"They're the most committed and dedicated group of seniors I've ever seen." - Brett Harp
With 40 seconds left to play in the game, coach Harp made sure his five seniors were in the ball game. Alex Honeywood, Michaela Smith, Sierra Rice, Sydney Chadwick and Bill Jones stood on the court together for the last time. It wasn't the way they wanted their high school basketball career to end as the Pantherettes fell to Gilmer 65-39.
It was a gesture of gratitude, though, by coach Harp to the senior class. It was his way of saying thank you. Coach Harp, in his first season, was embraced by these five seniors as he tried to implement new schemes. A team that had lost the defensive ability of Lexie Stephens a year ago and the ball handling ability of Kylie Halstead was still trying to find its identity at the beginning of district.
Led by Bill and her leadership this group of seniors set an example. Even when the team looked dead in the water at 2-3 in district and had just gotten blown out by Pleasant Grove in Texarkanna. This team still believed. The rest of the team took on the characteristics of the seniors and fought their way to a five game winning streak and a 7-3 district finish.
"We had to figure out who we were later on in the season. We switched defenses and adjusted our offense. Doing that mid-season is kind of tough, but you have to find out what works for you." - Coach Harp
Stepping out of his comfort zone, coach Harp made some changes and implemented some things that clicked with the team. The defense was giving up 10 fewer points a game in the second half of district while the offense scored 10 more points per game.
Sierra and Bill owned the paint as well. Both girls cleared the way for their teammates to grab the rebounds. Smith and Chadwick hit timely shots and Honeywood brought energy off the bench for North Lamar.
Tuesday's playoff game didn't end as they wanted to as Gilmer pressed and pressed all night long. The Pantherettes struggled moving the ball up the floor. They committed far too many turnovers and didn't make enough baskets. In the end the Pantherettes walked off the floor having lost the game.
The five players that started this journey together so long ago were the same five players on the court at the final horn. In the end they hugged and embraced each other knowing it was over. The 2015-2016 season will be remembered by this journalist for one reason: this team never gave up. Even when their backs were against the wall and they were 2-3 in district. Even when they were down by nearly 30 in a playoff game.
This team never quit and never stopped trying. That, in part, is thanks to the five seniors that stood on the court at the final horn. Thank you North Lamar for another fabulous season.
Gilmer 25 14 20 6 65
North Lamar 8 13 9 9 39
Bailee Nickerson - 13 points, 8 rebounds
Bill Jones - 7 points, 6 rebounds
Sierra Rice - 6 points, 2 rebounds, 2 blocks
Madison Morrison - 5 points, 4 rebounds
Sydnee Prunty - 4 points, 2 rebounds
Alex Honeywood - 2 points
Sydney Chadwick - 2 points, 1 rebound
McKayla Figueroa - 1 block