Patriots basketball honors senior class

Megan Hunt, a Lady Patriots senior, flies by a Covenant defender to make a layup during the first half of last Thursday’s game.

PHOTO: Justin Hubbard

By Justin Hubbard

justin@lakeoconeenews.us

 

Although the Nathanael Greene Academy basketball teams did not get the results they wanted on senior night, the teams’ seniors were still honored in style and the teams will have a crack at postseason glory.

The Lady Patriots fell to John Hancock Academy, 48-29, as did the Patriots, 69-63. Fortunately for both teams, they got to play again this week in the GISA I-A East region tournament. A victory there would guarantee them a spot in the state playoffs, which begin next week.

First-year head coach Derrick Williams said the losses were disappointing but he’s proud of the groundwork established by this year’s crop of seniors.

“They laid the foundation for the younger grades,” Williams said. “To this school, they're tremendous. They're always working with the younger kids in the school, even when it's not basketball related. As a whole, I can't say enough about those nine seniors.”

The seniors include Brandi Bashore, Carrie Lindsey, Carson Maloof, Anna Lyn Mobley and Megan Hunt on the girls’ team. The boys’ seniors are Joseph Crumbley, Taylor Strozier, Jake Echols and Ash Gabriel.

The majority of the seniors attended NGA for most of their scholastic careers and played several years in the school’s basketball program.

That allowed a few of them, including Lindsey and Bashore, the chance to play for the varsity team since they were in the eighth grade.

“Having fun and starting out as an eighth-grader playing varsity was one of the big things I'll remember about being here,” Bashore said. “Most schools, you don't get to do that.”

Lindsey, Hunt and Bashore were consistently stepped up and led the Lady Patriots’ offense.

Bashore was already one of the team’s best shooters a year ago. This season, Lindsey saw her game develop, too, which she attributed to hard work.

“Definitely just getting the gym and shooting a whole lot more,” Lindsey said. “Practice makes perfect. You've just got to keep practicing every day.”

Williams said Hunt, who is arguably the team’s best defensive player, took strides this year as well.

“She'll tell you all the time, 'Coach, I can't shoot. Coach, I can't do this. Coach, I can't dribble,' and then you watch her play and you're like, 'Megan, you just dribbled. Megan, you just hit a 3-pointer,’” Williams said. “She has definitely stepped up and became that leader on the court for us.”

The Lady Patriots’ postseason hopes hinged on their performance this week, and the players were well aware of it. Lindsey said she and her teammates must stay out of foul trouble. Hunt said maintaining composure was also important.

“We need to work on the little things and focus on what's important and strive to succeed,” Hunt said.

The boys team had a rocky start to the season but finished strong during region play, earning a 3-seed in this week’s region tournament.

Echols said the team’s record never took away from a fun senior season anyway.

“We may not win all the time but I feel like the memories that we make in general together as a team, that's worth it,” Echols said.

A few Patriots said there was an adjustment period at the beginning of the season thanks to Williams’ implementation as the team’s new coach. After they got over that, though, the Patriots started playing much better.

“I think it took us a while to get used to our new coach,” Strozier said. “Now, we're starting to settle down and win some games.”

Williams said he and the nine seniors formed a bond throughout the season. That extends beyond basketball, he said.

“It seems like every day they come to my class and just want to talk,” Williams said. “And I'm like, 'Guys, I don't even teach you.' They just always find their way to my class, always want to talk, always want to stick stuff in my refrigerator. Definitely a special group of kids.”

That bond is certainly felt by Williams’ players as well.

“We’re like a family here,” Crumbley said.

Williams said if his players could turn in a four-quarter effort this week during the region tournament, which began this past Tuesday, then he’s confident they can win a game, and possibly the region tournament, and earn a spot in the state playoffs.

Beyond the immediate future, though, lies great promise for the NGA basketball programs. Bashore said that has a lot to do with Williams’ involvement.

“I think he's going to get a lot more kids here,” she said. “The basketball (program) and the school are going to grow more as a family and expand.”

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