For three-plus seasons, Tim Burmeister had a front-row seat for St. Ambrose Queen Bees basketball games.
Though he was absent from Thursday’s 66-41 SAU Midwest Collegiate Conference Tournament quarterfinal rout of Waldorf at Lee Lohman Arena, the Lost Nation, Iowan’s presence was felt more keenly than ever.
The 52-year-old father of Ambrose senior forward Mary Burmeister as well as Mount Mercy freshman guard Amy Burmeister lost a lengthy battle to an undisclosed ailment Wednesday.
The Queen Bees honored Mary Burmeister’s contributions to the program without her during a Senior Night ceremony before Thursday’s tip-off. They will honor their teammate and her father by attending the visitation tonight in Lost Nation, as well as Saturday morning’s funeral services.
Game times for Saturday’s semifinal contests that bring No. 4 seed Iowa Wesleyan to Lee Lohman and No. 3 William Penn to No. 2 Mount Mercy have been moved to 7 p.m. instead of 2 p.m. by the conference.
Queen Bees coach Krista Van Hauen hinted her team might otherwise have forfeited Saturday. They felt that strongly about supporting their teammate.
“He sat in that front row for three years,” Van Hauen said of the elder Burmeister, who also attended a pair of Queen Bees contests this year in spite of his illness. “You’ve got to do it.”
The 12th-ranked Queen Bees (26-4) improved to 15-0 on their home floor Thursday, jumping to a 34-13 lead at intermission. They led by as many as 28 early in the second half and never let up on the eighth-seeded Warriors (5-24) despite turning the game over to deep reserves for nearly the final 8 minutes.
“We all knew it was going to happen and we have all been preparing ourselves,” said Megan Cash, who, along with Ali Dolphin and Burmeister, composed the senior class. “We played tonight for Mary and her family. It’s something we’re going to get through as a team.”
Van Hauen said she was proud of the way her crew focused on the floor.
“Tim was a great supporter of women’s basketball,” said Dolphin, who had 12 points, 11 rebounds and four steals. “The least we can do is play hard for him.”
Megan Storjohann and Rock Island Alleman grad Shelly Charvat, both filling minutes in Mary Burmeister’s absence, each netted 10. Charvat hit back-to-back 3-pointers as the Bees ran off 13 unanswered points to close the first half.
Saturday could be a tougher challenge, if only because of the opponent. Although seeded fourth, Wesleyan (22-7) is ranked 16th nationally. The Queen Bees swept the season series.
“We are going to lean on each other and be there for Mary,” said Cash.
Van Hauen said she is uncertain if Mary Burmeister, who started her first three seasons but mostly came off the bench in this difficult season, will rejoin the team for next month’s NAIA national tournament, but she said the lessons her team is learning certainly extend beyond the court this season.
“It’s tough,” she said. “Your kids grow up faster than you want them, too. All our kids value their dads a lot more right now.“