By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Since the mid 2000, the Munford Lady Cougars haven’t been in these situations.
In 2005 and 2006 the Lady Cougar Basketball program ruled District 13-3A winning the regular-season and tournament. Munford was the favorite in the league during that era.
Now the youth that inherited the program four years ago endured growing pains and climbed back atop the league guided by Steve Poindexter.
In his second season Munford won both the regular-season and tournament district titles. Last year the Lady Cougars were an overtime from reaching Sub-State losing a comeback thriller to Bartlett. Now entering the 2012-13 campaign the Lady Cougars are expected to be playing for the right to play in Sectionals.
“On paper we would be, we won the district and we have everybody back,” Poindexter said. “Expectations on the outside are that we’re the favorite. I think high expectations are a good thing.
“But we also know last year has nothing to do with this year,” he added. “This season will have its own story. Our kids understand we have to come in here everyday with the same mindset last year. Come in here and work extremely hard and get better every single day. If we do that, then that puts us in a position to be a district champion, a Region champion or whatever is out there.”
Season One saw the Lady Cougars take third in league and push Craigmont to the brink of elimination in the first round of Regionals.
Season Two brought the championships and the Lady Cougars crushing Bolton in round one of the Regionals.
But in the semifinals against the Bartlett Lady Panthers, Munford fell behind big. Then the Lady Cougars rallied in the second half but came up short.
“I don’t think there is anybody on our team from last year that feels good about the way our season ended,” Poindexter said. “Anybody who knew our team could see we didn’t play anywhere near our best game. We showed our character as a team that will never give up and that will stratch and claw its way back.”
Poindexter said although his team is focused on the next chapter, the 2012 Regional Semifinal defeat is a motivating factor.
“We feel like our team was good enough to move on,” he said. “That’s definitely on their minds. It’s not on their minds as an distraction. I think that’s just part of their motivation.”
The players who will be in charge of channeling that motivation in a positive direction are Shaliya Wiggins, Lauren Zvolanek, Alex Turner, Kierra Webb and Robneisha “Bird” Lee.
“We had a good spring,” Poindexter noted. “The kids worked hard. They worked hard in the summer. I don’t think there’s anybody on our team from last year who is not better as far as skills go. Our skill level has gone up a notch. But once again, new season and new story. You’ll still see the same hustle and scrappiness.”
The younger players have embraced that identity of being scrappy. Sophomores like Precious Mills, Kierra Richardson and Lindsey Owens will see increased roles.
“If they’re not ready to take the next step then we’re not going to be as good as I think we could be,” Poindexter said. “They’re a major part of our team. Everyday in here is a competiton. And our lineup can change from night to night. They’re definitely a vital part of our team. I think they are ready to do more. My expectations for them are really high.”
Poindexter said the sophomores are vital but it all starts with the leadership of his seniors.
“They have done a really good job of representing me as a coach and representing Munford as a high school,” he said. “I don’t think they feel like it’s their senior year and there’s anything special about it like it’s a magical year.
“They will continue to do the things they’ve been doing and the things they’ve learned to do up to this point,” Poindexter continued. “It will be just another year. Unfortnately after this year they won’t be able to do it for me. That’s sad for me because I’m attached to this group. I’m lucky to have the opportunity to coach a group of kids that will go out everyday and work as hard as they work. You’ll see that from beginning to the end — until the last horn goes off.”
With the tag of favorites on his team, Poindexter said if his players keep their focus and take it one game at a time they could write the next chapter in Lady Cougar Basketball.
“They could possibly do something here that has never been done before,” he concluded. “I don’t know if a Munford Girls’ team has ever won Regionals or played in a Sub-State game.”