After four years of hard work, hours spent in the gym perfecting her game and hundreds of games, Lisha Elsenbach's high school career came to a close last month.
During her tenure on the hardwood with the Burroughs High girls' basketball program, the senior set records, helped elevate the team to heights it hadn't experienced in decades and set an example of what can be accomplished with determination and a great deal of effort.
With the relentless grind of competing and practicing almost year-round for the past four years, Elsenbach is entitled to her share of down time before she heads off for four years in college.
But resting and taking it easy is not in Elsenbach's nature when it comes to basketball. In fact, you can find her on many days working out and drilling with next season's Indians team.
"I am working with kids for next year, and there is Lisha in the gym right with them," Burroughs Coach Vicky Oganyan said. "She does all the drills that we're doing and she works harder than some of the kids who are coming back. The thing about her is that she wants to be in the gym, and she wants to work on her game."
Elsenbach said she doesn't mind getting in the extra workouts.
"It's kind of fun for me," she said. "I just want to keep getting better and I really like doing all of the drills.
It is that type of dedication that has made Elsenbach one of the most successful players in the history of the Burroughs program. Under her leadership, the Indians set a program record for wins in a season, captured a league championship for the first time in 33 years and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division II-A quarterfinals.
For her efforts, Elsenbach was named the Pacific League Player of the Year, as well as earning All-CIF first-team accolades.
It is because of that success that Elsenbach has been voted the 2011 All-Area Girls' Basketball Player of the Year by the sports writers and editors of the Burbank Leader, Glendale News-Press and La Cañada Valley Sun.
Although she was successful in previous seasons with the Indians — averaging 15.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.6 steals a game as a junior — it was Elsenbach's senior campaign that elevated her to the upper echelon of area players.
She averaged 16.9 points on the season. However, it was during Pacific League play when Elsenbach really stepped up, pushing her average to 23 points a game. She ended as the league's scoring leader and scored in double figures in 12 of 14 league contests.
But scoring wasn't Elsenbach's only strength. She also averaged 8.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.3 steals a game and set a school record for free throws made in a season with 166.
Oganyan said because the 5-foot-7 guard puts up such impressive scoring numbers, Elsenbach's defensive prowess is often overlooked.
"She has all-around talent," Oganyan said. "She did a lot for us in a lot of games where without her defensive effort inside we just don't win. She is just so unselfish, and she will constantly get her teammates involved. When you're unselfish like she is, you understand that you can have an impact on the game in other ways, not just scoring."
Although she admits that she does enjoy putting up big numbers, being the star of the team was never something Elsenbach sought out. In fact, winning is much more important to her than personal accolades.
"It doesn't matter what kind of stats that I have, if the team doesn't win they don't really matter," Elsenbach said. "Winning the league [championship] was the most important thing to me. I was more worried about winning league. That was pretty much where all my focus was. And it was great that we were able to win it."
Behind Elsenbach's efforts, Burroughs (25-5) set a school record for wins in a season. The Indians also had a fine run in the Division II-AA playoffs, winning two games. The team fell to Inglewood in the quarterfinals, 74-65.
With her Burroughs career behind her, Elsenbach is busy preparing for competition at the college level. She will likely sign with Cal Poly Pomona in the coming days, and continue to play the game that she loves.
"I'm excited about it," Elsenbach said of playing in college. "It' something that I've thought about, being able to play in college."
Oganyan said she has little doubt that Elsenbach will find success in the collegiate game.
"I think she'll be successful because of her work ethic," said Oganyan, who was named the Pacific League Coach of the Year. "She has some natural skills that some other people don't have and she has great basketball knowledge. She should be able to pick up a new system and be successful.
"I haven't met too many kids who not only have her work ethic, but who also don't get fazed in tough situations. When some players face adversity they don't handle it very well, but even when things aren't going well for her she always keeps the same even mentality."
That even keel has helped Elsenbach lead by example with her Indians teammates. Oganyan said being able to keep her emotions in check has benefited the senior on the floor.
"That's just the way I am," Elsenbach. "I don't try to keep anything in, it's just my personality."
It was that personality that helped shape Burroughs into winner this past season, and made Elsenbach a quite but forceful competitor.