That was nice," Coach Neff said. "Especially being the last year to get that last sectional here at Northwood. Now it is icing on the cake."
Finishing the season 16-5 and winning a sectional championship completed the top two goals the Panthers had set for themselves this season. Now, as coach Neff called it, the rest is the "icing on the cake." Northwood sets it sights on a Regional Championship this weekend.
The Panthers will face a very good team in Norwell and if anybody knows how hard it is to win a Regional title it is Steve Neff.
"We have won 23 sectionals before this one and we have only won 10 regionals so the chances are less than half," Neff said.
In a sport where anyone can beat anyone on a given night it is unknown just how much longer Neff's time as head coach will run. What we do know is that there are plenty of things he will miss about coaching and some he wont.
"I won't miss the bus rides. I wont miss falling asleep in front of the computer watching game tapes."
Neff joked that some of his best naps came in front of the computer screen after nodding off before contemplating what he will miss.
"You know, just being around the kids and around youth. Talking the lingo and getting the language. All of that good stuff."
The Panthers are guaranteed one more game with the possibility of playing four and bringing home Neff's second state title. For his players it is now all about keeping the season alive for him.
"It is really awesome to win for Neff," Senior forward Inger Yoder said. "As a team we dedicated our last win in here, our sectional championship, to him."
Fellow senior Morgan Olson added "I think it would just be so awesome to win for him because we have been to the regionals but we haven't won for a while, so it would just be like the icing on the cake to go out there and win for him."
Whether it is one more game or four more games coach Neff says it has been an excellent final season.
"I have got four great seniors on the team and I have got good underclassmen." Neff said. "It has been a fun year for the last year. I hope they had fun. I had fun. You know, they got the job done in the sectional for me and you can't ask for more than that."
Northwood will travel to Bellmont where they will take on Norwell at Noon on Saturday.