By Coach Ty Hester
I’m going to try to keep this post as short as possible, because I think I could write a book about the memories my team and I have made this year.
First of all, I want to thank everyone who has helped us this year whether it was keeping stats, running the clock for us at home games, booking hotel rooms, carrying kids to/from games, etc. There are entirely too many to thank you all without missing one, but you know who you are, and we couldn’t do it without you.
Now onto my guys. I could not be prouder of a group of young men than I am of these 13 players I had the privilege of coaching this year. Through 17 games we were 7-10. We didn’t look good, we certainly weren’t playing well, and we didn’t really have an identity. Some nights we would shoot the ball alright but not guard anybody, and some nights it was the other way around.
The turning point of our season came on a Saturday evening in Monroe, LA after getting blown out by the 4th best team in our own district. That was the 17th of the 17 games I alluded to above. The next Monday, instead of having a normal 2-hour practice, we took about 1.5 hours to have a meeting. They got my input and I got theirs, and most importantly everybody was honest with each other.
We went on to win our last 9 regular season games and all of the sudden, we were going to have the opportunity to make a postseason run like we had planned to before the season started. We were able to make it to the South A Championship game where we didn’t play our best and came up short against a very good WCCA team on their home floor. We were all disappointed, but I knew exactly how my team was going to respond. We drew the host-school Delta Academy in the first round of our state tournament and played our best game of the year, knocking them off 72-54 to advance to the final 4. In a very competitive game, we got beat by the eventual state champion Humphreys Academy who played great and shot 71% from the field.
I can’t put into words how gutting of a loss it was for everyone involved. We felt like we played well enough to win. We felt like we were good enough to win the whole thing, and we expected to. And we realized in that locker room that we weren’t going to be able to run it back, as bad as we all wanted to. But then, the following day, we knocked off the same WCCA team that had previously beaten us to finish 3rd in Class A and earn a trip to the Overall Tournament held at Mississippi College. Final score was 65-54.
But more than the result of any game or games this year, I’m most proud of the relationship that my team has both with me and with each other. I’ve been playing and coaching basketball at the JV and Varsity levels for around 10 years now, and I’ve never seen a group of guys become as close as my guys did over the back half of the season. We decided a couple weeks ago that regardless of what happened during the post season, we were going to go through it together. And that’s exactly what we did. We’ve always said “1-2-3-win” during our huddles but we added “4-5-6-family” at some point during the year because that’s what we became. I truly have had the most fun and rewarding year coaching this group. I told them that I wouldn’t trade the relationship we had, and the fun times we had, for any number of trophies we could’ve won this year. And they all agreed that they wouldn’t trade the year we had for anything, even though we fell short of our ultimate goal.
I told them earlier in the year that “the destination is the journey” and that their season wouldn’t be defined by any trophy. It’s about the locker rooms, the huddles, the practices, and how you handle any and all adversity that defines you. And in those areas, I like us vs. any team in the world. Now, we get to go play the best team in the entire MSAIS, 5A #1 seed MRA on Tuesday at 7. I’m not exactly sure how that one is going to shake out, but I know we’re going to have some fun with it.
Thank you to everyone who supported (and doubted, lol) us throughout the course of this season. We can’t wait to get back to work this summer.