NHS came together to do something specialBy ROBBIE ROBERTSON,
Notes, quotes and a thought or two….
I had the privilege to witness another state championship last week at the building that high school basketball fans affectionately refer to as “The Big House.”
The Newton Lady Tigers won the school’s third state title in girls basketball, the first under coach Perry Fletcher. The other two were under coach Crandal Porter and I had the privilege to cover both of those teams as well.
As I sat and watched the game and thought about Newton’s first state championship under Porter and later talked with Fletcher, it reminded me of how similar those two teams were.
I’ll never forget the Tuesday afternoon that I was sitting at The Newton Record and coach Crandal Porter called me to tell me that his Lady Tigers had been disqualified from the playoffs because they had played too many games in the regular season.
Porter was obviously crushed because his team was playing as well as anybody in the state at the time.
But instead of pout about it, Porter turned it into motivation and his team rolled to the Class 2A title that year. I’ll never forget something told me that day. “Rarely do you learn anything from winning. Lessons usually come from losing.”
This recent group of Lady Tigers reminds me of that group.
Last year, the Lady Tigers lost to Coahoma County 57-45 in the second round of the state tournament. Fletcher said that loss was something that motivated the Lady Tigers this season.
“I thought last year when we lost to Coahoma County on our floor and to see how hurt our girls were and they saw that if we put the work in, we will have an opportunity to win a state title,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher said the Lady Tigers took that hurt and that disappointment and turned it into something positive.
“They came all summer, two a days,” Fletcher said. “They put the time in during the offseason, in the weight room. Everybody was looking at us, girls in the weight room. We ran around the city of Newton. When I saw none of them complain and none of these girls missed a day of practice, they had the flu, strep and they showed up and worked when they could have taken off. When I saw that effort every day, I knew this team was going to be something special.”
And then there was the regular season where Fletcher made the schedule as tough as he could and still came away with win after win. But there was a point where Fletcher knew he had a really special group.
“We had a tough preseason and played some of the best teams in the state,” Fletcher said. “We played Meridian, Forest, Leake County, Southeast Lauderdale, all of these tough teams. Our girls were able to compete and come out with some wins. I think the turning point of the season, when we played Forest. We were down 23 points and those girls fought and came back to win that game. When they did that, we knew they were something special.”
Fletcher certainly had his finger on the pulse of this team and you could see the Lady Tigers hit another gear once the postseason began.
And after Ingomar got beat by Calhoun City in the regular season, I told several people that the 2A tournament was over. I didn’t see anybody left who could beat Newton.
The Lady Tigers deserve all the praise, because they put in the work and deserve the ring. I would also like to give a lot of praise to Fletcher as well. Many times over the course of the season, you would see Fletcher consulting with assistant coach Mark Stribling, who has been a high school coach and played in college at East Central and Georgia State. Fletcher sought his input and valued his opinion. One thing I’ve learned is you can’t do it all by yourself and it takes a man to realize that. Ultimately, Fletcher was the right man for this group of young ladies. And now they have the rings and memories.
Robbie Robertson is sports editor for The Newton County Appeal.