|Coach Steve Gordon instructs players during the championship game.|
So, who are these Lady Spartans and why do we really care? The simple answer is they are the girl's basketball team at the local high school and we care because they are our kids or our neighbors or something like that. But if that were really the answer we were after, then this story probably would not exist.
When you have a team that catches the attention of a community like this years Lady Spartans, then you have an obligation to tell the whole story.
This team started many years ago in the Junior Jazz programs that operate throughout the county. These girls played their way through elementary school, through junior high school and now through high school. They have done the same as many teams before them. But that is also not the story.
This is the story. This is about a group of kids from different towns in a rural county that took their individual talents and with the help of their high school coaches, molded themselves into a team. Let us now look at the components of this team that we have grown to enjoy, admire and maybe even love over the last few months.
Let's start with the coaches. Head Coach Steve Gordon was smart enough to bring aboard two assistant coaches that knew basketball and had the ability to teach and encourage their players.
|Shala Pitchforth works to block the shot.|
Shala Pitchforth had this to say, "Our coaches are incredible. I've learned so much from them. They know the game, they motivate us. They complimented each other and they made it fun."
Ashley Hansen added, "We could not have made it without our coaches, they are awesome. They know what they are talking about."
Alexis Swasey continued, "Our coaching staff was excellent."
Gordon, and assistants Lynn Tuttle and Jon Faimalo, impressed the team with their communication skills and their insisting that they do everything that the team did. If the team ran, they ran.
Coach Gordon talked about his team; "Ashley was consistent on the boards all year and was a hard nose player. She liked doing the dirty work along with Alexis, and then she turned into a scorer midway through the season. Shala was great in the middle. She took a beating every night and always hung in there. She anchored our defense. I'll miss Alexis' tenacity. Tahna and Callie sparked us off the bench all season, they gave us the depth we needed to be successful."
Gordon then talked about his one other senior and how she did not contribute much on the floor but did what she could. Natalee Hanson was Emery's returning star. She was the leading scorer from last season and had a presence on the court. Emery was ranked number one in each of the Salt Lake papers because of her at the beginning of the year. Natalee was going to team with the rest of these girls and lead us to glory.
"We would have run the table with her on the court. When she went down with her knee injury, it made all the other girls step up their game. Natalee kept coming to practice and had the determination that she was going to play again. She continued being a leader even though she wasn't on the floor. She is now a better outside shooter because she practiced that so much with us" said Gordon.
Natalee did return for a few minutes of action this season before her brace came apart and finally took her down. After a couple of games that saw her remove the game cobwebs, we saw Natalee's potential in a region game when she scored 14 points, had 6 assists and 3 rebounds in just over a quarter of play.
Natalee talked about her season, "By sitting, I could see better what we do. I learned more and matured more for the patience I've learned. I learned to be a leader on the bench; I learned respect for my teammates. I felt like the mom of the team." Natalee's doctor is optimistic that she will be as good as ever now that she finally had the surgery. All went well and she is excited about playing college ball.
Coach Gordon did not want to talk about his younger players because they will have the spotlight next year. Junior Jodie Lundell will be returning as a starter and will be counted on for her scoring ability and defense. Meagan Pearson and Rachel Rasmussen saw considerable action off the bench and will be vital parts of next season's team.
We then talked about the tournament. Alexis said, "It was the funnest time of my athletic career. I love my team. State was so fun, and it was awesome. We got ripped." Ashley added, "It kind of stinks that we didn't win. We were the better team." Shala added, "We could have executed a little better."
Coach Gordon added, "We played great basketball. We did not get the calls. If we could have made a few more buckets in the first half, it probably would have been a different game."
|Alexis Swasey gets the rebound with support from Ashley Hansen and Shala Pitchforth.|
Emery had the highest tournament scoring average at 59.75 points per game. Emery also had the highest point differential of the tournament at 16.75 points per game. Emery also led this category during the regular season at 12.84 points per game.
Camille Fehlberg led the state in scoring at the tournament with a 16-ppg average and also led the season with a 15-ppg average. Jodie Lundell was the second leading 3-point shooter in the tournament.
Coach Gordon talked about the season with this team, "This group of girls came and worked hard. They had the ability to learn and then put what they learned into action. They wanted to learn, they wanted to be good. They bought into our approach. They liked controlling the tempo of the games this season."
He added, "When I got this team they walked the ball up the court and played zone defense. Now if we pass the ball twice, that is being patient for this team. We installed a faster, freer offense that gives the girls the opportunity to create. The girls were usually responsible enough to shoot their shot and not just launch away."
Coach talked about the team after the game, "Going back to our hotel was terrible. Our heads were down; it was quiet and somber like they had blown it. We ate pizza as a team and then the girls got in the pool and bonded. They then realized that they had taken second place. They gradually became excited with that and realized that they had had a good year."
These Lady Spartans lost the state championship game by one point in overtime. There is nothing to be ashamed about with this. Athletic Director Nancy Martinez had this to say, "If you make the top four, that is something special. The kids are excited for next year." Cheerleaders Davie Stokes and Kelsi Ekker added, "They were the bomb!" I think that is good. Principal Gwen Callahan added, "We had girls that wanted to do well, parents that were supportive and coaches that cared."
Then my final challenge was to talk to Camille Fehlberg. I know that you thought I had forgotten her, but I do not know how that would be possible.
Camille talked first about her coaches, "We have coaches that teach us and they know what they are doing. There is always something to work on. I just want to improve myself and when I make a mistake, I want to do something to make up for it." Camille was then asked about the game, "I felt bad with the loss but I thought everybody gave all they had. I wish I could have done more." Camille added one more thought, "I don't want to be the one who holds us back, I want us to succeed."
I agree with Davie and Kelsi "They were the bomb!"