Monday, February 27, 2017

If At First You Don't Succeed...

My favorite photo from last year's season
If you've been following this blog at all you know that Alli's main identity right now is that of an athlete.  If she could play ALL THE SPORTS she would, but she seems to have narrowed (note the sarcasm) it down to soccer, basketball, lacrosse and track and field. She wanted to keep playing water polo during the summer but we said, "No. You can't do all the things. Read a book or take a nap.  Those are good skills to learn."

This winter was Alli's third season playing basketball.  The first two seasons her team lost a lot.  And by "a lot" I mean they won ONE game last season. It was so frustrating for the players, the coaches and the parents. When all you do is lose, it is hard with a capital H to keep showing up to practice.  Keep working hard.  Keep giving 100% effort in the games.  It would have been easier to quit, but our girls are athletes.  They show up, even when it's rough. Seasons like last year developed our girls' character through suffering and perseverance.
6th Grade Basketball Team

When basketball season rolled around this year I readied myself for more of the same, but this year was different.  Alli's grade had an influx of new players and coaches worked into the mix of the regulars from the past two seasons.

Middle school girls are prone to drama - on the court and off the court.  Managing 14 of them is not for the faint of heart.  But Coach Alloway and his coaching staff immediately established clear ground rules.  They had high standards and expected the girls to meet the mark.

Practice was not social hour.  It was HARD work. If a player didn't follow the instructions, the whole team ran. The girls learned quickly to pay attention and work together.

Coach also had high standards for his players' behavior. "During basketball season we are a family on and off the court. We support each other. We work hard.  We encourage each other.  We don't put up with social media drama or any kind of negative talk toward each other."  And then he enforced it.

I think he deserves a Gold Star for holding these girls accountable to a higher standard of living on and off the court. Alli came to life under his leadership.  Coach saw Alli's potential on the basketball court and he didn't let her cut corners or do things halfway.  Alli submitted to his leadership and became a student of the game.  Her raw, undeveloped talent morphed into smooth ball handling, less turnovers, more steals, more assists, more rebounds, and less fouls.  She still missed a ton of shots, but she made a ton of baskets too, including her first three pointer.
My favorite action shot from this season.
Dribbling without turning it over all the time has been a huge improvement this season.
Going for the steal
She will take on any player, any size.  This kid is fearless. 
Defensive Trap without fouling
It wasn't just Alli coming alive.  Her teammates had similar stories.  Each game they got better, smoother, cleaner.  Less mistakes.  More confidence. The deeper into the season we got, the more these girls looked and played like a team. It was SO fun to watch.
This year's players and coaches - more of both genres!
And you guys...  THEY WERE WINNING! In our first weekend of game play, we tallied two victories in five games, doubling our wins from the season before. The girls ended up finishing 11 and 4 in league play, earning a first place seed to the league championship tournament. Winning isn't everything, but it sure is fun.

This weekend our girls played their hearts out in the league tournament.  They won their first game convincingly, but started slow in their second game and lost by 5 points.  Their only chance at the championship game was to win the following day.

We started that game slow too and went down 0-6 in the early minutes of the first quarter.  We couldn't buy a bucket.  But the girls didn't quit.  They believed in themselves and trusted their coaches.  They slowly clawed their way back into the game.  Tied it, then went up by eight.  The momentum shifted back and forth. Both teams were hungry for victory.  In the end our girls came out on top 27-22 to earn a spot in the coveted championship game.

Our opponent in the championship game was McMinnville (Mac) - the same team that defeated the girls the day before.  It was the perfect matchup against long time arch-rivals. Our girls charged to a 0-10 lead, but Mac refused to roll over and die.  They started scoring, shut down our offense, and were right back in the game.

The momentum shifted back and forth the entire game. When Mac would shut down a Newberg player that was on fire, we'd shift our offense to another player.  The points, rebounds, steals and assists were spread evenly between all the Newberg players.  Both teams played with grit and determination, but our girls pulled off the victory: 32-36!

They are your Three Rivers League Champions - Bronze Division! What a great way to finish a season that has developed their confidence and their character. When at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

The future of Newberg basketball is bright.  Well done girls.  Well done Coaches.  We are all so proud of you.

Tigers on three:  1-2-3 TIGERS!