By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Just moments after his first season at Munford High School concluded in 2011, Steve Poindexter stood outside of the Craigmont Gymnasium and declared the future was bright for his Lady Cougars.
On Saturday night, Poindexter and his then sophomores, now seniors, Shaliyah Wiggins, Alex Turner, Lauren Zvolanek and Robneisha “Bird” Lee were 32 minutes away from earning a spot in the Class 3A Girls Basketball Tournament.
Standing in the way were perennial powerhouse Central Lady Warriors. And the team from Memphis used it’s experience to prevail 55-45, going to State for the fifth year in row.
That brought a conclusion to Munford’s season. In Poindexter’s three years, the Lady Cougars appeared in Regionals against the Craigmont Lady Chiefs, dropped an overtime thriller to Bartlett in 2012 and this year reached the first Sub-State in school history.
“You love to see kids decide to do things the right way,” Poindexter said. “And see them become successful because of it. Throughout that first year, I knew the turnaround they had, not necessarily because of success on the floor, but just the attitude and effort they brought to practice. I knew that they were going to have a chance to be pretty good.
“We don’t have a team full of superstars,” he continued. “I don’t know if we have a superstar on our team. Great chemistry and a group of young ladies who just work hard. In the future, these girls have laid the foundation of how our attitudes are going to be, how our effort is going to be.”
Central had two superstars entering the contest in Tia Wooten and Nina Davis. For the Lady Cougars, the seniors and underclassmen like Kierra Webb, Kierra Richardson, Lindsey Owen and Precious Mills have all taken turns coming up with clutch plays leading to district and Region titles.
The Region 8-3A runner up Lady Warriors trailed 8-4 after one quarter. Wiggins had the hot hand with 5 points in the first quarter. And Webb’s three-point play near the end of the period gave Munford a 4-point advantage.
After 8 minutes of filling each other out, both teams took off the gloves offensively in the second quarter with Central outscoring Munford 16-13 to take a 22-21 lead into the locker room.
Lady Warrior role players like Kahdeja Howell and Darriel Johnson tallied 12 of those 16 points to help Central take the lead.
In the third quarter Wooten’s post game seized control for Central during its offensive possessions. Her 6 points helped the Lady Warriors go ahead 33-24.
Lee kept the Lady Cougars within striking distance with 6 points. Her drive to the basket concluded the scoring for the third quarter and Central was ahead 37-30.
The fourth quarter started scoreless for the first 2 minutes and 37 seconds. Then Lee ended Munford’s drought racing to the rim for a bucket. Wooten answered her shot with a put-back basket.
Seconds later Davis went to the line for two foul shots ahead 39-32. The Baylor signee hit her first shot but missed the second attempt. The smallest girl on the court, Howell was able to slip through the lane and get the rebound.
She located Johnson cutting the basket for a layup giving Central a 42-32 lead. Before the clock operator could place the four and two on the scoreboard, Lee used her speed to fly down the court for a layup making the tally 42-34.
For the final 3 mintues of the game, the Lady Warriors maintained their advantage. Munford (27-6) was able to cut the deficit down to five points twice with a Wiggins three-pointer that made it 46-41. Later Webb scored to make the score 48-43.
But Wooten scored 4 of her game-high 20 points down the stretch to secure the victory for Central. Davis added 15 points and Johnson contributed 14.
In the Lady Cougars’ first appearance in Sub-State Lee and Wiggins both had 15 points each. There classmate Turner added 6 points.
“There is no way I could be disappointed in them,” Poindexter said. “I might be disappointed for them because they don’t get to experience moving on. But the work they’ve put in, the commitment they’ve made, they’ve laid the foundation for this program. It has nothing to do with me. It’s about a group of young ladies deciding they wanted to be something different. They wanted to change things.”
The changes players like Lee, Wiggins, Zvolanek and Turner made helped Munford Basketball reach new heights and win championships.
“I talked to this group about leaving a legacy,” Poindexter said. “It’s about what you leave behind. If you don’t leave anything behind, then what you’ve done doesn’t really mean anything. For these four seniors that we have, they obvisiously left a legacy here. They’ve laid the foundation for success.
“They’ve been successful and I think we’re going to be successful in the future because of what they decided to do and the tradition they started here,” he concluded. “This is really hard for me because I’m attached to those girls.”