By Thomas Sellers Jr.
When the 2012-13 season began, Munford Lady Cougars Head Coach Steve Poindexter knew the night of Feb. 8 was going to be a bittersweet event.
The game scheduled against the Hardin County Lady Tigers marked Senior Night for four Lady Cougars Robneisha “Bird” Lee, Alex Turner, Lauren Zvolanek and Shalyiah Wiggins. And the festivities got off to a rocky start Friday night in the Munford Gymnasium with the Lady Tigers jumping out to a 20-15 first-quarter lead.
After Hardin County took a 23-17 lead, the Lady Cougars seem to snap out of their funk and proceeded with a 16-3 run to take the lead for good. And the Senior Night was made special for the quartet winning 63-41.
Helping give the group he has coached four three years a Senior Night win meant a lot to Poindexter.
“We talked about this yesterday,” he said. “We have four seniors. When we started this three years ago, there are some people who are not here. We just talked about how proud we were of these four young ladies for making that decision to change the face of this program.
“They were willing to do the things that were tough, spend the extra time and put in the hard work,” Poindexter added. “We just talked about how important it was that they did that. Looking back now, as far as where we were and where we are now, a lot can be said about those young ladies in there and what they were willing to do.”
The four seniors willing to stay with the program and learn Poindexter’s systems and spend the extra time in the gym to get better paid off with an unbeaten District 13-3A regular-season record. The victory over Hardin County gave the Lady Cougars an unblemish league record heading into this Friday’s tournament.
Friday night the Lady Cougars were behind by six points in the second quarter when Turner caught fire. Known as “Quality Check” for her gooseneck form after her release, Turner made three triples in a row to give the Lady Cougars a 26-23 advantage.
Moments later Kierra Richardson got into the three-point act hitting a shot from behind the arch. Then the highlight of the quarter came when Wiggins took off toward the goal. The senior guard faked a pass in midair freezing the defense allowing her to get off a layup that made the tally 31-26.
When Richardson hit a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer, the Lady Cougars were ahead 40-32. Sophomore like Richardson, Precious Mills and Lindsey Owen have improved under the guidance of Poindexter and the seniors.
Then juniors like Kierra Webb have played a vital role in the success of the Lady Cougars going from Regionals in 2011 to the Regional Semifinals in 2012.
“A lot can be said if you leave a program and there is a significant drop off and the success ends,” Poindexter said. “I told them, ‘You didn’t leave anything with that program. If you can leave and the people that are behind you can pick up where you left off and continue that tradition and success, that means you left something behind. These four young ladies are definitely leaving something behind that will, we’ll carry on. That’s the most important thing with this group.”
Wiggins said the Munford underclassmen are ready for the postseason this year and into the future.
“I think the group behind us can do the same thing if they just pushed themselves even harder,” she said. “We’re setting that example.”
When the Class of 2013 arrived on the campus four years ago, they left Munford Middle School as champions and learned under veteran coach Mike Anderson their freshman season.
“It’s been adventourous,” Wiggins recalled. “Middle school wasn’t anything like high school. But now since we’ve worked harder we want to win more games and go to the State. We want to win Region. This has all been fun.”
Poindexter arrived in the girls’ lives their sophomore year.
“It’s been good,” Wiggins said. “We’ve been winning games. Since we’ve been pushed to that point we’ve gotten better every year.”
The Lady Cougars records have improved along with the finish of the season and skills of the player. Wiggins entered the program known as a streaky shooter. Now the guard is patient within the offense waiting for her opporunity. Wiggins hit two three-pointers early in the third quarter that made Munford’s lead double figures for good.
The Lady Cougars 13-2 run including an Owen hook shot made the score 53-34 late in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Poindexter summoned his seniors to the bench with the Munford faithful applauding the players. The girls left the court No. 1 in league and with a 22-5 regular-season record.
“We put it on the board in there, ‘Regular season record 22-5,’” Poindexter said. “I don’t know if that’s the best record or where that compares with other Munford records. But it has to be up there. I told them, ‘Enjoy that, but when you wake up tomorrow morning our record is 0-0.’
“I’m proud of them for 22-5,” he concluded. “But it’s all about right now. You have everybody coming back and the way we ended our season last year, the expectations are high. I have no doubt we’re going to come in Monday and focus on doing the little things to be the best team we can be by Friday.”