With only one starter returning this year, the Spring Hill Lady Bears’ performance this season wasn’t guaranteed. But, thanks to their hard work and tenacity, the girls have come together as a team and are continuing the 10-year streak as they hit the road today to compete in the first round of the 2A South Regional Tournament.
The Lady Bears fought their way through the season, ending up as the Conference Runner-Up and going on to be crowned 8-2A District Champions after defeating the Junction City Lady Dragons in the District Tournament on February 15.
Coach Roy Whatley, who not only began his coaching career in Spring Hill but played for the Bears in school, said he is very proud of his squad’s performance. “What I like most about these girls is they never give up,” Whatley said.
The Lady Bears (20-4-1) faced off against Junction City (16-4) in the 8-2A Conference Championship on February 15. Coach Whatley said his squad had already lost two close games to Junction City this season so he made some changes to the game-plan going into their third meeting.
The Lady Bears jumped out to a 17-0 lead early in the game. They grew their lead to 23 points at one point but the Lady Dragons made a push and closed within 8. Coach Whatley said it got a “a little scary” when Junction City made their run to close the gap but the Lady Bears were able to hold on and close the game out with a final score of 62-51.
Coach Whatley said he is proud of the team’s performance and discipline. “In my personal opinion, there are no better kids than where I’m at,” Whatley said. Coach Whatley singled out the tournament performances of Katie Rivera and Kaylie Brookes. “It’s no lie that Katie is a great ball player. Everyone knows that,” Whatley said, “and Kaylie Brookes has really come on strong.”
Whatley said he felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of him after the win but the girls’ excitement level seemed unusually low leading up to the Regional Tournament this week. Whatley said he addressed it with some of the girls and they are proud of what they accomplished so far and are excited to continue the gauntlet in the Regional Tournament but they are reserved and focused on the next step.
The road to this point in the season hasn’t been an easy one. Coach Whatley said the Lady Bears lost 13 girls from last year’s team and returned only one starter, Senior Katie Rivera. Whatley said this year’s squad had very little game experience and had to work very hard the last seven months to gain the experience and build the teamwork they needed.
Coach Whatley said the team has been practicing and working hard for their match-up against the Acorn Tigers in the Regional Tournament today. Whatley said the Tigers like to run and shoot the 3 and he knows they are going play their absolute hardest when the Lady Bears take the court against them. He said that if the Spring Hill squad is going to win, they will have to remain determined and disciplined to prevent the Tigers from spreading them too far out and opening up lanes to drive through.
Coach Whatley said he is confident in the Lady Bears but that, no matter what happens in the game today, he tries to keep things in perspective for his players. Whatley said he knows the girls who make up the team are going to go on to college and be successful in their lives and, while they all want to continue to win and advance in the post season, it’s more important for them to win in the “big game”.
The Lady Bears (20-4-1) play the Acorn Tigers (16-14) at 4 p.m. in Junction City. We will update the score throughout the game.