Thursdayâ€™s win in the Tri-County Conference championship game left little doubt as to what many already believed.
The group of eighth-grade girls East Lincoln middle has is special. The same group that helped win a volleyball conference championship and reach the softball conference championship were up to their old tricks againâ€”this time beating Shelby 56-40 to finish the basketball season with a perfect 13-0 record.
â€œIt has been special. Itâ€™s been therapeutic for me this year and the girls have been a tremendous part of that. Itâ€™s been a good way to get away from everything for a couple of hours,â€ Lady Falcons head coach Suzanne Parris said Thursday.
A season after going 6-6, the Lady Falcons cruised to an unblemished record. So what does Parris feel was the difference-maker in getting over the proverbial hump?
â€œExperience. Itâ€™s different than playing optimist and rec. basketball. Once they had a year under their belt, so to speak, they knew more of what to expect,â€ she said.
While Parris probably wouldnâ€™t be quick to take much credit, she also consistently prepared them for what to expect. Need an example?
Parris believed the BLANK would pressure them full court, so she had her team prepared. Point guard Kiandra Long used her quickness, agility and good ball-handling to break the press. Once the press broken, long would run a pick and roll with and Wright.
The 5-foot-11 Wright poured in 28 points, while Long, her running mate added BLANK in the title victory.
Kiandra Long complemented Wrightâ€™s 28 points with BLANK points of her in the Lady Falcons win at home. Chris Dean / LTN Photo
After trailing in the first quarter by four points, the Lady Falcons used the press-breaker to perfection.
â€œThey quickly turned it around. I had expected a full-court press, so we had worked on a press-breaker and it worked,â€ Parris said. â€œSometimes you work on something and it doesnâ€™t work,â€ she added with a laugh.
Amanda Francis, Rekay White, Kiara Bailey joined Wright and Long in the starting lineup for the team that reached perfection.
â€œThey were the driving force. They were very hard workers and they always come through when they needed to,â€ Parris said.
Francis had never even played organized basketball until this year. A combination of Parrisâ€™ tutelage, her being a quick learner and hard work allowed Francis to solidify her place in the starting lineup by just the third game of the season.
Parris enjoyed watching Francisâ€™ development as much as she enjoyed watching the team come together as a cohesive unit.
From the reserves Kasi Benskin, Racquel Cooke, Portia Pryor, Eve Varian, Kelsey Alley, Taylor Gaggio to the scorekeepers Clayton Dellinger and Paul Robinson to the manager Chelsey Baker the Falcons epitomized what it meant to be a team.
â€œEverybody on the team had a role. The neat thing about this group was for the most part, I felt like they were all comfortable with their role. They always stepped up and did what was expected of them,â€ Parris said. â€œWhether it was to relieve someone or to start. They took a great deal of pride in their work,â€ she added.
Two out of three titles in the three major sports is not too shabby at all and gives the Mustangs reason to smile when thinking of the future.
â€œThis is a very talented group of young ladies. Thatâ€™s just a testament to their talent and their dedication,â€ Parris said.
by John Mark Brooks