The final shot

     In the last basketball game of the season, the Spartans took on the Kirkwood Pioneers who are the defending class 5 state champions. Determined to beat the Pioneers, the Spartans put forth great effort in the semifinal game. Never giving up, they tried to fight their way back to victory but unfortunately lost 52-39, ending their season with a 23-6 record. Overall, the season was a great success, including being the District champions this season

Bleachers rattle under the tapping, anxious feet of a mighty student section. “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go” escapes their mouths as their eyes gaze on the countdown to the game. Varsity girls basketball players practice free throws, shake loose their weary muscles, and prep for the biggest game of their season. History is about to be made.

Saturday, March 10, the Lady Spartans are preparing to play in the state quarterfinals for the second time in school history, and the gymnasium is full of random faces, apprehension, chaotic stillness, but above all it is filled with support, according to senior varsity member Aleuria Alderson.

“[The] atmosphere was great because the student section was lit, and we were all really excited because, I mean, this is the second time we have gone this far in history,” Alderson said. “I was nervous because they’re just such a great team, so I wanted to see how we matched up to them.”

This intense level of familial love and encouragement follows the girls basketball team to every game thanks to the student section chanting “pound the rock,” buzzer to buzzer. Senior Evan Goodbody, frequent gamegoer, attests to this, and his faith in the team and their future.

“[I am] very excited, very confident [going into the game]; they’ve done a lot of work in two games, but they played absolutely fantastic last game, their mentality is great,” Goodbody said. “Whether they win or lose, they are extremely humble. Regardless whether they win or lose, you have to be extremely proud of them because of the way that they carry themselves and the things they’ve done in the postseason.”

Love and pride for being a spartan and gratitude for the varsity squad has followed students even after graduation, according to Nicole Webb, Spartan alumni.

“[I] wanted to come because I couldn’t think of a more deserving team to come and support. This team has gone through so much these past four years just to build a program, it has just been so cool to see them grow stronger. Just to be here is such an honor for them and that’s just really cool to me,” Webb said.  “I’m just expecting them to do what they do. They have it together, they really know what they want and they know that they can do it, they have the power within themselves just to do great things.”

Senior varsity member Ashley Roland believes the team believed in themselves in this same way, and once that confidence was acquired it was only up from there as far as the team’s mindset preceding the game and performance throughout.

“Well, we always prepare for games, so going into the game, we were actually just really excited. We had made it super far but we still wanted to have focus. We finally started to believe that [Kirkwood] was a team that we could actually beat,” Roland said. “We just went into the game focused but excited because you never know when a game is going to be your last one.”
Between the excitement, camaraderie, and determination, halftime came about quickly after a 3-pointer scored by senior Makenzie Schierding with less than 40 seconds remaining, and then another 3-pointer by Lauren Ebert with eight seconds left, bringing the score to 23-15, FHC slightly behind. Through the increasing tension and accumulating success, senior Tucker Maupin maintained moral among students and the team alike.

“[Going into halftime], I’m pretty confident. We struggled a little bit but we are going to come back in the second half and we are going to get this dub,” Maupin said. “[If I could say anything to the team now], I would say just keep fighting, I believe in you guys. Pound the rock, and lets go to the final four.”

The game grew more and more thrilling as the minutes wound down, and as it came closer and closer, emotions, nerves, and anxiety racked up within players and viewers.

“It was pretty heartbreaking, honestly, [knowing it could be the end],” Roland said. “In the middle the game I realized that calls kind of weren’t going our way and it started to hit me…I actually had to like keep my head down for a little while.”

Alderson agrees with Roland in regards to the devastating and overwhelming amounts of emotions that swept the team.

“Well, we had our sectional game. I was like, it can be a win or loss, we don’t know. And then we won that game, which was great but yeah, Saturday, once fourth quarter started and we were starting to lose our score, I kind of knew was our last, and Leake put me and Ashley in, and I started crying on the court. It was really hard not to, I just knew I wasn’t going on.”

However, within the accumulated feelings and emotions, Schierding believes the team was still able to maintain a well put, strong, and united team, and this is what she holds most valuable.

“[Our togetherness] is one thing that I know didn’t waver. I know we’ve talked about it prior [to the game]; they weren’t really a team, like [Kirkwood] was playing for themselves out there,” Schierding said. “But I do think that we stuck together, you know, and I do think that’s that’s one thing I’m proud of. Even through what they were doing and what they were saying, you know, we stuck together no matter the outcome.”

As the game drew to a close and the scores were slipping away from our favor, students still remained supportive of their team, and proud of their success, according to senior Abigail Green.

“I’m still definitely really excited for them because it’s awesome to get to know some of the players and be friends with them, overall I’m just really excited and proud,” Green said. “[Just] play your hearts out and know that we are rooting for you.”

With the loss in the quarterfinals, teammates still were grateful to have learned so much, and had wisdom to share with those for years to come.

“[If I could go back and say something to ourselves] I feel like I would emphasize more play for your teammates, play for yourself, play for your coaches. We are very team based, but make it like that from the beginning. When we play, we play for each other all the time, no matter what,” Alderson said.

Similarly, Roland had the team to thank for their success, and has great hopes for the team in the future.

“I think it was just a great group of girls and we had everything in us to win, and Kirkwood is just an amazing team. So I think we prepared the best that we could have and we did all season. I’m proud of our progress and how far we came and I hope they can get further next year,” Roland said.

Of course, with a season of hard work, wins, and loses the team has seen many games, but Schierding reiterates the importance of remembering it won’t always be this game that defines them as a team.

“It’s about more than just people and games. Obviously you’re going to remember that game, but it’s more, it’s about more than just one game or one moment or one score,” Schierding said. “You know, it’s about the relationship and the bonds that I built with these girls and the coaches, and that is going to last longer than 32 minutes of the game.”